Digital Legal Research Lab Roundtable
Dr. Katrina Jagodinsky and Dr. William Thomas introduce the broader goals of the Digital Legal Research Lab and the U.S. Law & Race Initiative. This webinar features the outstanding student research in the 2023 Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program funded by the National Science Foundation. Each student researched previously unpublished habeas corpus petitions and reflected on the significance of these cases. We hope you gain fresh insights from these presentations on cases of marginalized people who engaged with U.S. law.
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[00:00:06.210]I think I'll go ahead
and get started.
[00:00:08.689]I wanted to give folks just
a minute to join us online.
[00:00:13.309]Well, first of all, thanks
[00:00:15.770]everybody for coming
[00:00:17.670]My name is Katrina Jagodinsky
[00:00:19.330]I'm the Susan J. Rosowski
[00:00:20.830]Associate Professor of History
[00:00:22.409]here at the University
[00:00:24.350]and co-founder along with Dr.
[00:00:26.210]Will Thomas of the Digital
Legal Research Lab.
[00:00:29.109]We are a collaborative
community of scholars and
[00:00:32.989]specialists who are using
[00:00:34.690]digital tools to tell
critical legal histories.
[00:00:38.429]This summer we've had
the pleasure of working
[00:00:41.469]with our eight NSF REU researchers,
[00:00:45.670]all of whom are gathered here
[00:00:47.409]this afternoon to talk
to you about the work
[00:00:49.530]they've been doing in mostly
19th century habeas petitions.
[00:00:53.970]The Digital Legal Research Lab
[00:00:56.030]is a number of initiatives,
[00:00:57.950]including our summer program,
[00:00:59.750]and we really are able to
[00:01:02.609]do tremendous work because of
our partners across campus.
[00:01:05.549]I want to make sure and
thank everyone from
[00:01:08.129]the Center for Digital
Research in the Humanities
[00:01:10.589]in the University Libraries.
[00:01:12.590]I also want to
thank our partners
[00:01:14.390]and friends in the College
of Arts and Sciences,
[00:01:16.569]particularly those in the
Department of History.
[00:01:19.069]And then also acknowledge that
we have scholarly partners
[00:01:22.710]both across the university
and within the community as well.
[00:01:27.129]So very grateful for all of
[00:01:28.790]those partners and all
of those supporters.
[00:01:32.250]Today's presentations will come
[00:01:35.069]from our undergraduate
[00:01:37.889]spent the last ten weeks
[00:01:40.669]working in 19th
century legal records.
[00:01:44.410]They've been doing the work of
[00:01:46.470]transcribing and encoding
original archival material,
[00:01:51.509]and will talk to you today about
[00:01:53.809]the habeas project,
Petitioning for Freedom,
[00:01:56.589]which is a comparative database
[00:01:59.810]of habeas petitions from
the American West,
[00:02:03.089]from 1812-1924. And we'll be
[00:02:06.609]excited to launch database
[00:02:08.549]to the public in
just a few months.
[00:02:10.550]You'll hear more
about that very soon.
[00:02:12.889]But in the meantime,
[00:02:14.430]we're going to start
with Ellis Chen, who
[00:02:17.349]will share a little bit about
the work he's been doing.
[00:02:20.330]And then we'll continue
down, and you'll
[00:02:22.209]get to hear from all of
these bright scholars,
[00:02:24.429]and Dr. Thomas will
help us wrap up and
[00:02:26.869]field your questions
so that we can also
[00:02:29.309]have a conversation about
these projects and about
[00:02:33.030]the ideas that
they're growing and
[00:02:35.309]sharing around 19th
century legal history,
[00:02:38.210]but also the use of
[00:02:39.709]digital tools to tell
and craft these stories.
[00:02:42.670]So, thanks again to all of you
for joining us in person.
[00:02:45.230]Thanks to those of you who
are joining us remotely.
[00:02:48.250]And I'll let everyone
get started. Thanks.
[00:02:51.929]Thanks to Dr. Jagodinsky.
[00:02:54.030]Like she said, my name is Ellis.
[00:02:55.630]I'm a senior at Grinnell College.
[00:02:57.409]And what I've spent the summer
studying is opium in 1880s
[00:03:00.850]Washington, as well as
[00:03:03.369]of narcotics under the
1914 Harrison Act.
[00:03:06.349]A lot of work that I've
been doing has been
[00:03:08.290]sort of sifting through petitions,
reading through them.
[00:03:10.810]You can see an
example on the board
[00:03:12.269]where I've been looking
at this and, like, making
of what arguments
[00:03:16.190]are made in each
of the petitions.
[00:03:18.250]In addition to that,
I've been doing a lot
research to find out
[00:03:22.069]more context for the
cases that are going
[00:03:23.869]on, and what was going
on in the back story,
[00:03:26.610]as well as a lot of secondary
[00:03:28.449]source review and looking at
[00:03:29.610]the statutes that were in place
in Washington and federally at the time.
[00:03:33.850]I think one finding
that I was very
[00:03:36.509]interested in was
just that there
[00:03:39.230]were four Chinese
petitioners who challenged
[00:03:41.729]the constitutionality of
[00:03:43.049]the opium laws in
[00:03:45.069]The majority of people who
made habeas petitions at this time
[00:03:49.210]were Chinese, because they were
[00:03:51.630]especially targeted by
the opium prohibitions.
[00:03:54.849]They were basically
using habeas as a vehicle
[00:03:58.149]to challenge the constitutionality
of these ordinances.
[00:04:01.629]And this is really interesting,
because it sort of took me
[00:04:04.269]down a rabbit hole,
because at this time,
[00:04:06.549]in the 1880s, the
[00:04:10.410]prohibiting the use
of opium versus
[00:04:12.250]possession versus distributing was
a little bit up in the air.
[00:04:15.270]There were laws, but it
was pretty consistently
[00:04:17.289]challenged by jurists
[00:04:19.950]I was quite interested in that,
[00:04:22.750]for now, and in places like Oregon,
[00:04:24.869]possession of drugs
has been decriminalized, but
[00:04:27.370]distribution is still
[00:04:30.769]One thing that I was
especially interested in was
[00:04:33.209]there was a coordinated
legal effort by
[00:04:36.089]a Chinese merchant
named Gee Lee who essentially
[00:04:39.209]organized a challenge against
of the opium laws.
[00:04:42.669]I thought that was an
interesting thing to
[00:04:44.090]see that it was organized,
[00:04:45.829]that they used habeas in that way.
[00:04:48.570]In terms of what I've
learned this summer
[00:04:50.589]about digital legal research,
[00:04:52.809]I've learned that I like
it a lot. It is really interesting.
[00:04:55.869]It is a lot of work at times,
[00:04:58.769]it's a lot of looking at petitions
[00:05:00.349]and trying to read
[00:05:02.250]even though I wasn't really
taught that in fourth grade,
[00:05:04.849]which is a little bit tricky
for me, but I
[00:05:07.070]found it to be really,
[00:05:09.509]And something that
it has made me think
[00:05:11.150]about is, like, how many petitions
[00:05:13.530]and just other legal
documents are just out
[00:05:15.690]there sitting in some box
that haven't been looked at.
[00:05:18.170]I think what's happened to
[00:05:19.910]me this summer is I've really gained
[00:05:21.489]an interest, and I
want to go look in
[00:05:23.270]those boxes and see
what's down there.
[00:05:26.650]My name is Isabelle Childs, and I'm a
[00:05:29.310]senior at the
University of Oklahoma.
[00:05:31.270]I wanted to start by summarizing
some of the work I've done
[00:05:34.009]on my project titled,
"Habeas at Home and Heart."
[00:05:37.210]The picture on the slide right
[00:05:39.510]there is a page from
one of the petitions
[00:05:41.429]that I featured as a case
study in my project.
[00:05:44.029]Her name was Anna Sultz, and
she was institutionalized by
[00:05:46.889]her husband in 1906 to
hospital in Nebraska.
[00:05:50.830]I became interested in
psychiatric confinement to
[00:05:54.490]America's hospitals after I
[00:05:57.050]started investigating these
[00:06:00.209]And then I discovered that
[00:06:01.490]along with the habeas petitions,
[00:06:03.330]there was divorce petitions
included in the case files.
[00:06:06.129]This piqued my
interest in the role that
[00:06:08.050]divorce played in
[00:06:10.509]I focused primarily on Nebraska,
[00:06:12.430]because my largest dataset
was from that state.
[00:06:15.170]But I also featured Florida,
Iowa, and Missouri
[00:06:17.989]in my paper.
Through my research,
[00:06:21.189]I discovered that spouses
[00:06:22.629]used institutional confinement to
[00:06:24.309]employ several different
[00:06:26.189]to serve their
[00:06:27.709]And they employed
this strategy at
[00:06:29.350]the expense of the spouse
that they institutionalized,
[00:06:31.789]in punitive and coercive natures.
[00:06:34.049]The dissolution of
[00:06:36.190]the Progressive Era, in
the letter of the law,
[00:06:38.690]played a role in how the
spouses leveraged and challenged
[00:06:41.109]institutional confinement and
reform as a whole.
[00:06:44.470]Focusing on this
topic in other cases,
[00:06:46.949]while doing encoding
for the database,
[00:06:48.569]opened my eyes to the
various ways in which
[00:06:50.890]people used habeas to challenge
different types of detention.
[00:06:54.029]Working in the Digital Legal
Research Lab has given
[00:06:56.610]me tremendous appreciation
for the immense mental,
[00:06:59.030]emotional, and physical labor
[00:07:02.529]the work is very
complex and extensive.
[00:07:04.749]The amount of research
that it takes just to study
[00:07:07.469]one aspect of these petitions
[00:07:09.069]is not to be underestimated.
[00:07:11.010]This is true of all
[00:07:13.730]Emotionally, reading the content
[00:07:15.489]in a lot of these petitions and
[00:07:16.690]other documents can be very
difficult to read.
[00:07:19.749]And then physically, I
[00:07:21.290]learned that the
archival fieldwork side of
[00:07:23.430]this research requires
[00:07:25.509]and the ability to haul
around very large books.
[00:07:29.810]I'm part of a team that's
encouraging. The amount
[00:07:35.269]of time they've
invested in our work,
[00:07:36.690]and understanding us
as individuals has made
[00:07:38.650]the labor manageable and
[00:07:39.750]made this experience
[00:07:41.710]Additionally, the labor
required for this work is
[00:07:44.030]worth the tremendous
fulfillment it's brought.
[00:07:46.389]It's amazing to be part
of a project that makes
[00:07:48.749]these individual and family
to the public.
[00:07:51.749]Since these petitions have been
[00:07:52.949]kept in the archives
[00:07:54.590]Being able to unearth
[00:07:56.369]has given me a great
sense of purpose,
[00:07:57.749]and I'm lucky to be able to
work so directly with them.
[00:08:00.130]And Dr. Jagodinsky and Dr.
Thomas have been very
[00:08:02.570]helpful and given
me the confidence
[00:08:03.909]to be able to carry
out these tasks,
[00:08:05.569]which are a large
[00:08:08.549]A beautiful thing about
[00:08:11.210]and our lab is that
it helps connect
[00:08:13.149]individuals to larger
[00:08:15.190]and bridges the gap
[00:08:17.450]In these ways, labs
like this one not only
[00:08:21.910]family and legal history,
[00:08:23.089]but also political, social,
and other histories.
[00:08:26.689]For example, prior
knowledge I had of
as a psych major has been
[00:08:31.530]greatly expanded by
analyzing and digitizing
[00:08:33.889]the petitions of people who
[00:08:35.209]challenged detention at
[00:08:37.369]And I can carry this
[00:08:39.049]future academic and
professional work that I
[00:08:41.590]hope to conduct in connecting
[00:08:42.889]law and psychology disciplines.
[00:08:44.909]And as everybody has highlighted,
[00:08:46.910]these habeas petitions are crucial
pieces of broader stories
[00:08:49.930]of freedom making, these
history as a whole.
[00:08:55.290]I'm Sophia Hayes.
[00:08:57.510]I am from St. Olaf
College in Minnesota.
[00:08:59.789]I'll be a junior this year.
[00:09:02.250]The petition that got me into
my research for the summer,
[00:09:06.329]was from a woman
named Agnes Smith.
[00:09:08.269]I was immediately really
[00:09:09.630]intrigued by her, because
she was petitioning to
[00:09:11.769]be released from an
institution known as
[00:09:14.210]the Nebraska Institute
for Feeble Minded Youth
[00:09:17.550]in Beatrice, Nebraska.
[00:09:19.589]And she actually had two
petitions where she was
[00:09:22.149]trying to be released
from this place.
[00:09:25.089]But there were a lot of
holes left in her story.
[00:09:28.369]And there were also
other people who were
[00:09:30.390]petitioning to be released
from that same institution,
[00:09:33.049]as well as similar
ones in Nebraska.
[00:09:35.369]That got me really
interested to look at
[00:09:37.870]institutionalization in the
Progressive Era in Nebraska.
[00:09:41.690]But in order to
understand that fully,
[00:09:44.449]I had to go at a much larger
macro level, if you will.
[00:09:48.724]I started looking at
[00:09:50.160]nationwide ideas and trends
and progressive ideology,
[00:09:53.959]and the intersection
of that with
[00:09:55.859]eugenics and eugenic practices,
[00:09:58.180]and the impact that that had
[00:09:59.940]on nationwide trends and
[00:10:03.619]I then took that information
to conduct an in-depth
[00:10:06.720]survey of the landscape
[00:10:10.479]specifically focusing on
[00:10:15.060]and practices of custodialism,
[00:10:17.479]which is basically just
[00:10:21.960]Using this context,
I really did my best
[00:10:26.620]to understand the purpose
and life of Agnes Smith.
[00:10:35.590]Nebraska between 16-24
years of her life.
[00:10:39.229]She lived during a
really pivotal part
[00:10:42.990]of Nebraska history as it
comes to institutionalization,
[00:10:45.590]where Nebraska passed
its sterilization law,
[00:10:48.770]its civil commitment law,
[00:10:50.069]it was restricting marriages for
[00:10:51.929]people who were deemed
feeble-minded or insane.
[00:10:55.610]What I found out, what became
[00:10:58.190]a guiding idea for my
writing, was that there was
[00:11:01.130]a really direct
[00:11:03.949]the legislative bodies
that were passing
[00:11:06.110]the laws that I mentioned:
[00:11:07.330]sterilization, civil commitment,
[00:11:09.589]restrictive marriage laws;
[00:11:10.990]and then the bureaucratic
leaders who ran
[00:11:13.869]the institutions that Agnes
[00:11:15.790]and others like her were
trying to be released from.
[00:11:19.349]And that these bureaucratic
[00:11:22.449]incredibly vocal about their,
I'll just say,
[00:11:26.690]violent opinions about
these people that were
with the eugenic mindset
[00:11:31.990]of the Progressive Era.
[00:11:34.110]They were directly
[00:11:37.110]They asked for the
sterilization law to be passed.
[00:11:39.470]The next cycle, it was passed,
[00:11:42.730]which was really, really alarming to me.
[00:11:46.029]And then what was, almost
brought me hope, I guess,
[00:11:50.850]was that Agnes and others
were petitioning to be
[00:11:53.610]released from these
[00:11:56.649]I found that it was really
consider the use of
[00:11:59.529]habeas as a distinct
legal strategy to
[00:12:02.910]pursue freedom making
and bodily autonomy
[00:12:07.030]decades before there would be
[00:12:08.869]a nationwide move for
[00:12:12.189]in the United States, and
[00:12:15.010]are still very much
[00:12:16.110]a relevant issue
today among a lot of
[00:12:18.770]the same populations that were
[00:12:20.229]targeted in the Progressive Era.
[00:12:22.310]As far as digital
[00:12:25.770]I, perhaps it sounds
a little naive,
[00:12:28.030]I found that there's
just so much.
[00:12:32.030]I wrote 12 pages on
Agnes and Nebraska.
[00:12:35.569]I easily could've
written 50 more.
[00:12:38.630]That's just one person.
[00:12:40.650]There are thousands of
cases in this database.
[00:12:44.189]And I also found that the research
or the work that we're
[00:12:48.049]doing makes it so much
easier for students like us,
[00:12:51.669]anyone watching, anyone out here,
[00:12:53.549]to do the same kind of work
and learn about
[00:12:58.329]like Ellis and Isabel
were kind of mentioning,
[00:13:01.369]is maybe hidden, maybe just
sitting in a box somewhere in
[00:13:05.049]great condition or it's molding
and rotting in the field,
[00:13:08.730]and this is maybe
the last chance
[00:13:10.570]for people to learn about this.
[00:13:11.909]That was something really
powerful and that I
[00:13:13.750]really got out of this
experience this summer.
[00:13:18.640]My name is Gabrielle Hope.
[00:13:20.199]I am a rising junior.
[00:13:21.600]I come from the State University
of New York at Albany.
[00:13:25.299]Obviously, my project
is stemming from
[00:13:27.699]Dr. Jagodinsky's Petitioning
[00:13:30.180]Whilst my colleagues
have spent a majority of
[00:13:32.620]their time looking through
[00:13:33.959]individual petitions and
gathering information there,
[00:13:36.360]I've spent a majority
of my last couple of
[00:13:38.979]weeks reading through
state codes in Nebraska,
[00:13:43.099]looking for the written habeas law,
[00:13:46.759]and doing a statutory
review that has ranged from
[00:13:49.540]1866-1900. What I want
to highlight for
[00:13:54.800]you today is the universality
of habeas and habeas corpus.
[00:14:00.600]And this law, it comes
from British Common Law,
[00:14:03.660]but it was seen in
the first drafts,
[00:14:05.380]both in federal constitutions
[00:14:07.119]as well as state constitutions.
[00:14:08.939]Obviously, it was found in
that first accessible Nebraska 1866.
[00:14:13.440]And part of the universality
is how it's mentioned.
[00:14:19.619]The language of habeas law
[00:14:21.580]is very explicit
in saying that it
[00:14:23.580]applies to all
persons. I think that speaks to...
[00:14:29.079]I think people's assumptions
[00:14:30.780]of the time period
that's being discussed,
[00:14:33.119]I think the assumption
is still very
[00:14:35.479]much that it's conducted to
one race or one gender.
[00:14:41.140]But looking at that explicit
[00:14:43.880]shows, and is an example of
[00:14:46.660]why Dr. Jagodinsky's project gets
to examine groups of minors,
[00:14:52.720]groups of women, groups
of different races.
[00:14:56.800]It was also that this privilege
was so important
[00:15:03.579]to individual freedom and
individual liberty, and it was
[00:15:07.299]clearly a privilege that
needed to be a law.
[00:15:11.479]It was so important to
the rights of the people.
[00:15:15.300]And I think that is shown so
[00:15:17.779]much in digital legal
history as a whole.
[00:15:20.500]The work that is
able to be done in
[00:15:22.700]such a wide scope of law.
[00:15:26.139]I'm going to be honest,
before this summer,
[00:15:28.660]I didn't know digital
legal history was a thing.
[00:15:31.119]This was something
totally new to me,
[00:15:33.280]but something I totally
wanted to take a stab at.
[00:15:36.059]And I'm so, so glad that I did.
[00:15:38.340]I'm not only shown a wide range
for legal research,
[00:15:42.220]but I'm shown a wide range of
[00:15:44.020]opportunities in historical
[00:15:47.000]And the other thing,
and it's been
[00:15:48.339]mentioned, that I've been shown,
[00:15:50.459]is that this is a community
[00:15:52.819]of people who are
working to do good.
[00:15:55.680]And I think sometimes in
reading history or reading law,
[00:16:01.639]we forget that there are
people who are working to
[00:16:04.360]do so much good,
and, in my life,
[00:16:07.820]and what I wish was the focus
[00:16:09.840]of the world is that work of
[00:16:12.619]good. So that has been
[00:16:14.759]one of the greatest and most
I've gotten from this summer.
[00:16:20.819]My name is Grace. I'm a senior
at Vanderbilt University.
[00:16:24.300]And my research this summer
[00:16:25.979]primarily focused around
[00:16:27.439]the Salvation Army Rescue
Home in Omaha, Nebraska.
[00:16:30.759]It opened in 1896,
[00:16:32.980]and it was a private
[00:16:35.259]that was supported by other
[00:16:38.019]It was regarded as a
home for fallen women,
[00:16:41.119]where they received housing,
[00:16:42.780]medical assistance, as well
as care for their children.
[00:16:45.940]In doing the research
[00:16:47.799]with the Petitioning
for Freedom Project,
[00:16:49.760]this site of significance stood,
out to me, because unlike others,
[00:16:54.000]all these women entered
the home voluntarily.
[00:16:56.319]And these habeas petitions
[00:16:58.160]used to try to take them
[00:16:59.659]out of the home
against their will.
[00:17:01.700]This was mind-blowing, because we saw
an avenue of law that's
[00:17:07.279]being used to control women.
[00:17:09.759]I focused on telling the stories
of three specific women.
[00:17:13.980]I'll share one of them with you.
[00:17:15.479]Her name was Della Duhigg. When
she was between 17 and 20, she got married.
[00:17:21.219]But three weeks later,
she found out that
[00:17:22.999]her husband was 24
years older than her.
[00:17:25.199]This wasn't okay with her,
[00:17:26.739]so she left her home and
[00:17:28.139]moved into the Salvation
Army Rescue Home.
[00:17:30.420]And a couple of months later,
[00:17:31.820]her husband filed a habeas
petition on her behalf,
[00:17:34.779]alleging that she was unlawfully
detained in this home,
[00:17:37.760]and he wanted her to
be returned to him.
[00:17:41.200]And this was reported on
in the paper at the time,
[00:17:44.260]and Della herself, said that
[00:17:45.799]she had no desire to
return to her husband.
[00:17:48.159]She claimed that she only
wanted her school books,
[00:17:50.579]her winter jacket,
and to be left alone.
[00:17:52.779]And Della ended up winning
her habeas petition.
[00:17:55.800]But through these habeas petitions,
[00:17:58.320]and I think through digital
legal history as a whole,
[00:18:02.560]I've really grown
to appreciate and
[00:18:05.499]love the storytelling
aspect and the way that
[00:18:08.439]this field is really able to
[00:18:09.759]humanize the people
that show up in
[00:18:11.919]these petitions and the
people that show up in
[00:18:13.739]law and tell their stories.
[00:18:16.079]I've just been so honored
[00:18:17.559]to be a part of a
project like this.
[00:18:20.440]Hi, my name is Esme Krohn.
[00:18:22.939]I'm a history major at
Carleton College, rising senior.
[00:18:27.239]My project was about child
[00:18:31.859]I analyzed 121 Lancaster and
[00:18:34.699]Douglas County custody
[00:18:40.779]And I found that fathers petitioned for
daughters more often,
[00:18:44.560]but mothers were more successful.
[00:18:46.499]But also that kidnapping
occurred in 20% of cases.
[00:18:49.799]And I don't have time
to summarize all of
[00:18:53.220]that I've found in
[00:18:54.779]So I'm going to focus
on this one case of
[00:18:59.799]at the age of seven,
at the age five, sorry,
[00:19:02.479]her mother died,
and she was turned
[00:19:03.980]over by her father
to her aunt and uncle.
[00:19:06.359]They were called the Brothers.
[00:19:08.960]But after her father remarried,
[00:19:11.679]he decided that he wanted her
[00:19:13.079]back, so like any good
father would do,
[00:19:14.939]he kidnapped her from her
aunt and uncle's house in Platte,
[00:19:17.599]and took her back to Omaha
[00:19:19.800]And the Brothers, after they
[00:19:21.899]tried to file for
adoption, because they
[00:19:23.679]realized they hadn't
formally adopted her
[00:19:25.819]even though they
thought they had,
[00:19:28.959]there had apparently been some
sort of, like, signature thing,
[00:19:31.420]but it wasn't a legally
[00:19:34.000]But because this
adoption was contested,
[00:19:36.180]Frances was allowed to stay at
[00:19:38.799]her father's house.
So when she was
[00:19:41.219]walking to school
on January 9, 1917,
[00:19:44.539]Andrew Brothers, her uncle,
[00:19:46.280]came up in a taxi and
took her off the street.
[00:19:48.720]He took her back to La Platte,
[00:19:50.399]after which Fred Lane
filed a habeas corpus,
[00:19:53.719]and it was a really long,
emotionally involved trial.
[00:19:56.939]Like the newspapers
describe people crying,
[00:20:03.040]crying during the
trial. Frances did get to testify,
[00:20:07.859]but it was later struck from the
record, because I think, apparently,
[00:20:10.580]it was really controversial
among the parties,
[00:20:14.059]because they were
fighting so terribly.
[00:20:16.360]But the judge did confer with
[00:20:18.159]her before making
a final decision,
[00:20:19.800]and he decided that she
should stay with her father.
[00:20:22.639]And I think this goes
to show not only
[00:20:24.960]how important kidnapping,
and how prominent,
kidnapping was in these cases,
[00:20:30.039]but like Grace said,
[00:20:32.480]the humanizing element of this.
[00:20:34.079]Not only are we
[00:20:35.719]the first people
who've seen these cases,
[00:20:38.559]sometimes in 100 years,
be in detail in it
[00:20:41.879]like the grandmother
crying in court
[00:20:44.020]that is so shockingly
[00:20:46.559]human and like so
shockingly present that
[00:20:48.639]it's not like... we're
[00:20:51.490]spending time with these people
[00:20:52.870]and learning their stories.
[00:20:53.989]It's not just us putting them
out in the world for that.
[00:20:57.229]It's a collaborative
effort in a way.
[00:21:01.770]Hi, my name is Somi.
[00:21:04.469]I'm a senior at NYU.
[00:21:07.009]For the last, I think,
four or five weeks,
[00:21:10.929]I focused my research
on this one detention home,
[00:21:14.889]which is the Omaha
Women's Detention Home.
[00:21:17.130]From analyzing the larger habeas
petitions in Douglas County,
[00:21:21.509]I discovered that one of
[00:21:22.889]the main locations
that women were often
[00:21:24.989]confined at in Douglas County
[00:21:26.589]was the Omaha Women's
[00:21:28.650]So I decided to center
my research around that,
[00:21:31.654]to focus on how women used
[00:21:33.859]habeas to challenge the
confinement at the home,
[00:21:36.099]and also to provide
[00:21:38.299]insight into the
conditions in the home,
[00:21:40.340]which the petitions
[00:21:41.799]me kind of understand
what was going on
[00:21:44.419]for background. Near the
end of World War II,
[00:21:50.400]the federal government enacted
[00:21:52.940]a collection of laws
and practices known
[00:21:55.900]as the American Plan to
[00:21:58.399]help combat the
spread of venereal disease,
[00:22:01.839]because it was going rampant
in the military bases.
[00:22:05.099]But after physicians
discovered that, actually,
[00:22:08.159]a lot of the soldiers
were getting it
[00:22:09.999]before they enlisted
in the military,
[00:22:11.924]that kind of gave the federal
[00:22:15.229]to kind of expand
the American Plan
[00:22:17.570]beyond the military
bases and into society.
[00:22:21.470]And they convinced
a bunch of states
[00:22:23.489]to enact a
venereal disease law
physicians to test to
[00:22:27.569]anybody that they suspected
of having venereal disease.
[00:22:30.730]And also if a person is
infected with venereal disease,
[00:22:34.409]they were allowed to detain them
[00:22:36.030]for however long
they decided to.
[00:22:37.969]And one place decided to enact a
venereal disease law was Omaha.
[00:22:43.110]They had an ordinance.
It was, I think it was
[00:22:45.769]No. 10222. Yeah.
[00:22:48.970]So basically what I said,
their law basically did that.
[00:22:53.569]And from there, how I kind of
[00:22:57.049]approached my research was,
[00:22:58.949]first, from the
[00:23:00.830]I first identified the
cases that involved
[00:23:03.149]women opposing their confinement
at the detention home.
[00:23:06.010]And then, after finding all
the cases involving that,
[00:23:09.109]I then did newspaper
archival research to
[00:23:12.309]understand what was happening in
[00:23:14.009]the detention home
around that time period.
[00:23:16.349]And from that research,
[00:23:17.929]I found two main things.
[00:23:19.709]First, I discovered
[00:23:21.689]inside of the home.
So, at the time,
[00:23:24.510]a lot of police officers and
[00:23:27.009]police surgeons would extort
[00:23:29.369]money from the women
for their freedom.
[00:23:31.449]And if a woman
didn't have money,
[00:23:33.250]they would automatically send
her to the detention home.
[00:23:35.589]So there was one instance where
there was one doctor, for, I think,
[00:23:38.670]$10 or $12, women who were
infected with venereal disease,
[00:23:42.669]he would kind of sign– he would sign
them off and let them go.
[00:23:46.389]But then in instances
[00:23:49.190]even though they
did test positive,
[00:23:51.010]he would send them to
the detention home.
[00:23:53.430]And then another thing
that I discovered
[00:23:55.410]was the drug use.
[00:23:58.349]There was a drug abuse problem
in the detention home.
[00:24:01.130]So every day the physicians
[00:24:03.709]four to six doses of
morphine to these women.
[00:24:07.249]And it was so bad, that they
[00:24:09.029]half the time could barely
think or barely walk straight.
[00:24:12.370]And if women resisted, they
[00:24:14.289]would forcibly give
[00:24:16.450]And it was– the conditions
were really, really bad there.
[00:24:18.770]And the case that
kind of made me
[00:24:21.849]decide to approach this
project was actually one case
[00:24:25.070]specifically. Her name
was Gussie Burns.
[00:24:27.589]And I, for my paper
and my project,
[00:24:30.109]I centered it
around her story and
[00:24:31.949]telling her experience
at the detention home.
[00:24:34.210]So she was charged with vagrancy.
[00:24:37.689]The police charged
her with vagrancy.
[00:24:39.369]And she was then, the next
day, she was sentenced and
[00:24:42.129]found guilty for vagrancy.
[00:24:45.289]And then after that,
[00:24:46.989]she was, because of
the law at the time,
[00:24:49.730]they– it was an
automatic thing that
[00:24:52.729]she had to get tested for
venereal disease, which she did.
[00:24:55.730]And then the doctors claimed
[00:24:57.209]that she had a venereal disease,
[00:24:58.809]so they sent her to the Omaha
Women's Detention Home.
[00:25:01.030]She was only supposed to
be there for 30 days,
[00:25:03.990]but she was there
for four months.
[00:25:05.970]After four months, she then
[00:25:07.469]petitioned for a writ
of habeas corpus,
[00:25:09.690]claiming that the
[00:25:11.470]the physician there,
they already cured her,
[00:25:13.669]but they were refusing
to release her until
[00:25:16.029]she got sterilized, and
she didn't want to.
[00:25:19.309]So that was her whole situation.
[00:25:21.889]And through this project,
[00:25:23.949]it really showed
me, from looking at
archival research and
[00:25:27.649]then also looking
at the petition,
[00:25:29.570]it really showed me women's
efforts at the time
[00:25:31.790]to kind of reclaim their
power and autonomy.
[00:25:34.969]Especially with women
[00:25:37.770]they really showcased their
[00:25:39.770]I think that when we look
at women at the time,
[00:25:41.910]we don't really recognize
that, and being a part of
[00:25:45.369]this project really
allowed me to look
[00:25:47.150]at marginalized groups
in a different way,
[00:25:49.490]and really hear their stories
from their perspective,
[00:25:52.409]rather than from a
[00:25:54.390]and a perspective
that doesn't really
[00:25:56.469]truly get at the heart
of their experiences.
[00:25:59.529]And that was something that
I'm very grateful for.
[00:26:03.150]Good afternoon, everyone.
My name is Santiago Zuniga,
[00:26:06.989]and my research
was centered on,
[00:26:08.889]or is centered on
financial crimes in
[00:26:11.169]Nebraska around this
time period between
[00:26:13.709]1885 and 1924.
[00:26:15.230]As, as I was doing
[00:26:18.010]the research in the
habeas corpus petitions
[00:26:20.510]for the Petitioning for
[00:26:22.129]the cases that stood
out to me the most
[00:26:25.289]were cases that were centered
[00:26:26.869]around these fraud, embezzlement,
[00:26:30.070]just different categories
of financial crimes that
[00:26:34.049]seemed to present difficulties
[00:26:36.070]when prosecutors tried to
prosecute the criminals,
[00:26:38.950]or people that were just
[00:26:40.390]conducting business and
seemed to be falsely
[00:26:42.169]accused for committing a
crime that they didn't actually
[00:26:44.729]do. At the time,
[00:26:48.070]this was an era of significant
[00:26:50.529]economic and financial change.
[00:26:52.249]The traveler's check
had been invented
[00:26:54.010]in 1891. The number of banks
[00:26:56.149]between 1896 and 1907 in the
United States more than doubled.
[00:27:00.249]And there were largely still
[00:27:02.560]no federal oversight and
[00:27:06.119]strong regulation over
these types of things.
[00:27:08.380]So that opened the way for
many criminals to begin to
[00:27:11.679]take advantage of these gaps
in the law to commit crimes.
[00:27:15.139]One of the most
[00:27:16.720]of crimes that I
saw was forgery,
[00:27:18.200]so people forging checks,
because like I mentioned,
[00:27:21.100]this was a relatively
[00:27:23.040]And as opposed to the way of
stealing money in the past,
[00:27:26.220]which was through violence,
you know, you walk into
[00:27:28.000]a bank, hold a gun up to
the teller to steal the money,
[00:27:30.640]now someone could forge a check,
[00:27:32.140]walk in, and walk out with
no resistance, and so the bank
[00:27:34.240]didn't even realize
they were being robbed.
[00:27:35.799]Similarly, with embezzlement,
in the past,
[00:27:38.520]corporations and companies
were all relatively
[00:27:41.179]small and under one roof
and everyone worked
[00:27:45.200]So stealing money was
a physical action.
[00:27:47.799]You walk into wherever the money
[00:27:49.100]is, and you walk out with it.
[00:27:50.659]But now, with embezzlement, we had
[00:27:52.579]these large corporate
organizations that had
structures, where you could easily
[00:27:58.639]just fudge the accounting
books and steal some money.
[00:28:02.120]These presented challenges in
[00:28:03.619]the way that the law prosecutes
these types of crimes.
[00:28:05.599]And I wanted to explore
what the laws response
[00:28:08.659]to these economic changes
were in this time period.
[00:28:11.499]So there are three specific
cases that I looked at.
[00:28:14.419]One involving embezzlement, one
of false pretenses,
[00:28:18.479]and one involving forgery.
[00:28:19.820]The one involving
[00:28:21.599]the one you see right here
on the newspaper clipping,
[00:28:23.880]where the president of
[00:28:25.219]a bank was– allegedly embezzled
$200,000 from the bank,
[00:28:29.440]causing the bank to go under and
to lose a lot of
[00:28:33.059]their assets, as they had
bought bonds from the bank
[00:28:35.220]or owned shares in a company
that was owned by the bank.
[00:28:38.660]Reading the evidence, it's
actually unclear whether
[00:28:41.700]or not he was actually guilty
of embezzling that money,
[00:28:43.980]or if it was simply some
kind of accounting error or
[00:28:46.939]just the fluctuations
of the market
[00:28:48.639]that caused the share
value to go down.
[00:28:50.700]But what this really showed
is that the lack of
on banking policies
[00:28:55.759]and the lack of commissions,
[00:28:57.179]and, for example, the FDIC,
[00:28:58.660]which insures banks for this
kind of thing happening,
[00:29:01.819]wasn't even invented
at the time.
[00:29:03.480]The Federal Reserve was
very new at the time.
[00:29:06.980]So there was still kind of gray
area in terms of the law of
[00:29:10.279]how to treat these types
of white collar crimes.
[00:29:12.879]Additionally, like I
[00:29:14.580]a crime of false pretenses.
[00:29:16.140]Where a man named Fred V.
Larson was accused of
[00:29:19.359]trading a mortgage to his
neighbor under false pretenses.
[00:29:24.039]His neighbor accused him of lying,
[00:29:26.080]and there were no receipts or
ways to prove the actual
[00:29:29.979]conditions of the transaction.
[00:29:32.139]And because of that,
it was difficult
[00:29:34.500]for Fred V. Larson to prove
that he was innocent.
[00:29:37.480]He eventually did.
He was eventually
[00:29:40.300]released from prison when
[00:29:41.879]he did show the
Court that he was innocent,
[00:29:43.424]but the fact that he was
arrested in the first place,
[00:29:45.430]just off of testimony from
one man with no evidence,
[00:29:47.930]shows that there
are clearly some
[00:29:49.149]issues that need to be addressed
[00:29:50.390]here in the way that we handle
these types of transactions.
[00:29:53.709]Lastly, there was Louis Seiffer,
[00:29:56.090]who was a very infamous conman
across the United States
[00:29:59.310]at the time of his arrest.
[00:30:00.509]He had defrauded many banks
[00:30:03.309]all over, from the
South to the Midwest,
[00:30:05.730]ending up in Nebraska,
[00:30:07.309]where he would come in
with a forged check of $85
[00:30:10.489]and just walk out with $85, and
[00:30:12.469]the bank just end up with a
worthless piece of paper.
[00:30:14.569]He was hunted down by the
Pinkerton Detective Agency,
[00:30:17.529]which at the time, was a very
famous detective agency
[00:30:20.550]that worked on protecting
[00:30:22.390]Abraham Lincoln during
assassination plots against
[00:30:25.029]him and striking down a
lot of union strikes.
[00:30:28.249]And so this kind of showed
like the importance
[00:30:30.650]that banks really saw
in capturing Seiffer,
[00:30:33.069]because he was just posing a
[00:30:35.290]very significant threat,
as he would always be
[00:30:37.669]changing his name, and it was
[00:30:38.789]very difficult to track him down.
[00:30:40.269]But eventually when they
did arrest him, because of
[00:30:42.609]the vagueness of laws
regarding checks, and him–
[00:30:47.190]and there's no clear
law against forgery,
[00:30:50.430]so getting him to admit
[00:30:52.090]that he was guilty
was very difficult.
[00:30:53.790]And there– he only
[00:30:55.570]admitted he was guilty because
[00:30:56.890]of the fact that he was Jewish,
[00:30:58.010]and the people prosecuting
him threatened to have
[00:31:00.149]him lynched if he did not
admit that he was guilty.
[00:31:02.669]So there's a lot of
challenges around that.
[00:31:04.709]He was ultimately
convicted and arrested,
[00:31:06.669]but then he escaped prison,
[00:31:08.109]which is just a
different set of challenges
[00:31:10.269]that my study did not address.
[00:31:12.749]But I think what it most–
what it revealed is that
[00:31:15.469]in eras of significant
[00:31:17.969]in financial innovation,
[00:31:19.369]the law oftentimes
fails to keep up with
[00:31:21.589]those changes and fails to keep up
[00:31:22.789]with those innovations.
And, I think, tying it
[00:31:24.590]to today, we have this
new emergence of
[00:31:26.849]crypto, and the fact that anyone
[00:31:29.189]can just go online and
trade stocks and do
[00:31:31.229]all these things that previously
[00:31:32.630]that hasn't been possible.
[00:31:33.950]And because of that,
[00:31:34.629]we're seeing a lot of
these challenges in
[00:31:36.009]prosecuting people that
are committing crimes,
[00:31:38.549]but you can't really call
them a crime, because there's
[00:31:41.190]no legislation that really
[00:31:42.950]orchestrates how to treat that.
[00:31:44.789]I think that if you
look at how the law
[00:31:47.030]addressed these types
of innovations in the past,
[00:31:49.580]we can maybe come up
with strategies for
[00:31:51.119]addressing the issues
that we face today.
[00:31:53.259]In terms of the digital
[00:31:55.679]I come from a background
[00:31:57.240]of studying economics
and accounting, so
[00:31:59.020]nothing to do with history.
[00:32:00.639]What I got out of this
program was definitely
[00:32:03.580]just a large amount
of exposure to
[00:32:05.819]this cross-disciplinary field
[00:32:08.339]for me. And I learned a lot
of skills that I don't
[00:32:10.940]think I would have
had the opportunity
[00:32:12.139]to learn the fields
that I'm studying, so
[00:32:13.639]I'm definitely excited to take
[00:32:14.980]these research and critical
[00:32:17.360]reading and comprehension skills
[00:32:19.339]back to my studies in
[00:32:20.939]my home institution and
[00:32:22.859]just apply them for
research in other areas.
[00:32:36.300]Thank you all. I'm Will Thomas.
[00:32:39.080]I'm a Professor of History and
[00:32:40.319]Associate Dean for Research and
[00:32:41.919]Graduate Education in the
College of Arts and Sciences.
[00:32:45.459]And I'm the co-director with
[00:32:47.799]Professor Jagodinsky of this
Summer Research Program
[00:32:52.259]and the Digital
Legal Research Lab.
[00:32:54.700]It's been a great pleasure,
[00:32:56.959]as I think you can tell,
[00:32:58.680]to work with this fabulous group
[00:33:00.920]of students for ten
weeks this summer.
[00:33:03.940]I have thoroughly enjoyed
[00:33:06.839]this group– this team of scholars,
and I think you can tell why.
[00:33:12.940]What we'd like to
do is open it up
[00:33:14.980]for questions from the audience.
[00:33:16.680]Those of you online,
if you have questions,
[00:33:18.900]please put them in the chat in
[00:33:20.919]the question box, and in the
room, be thinking of your question,
[00:33:25.439]'cause I'll start with a question,
[00:33:27.219]maybe, just to get it going here.
[00:33:28.960]Several of you commented
on the challenges,
[00:33:35.499]the emotional response that you
[00:33:38.379]were having over the
summer to this history.
[00:33:41.960]I guess I'd like to hear
some of you reflect for
[00:33:46.259]us on the advice
[00:33:48.299]you might have to others
who are watching,
[00:33:50.619]who are listening about
how you navigated
[00:33:53.760]that experience of delving
[00:33:56.900]into what can be a painful
and difficult history.
[00:34:07.220]I think one
really practical thing is,
[00:34:11.359]and this was an
advice from Dr. Jagodinsky,
[00:34:13.439]and Dr. Thomas too, is
get up and take a break.
[00:34:16.679]You know, you're reading
oftentimes really sad,
[00:34:21.140]you know, just things that
were done to people that
[00:34:23.379]were not right, and it's
really hard to read.
[00:34:26.139]But personally, one thing that I
[00:34:27.939]guess help me through
it is knowing that–
[00:34:30.219]or knowing that I was
doing my very best
[00:34:32.999]to do justice to Agnes' story.
[00:34:36.440]And to show how her–
[00:34:39.599]how her actions as an
individual person fit into
[00:34:44.999]a much larger idea and work.
[00:34:52.539]So that gave me a lot of
comfort, knowing that I was–
[00:34:56.679]I was doing everything I could
[00:34:58.939]to do right by her.
[00:35:09.659]Kind of going off of that too,
[00:35:11.939]I feel like, for me,
it was being able–
[00:35:14.179]I felt like I needed to
tell her story right,
Gussie Burns' story.
[00:35:18.539]I wanted to make
sure that I was telling–
[00:35:22.400]explaining the time period
well enough that people who
[00:35:25.959]are reading my paper could
understand that at this point,
[00:35:29.079]women were forced
to endure so much pain and
[00:35:33.729]so much violence that, it
[00:35:36.429]was– she had to do what she
needed to do to survive.
[00:35:39.490]And it was for her–
[00:35:40.969]telling her story was
so important to me.
[00:35:43.249]And even while doing
[00:35:44.789]my research, I
[00:35:46.330]okay, I'm going to
just focus on her and
[00:35:48.009]then like add background,
and that's it.
[00:35:49.969]But then I was doing,
[00:35:51.810]like, when I was looking
[00:35:53.450]at other newspapers
and stuff like that,
[00:35:54.949]there's other women's stories
that were so interesting.
[00:35:57.670]I was like, okay, this would add
[00:35:59.069]so much more complexity
to the story.
[00:36:01.109]And at the end of the day,
[00:36:02.309]I think I added like five other
[00:36:03.609]people's stories into my paper.
[00:36:05.270]And at the end, I felt like
when I was reading it,
[00:36:08.509]I like, this makes sense.
[00:36:09.709]And I was happy
with what I wrote, and I
[00:36:11.949]felt like I was telling
her story the right way.
[00:36:14.969]So it kind of helps me deal with so
much of like what I was reading.
[00:36:19.690]There were moments that were
[00:36:22.830]but there were
also moments where
[00:36:24.149]you were really
happy that someone
[00:36:25.730]succeeded, or that were just
really fun to write about.
[00:36:29.589]Like I had a case
[00:36:31.049]where it was a man
[00:36:33.309]that was brought up on
the crime of seduction,
[00:36:35.290]which was a crime back then,
[00:36:36.549]for abandoning his fiancée,
[00:36:38.590]and then he marries her in
[00:36:40.109]the court room, the judge
marries the two of them,
[00:36:42.369]and then he leaves
her a day later
[00:36:43.950]again. So, just total soap
[00:36:46.429]opera stuff where it was
not fun to live through,
[00:36:49.069]especially for her, I'm sure.
[00:36:50.409]But it's really interesting
to write about,
[00:36:52.269]just like digging through the
drama of people that are long-dead.
[00:37:02.490]Also being part of a
team is important,
[00:37:06.610]that is accommodating,
encouraging about these things.
[00:37:10.830]The first case I encoded
[00:37:13.489]for the Petitioning For Freedom
[00:37:14.990]was a case from the
[00:37:17.009]So it was a lot, at
first, to be reading
[00:37:19.370]the language and what
happened to these women.
[00:37:21.590]But one of the
people in our team,
[00:37:23.809]I was just talking to them
[00:37:25.109]about it, and they were
comforting, and they told me
[00:37:27.229]about their first experience
[00:37:28.690]with their own case
and their research.
[00:37:31.050]I think we feel
comfortable being able to
[00:37:33.529]reach out to somebody else
[00:37:34.669]like, you're not
doing it alone,
[00:37:36.090]also really helps.
Yes, one from the chat.
I'll repeat it.
[00:37:52.509]Okay. Did the digital
encoding component of
[00:37:55.429]the summer program inform
[00:37:57.110]how you read these habeas petitions?
[00:37:59.369]If so, how?
[00:38:00.640]Okay, so did the digital
[00:38:04.370]how you read these petitions,
and if so, how?
[00:38:08.730]I think it really
helped, because it
[00:38:11.069]allowed me to see
patterns in a way that I
[00:38:13.049]wouldn't have otherwise
if I hadn't had
[00:38:15.249]the terminology and
been forced to think
[00:38:18.129]about it that way
in order to create
[00:38:20.770]this database. I ended
up noticing things that I
[00:38:24.049]wouldn't have otherwise.
[00:38:30.749]Other comments on that?
[00:38:34.700]And it's not like it's– the
kind of encoding we're doing,
[00:38:37.689]it's not like a binary, like, 1 or 0 thing.
[00:38:40.129]We have tons of
different options, and
[00:38:42.289]it's very– as
quantitative as it is,
[00:38:45.009]there's also very
[00:38:50.960]Yeah, I'll just add to that.
It also really helps you
[00:38:53.269]with just focusing on
[00:38:54.749]the details, because
the encoding itself is
[00:38:57.469]a very detail-oriented
process, and I
[00:38:59.569]feel like if you're just
summarizing the cases,
[00:39:02.430]you could lose a lot of the
[00:39:04.609]little intricacies that make
this case so unique.
[00:39:06.550]But when you have to
specifically focus on
[00:39:08.069]finding certain attributes
of these cases,
[00:39:10.210]it really helps with
being able to find
[00:39:12.589]the details of these
[00:39:14.450]and the struggles that
they were facing.
[00:39:23.563]Yeah, I'll ask a question.
[00:39:25.123]I was just curious how many of
[00:39:26.709]you found your research topic
[00:39:29.130]by accident kind of, or found it
[00:39:31.569]because it's like what you're
already interested in?
[00:39:34.169]It sounds like, for example,
[00:39:35.810]the last one, you're
already in accounting,
[00:39:38.070]so maybe you were drawn
to financial crimes
[00:39:40.770]and those types of cases.
[00:39:41.830]Or if it's more– if
that is true or not?
[00:39:44.489]And yeah, how much of it
[00:39:46.389]just, you stumbled upon
something and it picked you,
[00:39:48.969]I guess, if anyone wants
to comment on that?
[00:39:54.090]Yeah, I'll bite.
So I think for me,
[00:39:58.469]drug policy is something that I
[00:40:00.549]was interested in
before I came here.
[00:40:02.429]I have some
[00:40:03.790]that's related to that.
[00:40:05.449]But I think, you know,
[00:40:08.649]one of the first
things I did when
[00:40:10.569]I got to the database was I
[00:40:12.029]was curious about what sort
of drug cases were going on.
[00:40:15.489]Because there's a really,
really, just, long and rich
[00:40:18.429]history, that's also extremely
[00:40:20.630]complicated and difficult
to understand, for me.
[00:40:23.169]But yeah, I would
say that having
[00:40:25.890]that past experience definitely
[00:40:27.050]informed what I
was interested in.
[00:40:34.997]Yeah, I went into mine pretty open-minded,
and I actually wanted to
[00:40:39.059]just focus on one specific
story of one young woman,
[00:40:42.839]but she never appeared
in any records again,
[00:40:45.959]and she doesn't appear
in any census records,
[00:40:47.900]so I didn't have the
facilities to kind
[00:40:50.459]of do a whole paper
and project about her.
[00:40:53.419]So I sat down and talked to
Dr. J., and she was like, wait,
[00:40:56.439]this woman was at
[00:40:59.099]Was anybody else here?
[00:41:00.719]And then that's when going
back into the system,
[00:41:03.820]I realized there were
other women who were also
[00:41:06.819]here who didn't want to leave
[00:41:08.919]this institution. Habeas was
trying to take them out.
[00:41:16.329]For me, I was interested in
[00:41:21.339]but when I was looking
at the habeas
[00:41:24.839]the divorce petitions were
[00:41:26.499]just happened to be
included in the case files.
[00:41:28.460]And so I was interested in
further exploring that.
[00:41:30.619]And so my topic specifically
focusing on marriage,
[00:41:33.340]divorce, and annulment was kind of
by accident just,
[00:41:36.459]but that was because how the
case files were constructed.
[00:41:39.479]And so in that way, just
how these are put together,
[00:41:42.680]that takes investigating
[00:41:44.859]to, like, why are these included
in this case file?
[00:41:49.790]I think for me to
[00:41:51.419]connect back a little to
the last question as well,
[00:41:53.679]it was some of the intricacies
in encoding that made
[00:41:57.260]me kind of latch on to Agnes Smith
and her two petitions.
[00:42:01.759]She was institutionalized at
[00:42:04.479]somewhere called the
Institute Feeble Minded Youth,
[00:42:06.559]but her petition
never mentioned that
[00:42:08.459]she was a minor, which
was weird to me.
[00:42:11.379]But I also could
tell that she was
[00:42:13.639]institutionalized for a
long period of her life.
[00:42:16.299]And I remember having– trying to
[00:42:18.459]figure out how to encode her
age and things like that.
[00:42:21.399]I had a conversation
with our post-doc Dr.
[00:42:24.120]Cory Young, where I was just like,
what do you think about this?
[00:42:28.099]Like, what age might she be?
[00:42:30.059]Where did she fall
into– what category
[00:42:32.220]might this petition fall into?
[00:42:34.240]And that was just one
of the many holes in her story,
[00:42:37.600]where I was like, you know,
there's more to this.
[00:42:40.679]If I hadn't had to specifically
[00:42:42.979]say what age category
might she fit into,
[00:42:47.019]I might not have
latched onto that,
[00:42:50.539]and latched onto her and this
that I discovered.
[00:42:54.360]So ,it was very much an
open-minded thing for me.
[00:43:03.600]Okay, Professor Andy Jewell.
[00:43:06.600]I have a question.
[00:43:08.964]And then online, okay. Go ahead, Andy.
[00:43:10.940]A lot of your stories
feature stories of people
[00:43:15.060]who petition for
their freedom from
[00:43:16.779]a place of real powerlessness,
[00:43:18.960]seemingly, in the resourcelessness
in the system.
[00:43:22.680]I'm curious if you
found evidence in
[00:43:24.679]their stories of people
who are their advocates,
[00:43:26.799]who are helping them get
access to that system,
[00:43:29.380]whether they are lawyers
or family members,
[00:43:31.180]or anybody who are doing
[00:43:32.620]the good work during
[00:43:34.659]their time and helped them
bring these cases forward?
[00:43:42.600]I had a few cases. Like
[00:43:45.819]I described previously,
in the 1880s,
[00:43:48.559]there was one example of
[00:43:50.839]basically, of the Chinese
merchant, Gee Lee, who was like very
[00:43:54.119]prominent and powerful
in Seattle at the time,
[00:43:57.039]who was basically paying to
[00:43:58.999]bail five Chinese people who had
[00:44:01.039]been busted for opium, so he
bailed them out, and then,
[00:44:06.039]was, as I understand it, basically
funding the legal efforts.
[00:44:09.580]I thought that was an
interesting example, right,
[00:44:11.659]of how sort of having that
economic power then
[00:44:13.879]translates into an ability
to use the legal system.
[00:44:17.520]And I think in 1916, in which
there are some other cases,
examples in which
[00:44:24.939]there were some lawyers
who are essentially
[00:44:27.200]volunteering to help
people with– basically
[00:44:30.840]using a recent court
case to get people out,
[00:44:35.779]because the charge that
was basically charged–
[00:44:39.600]they were charged with a crime
[00:44:40.779]that wasn't a crime anymore,
[00:44:42.340]so he essentially volunteered
to help get them out,
[00:44:45.419]so that was interesting.
[00:44:54.051]Yes, Professor Jagodinsky.
[00:44:56.069]Those of you who
are online, I'm just
[00:44:57.740]sort of appearing
from off camera,
[00:44:59.300]but we have an
[00:45:02.140]who couldn't join
us this afternoon.
[00:45:04.600]But I think her project really
speaks to this question.
[00:45:08.720]So, there was a series
of cases out of Omaha
[00:45:13.259]where there were a lot of
[00:45:15.819]habeas petitions challenging
[00:45:19.460]And through those petitions,
[00:45:21.379]it became clear that there was
[00:45:24.139]a Black attorney in
the 19 teens named Claus Hubbard.
[00:45:28.360]And he had been doing
pro bono work on behalf
[00:45:31.500]of the predominantly Black men
[00:45:34.499]who were being arrested
on those charges,
[00:45:36.260]at least in that subset.
[00:45:37.860]And then was himself arrested
on vagrancy charges,
[00:45:42.040]clearly an action of the police
[00:45:44.360]trying to exercise
[00:45:47.335]And all of this generated
[00:45:49.689]so much debate and
community tension that
[00:45:53.449]the Omaha mayor at the
time even condemned
[00:45:56.509]the police actions and
pardoned quite a few,
[00:46:00.809]like, over 100 of these
[00:46:04.010]And so in these cluster of petitions,
[00:46:05.889]you can see that there
are Black attorneys,
[00:46:10.989]politicians to challenge
[00:46:15.689]And then a lot of
these scholars talked
[00:46:19.610]about women and detention
[00:46:23.989]and these are overlapping
[00:46:25.689]in the same time period and in
[00:46:27.069]the same time place–
they're the same place.
[00:46:29.309]So, you kind of understand them
as being really
[00:46:33.709]in the same hearts and minds of
[00:46:35.769]the readers of these newspapers
[00:46:37.269]that are talking about this,
[00:46:38.249]the people who live in
these communities and are
[00:46:39.929]seeing this kind of policing
happen around them.
[00:46:41.849]So I think that's a
really great question.
[00:46:43.490]And depending on how
you look at the data
[00:46:46.349]coming out of these petitions,
it becomes more visible.
[00:46:53.980]Yes. From the chat.
[00:46:57.379]I realized I didn't say where
[00:46:58.729]the first question came
from. That was from Cory.
[00:47:02.670]Great! Thank you for being online.
[00:47:05.349]The next question
comes from Averill Earls.
[00:47:09.170]Thank you for your
thoughtful presentations and
[00:47:11.949]excellent work on
[00:47:13.950]I wonder what, if any,
[00:47:15.469]might be the next steps for
these stories and projects?
[00:47:18.610]Great question. What are the next steps for
these stories and projects?
[00:47:27.990]I would love to
do more on Agnes,
[00:47:31.030]but obviously– I'm
[00:47:32.849]There's a geographical
component as well.
[00:47:35.049]There's a lot online, but
there's also a lot that's
[00:47:37.209]just in the Nebraska
[00:47:39.770]But now that I have this
wealth of information,
[00:47:42.090]one thing that I'm interested in
[00:47:43.229]doing is maybe looking at
[00:47:44.469]a comparative study.
Just 20 minutes away in
[00:47:47.769]the next town over from
where I go to college was
[00:47:50.569]Minnesota's version of
[00:47:52.089]the Institute for Feeble
Minded Youth in Faribault.
[00:47:55.310]And so I think that
would be really
[00:47:56.929]interesting to look into what
[00:47:59.809]people experienced in Minnesota
[00:48:03.030]in terms of
[00:48:05.570]sterilization, and things
like that would be really
[00:48:07.589]interesting to pursue.
[00:48:10.999]Yeah. So, for mine, I think that–
[00:48:13.009]I'm very content with
how my project came out.
[00:48:15.189]However, if I were to go back,
[00:48:16.669]I think I would
tell myself that by
[00:48:20.830]I'm opening Pandora's box.
[00:48:22.369]And it is a very broad, very large
[00:48:24.529]category that has so
many subsets, and I found
[00:48:26.829]so many just small
[00:48:30.530]or small threads
that can pull on and
[00:48:32.369]do their own individual
[00:48:35.029]I think that if I were
to continue my research,
[00:48:37.230]and I've talked to Dr.
Jagodinsky about this,
[00:48:39.509]there are specific petitioners
[00:48:42.249]and specific categories of
[00:48:43.849]crime that I really
want to explore.
[00:48:45.610]For example, one
of the petitioners
[00:48:47.250]I mentioned, Willard V. Matthews.
[00:48:49.569]He was like this big
white collar crime,
And at the end,
[00:48:54.869]like, reading the newspaper
articles surrounding his case,
[00:48:57.369]one of the big controversies
[00:48:59.229]was that, while he
was in prison he
insanely special treatment,
[00:49:03.030]and he was friends
with the warden.
[00:49:04.750]And that's something that we
hear about a lot nowadays,
[00:49:07.549]with white collar criminals,
along the same lines,
[00:49:09.709]and I feel like tracing kind of
like that history of
[00:49:11.869]these large embezzling crimes
[00:49:13.149]would be something
that's very interesting,
[00:49:14.510]just narrowing it down and
focusing on that category.
[00:49:23.150]Other thoughts on next steps?
[00:49:27.060]I thought that some
of these cases
[00:49:28.810]would lend themselves to historical
[00:49:33.870]Well, I'll follow up
[00:49:36.369]with another question
headed in that direction,
[00:49:40.410]which is that several of
[00:49:42.229]you spoke about how
important this was,
[00:49:44.909]this research was for you
in humanizing the past.
[00:49:48.710]And Esme, I think you
[00:49:50.949]said that these stories
[00:49:53.789]human and shockingly human
present as you
[00:50:00.669]got into them.
[00:50:03.390]I'm wondering– what ideas
you have for translating
[00:50:10.729]that or making that
possible for other students
[00:50:13.630]or Americans at large.
[00:50:18.090]How do we make
[00:50:21.289]more accessible in
the way that you've
[00:50:23.549]described it as this
[00:50:26.570]How do we do that?
What advice do you
[00:50:28.639]have for how we teach this
[00:50:30.889]and how we translate this?
[00:50:34.340]Historical fiction it sounds like, Esme.
[00:50:37.209]One suggestion, because
it gets to the emotion, I guess.
[00:50:42.350]I'd love to hear more ideas
about that. How do you do this?
[00:50:49.827]I think one
[00:50:51.249]that we've talked a lot about for
the Petitioning for Freedom Project
[00:50:54.030]is that it's going to be a
publicly accessible database.
[00:50:56.490]I think that's a really
[00:50:58.269]for students to learn.
[00:50:59.409]I think something that
I would have been
[00:51:01.049]interested in in high school
would be just looking
[00:51:03.790]at this repository where
there's all of these cases
[00:51:06.270]where you can find out about
[00:51:07.710]the relationship between people.
[00:51:09.049]You can see somebody's story,
[00:51:10.409]and then you can look
at the document itself.
[00:51:12.190]And I think that sort of
lends itself to
[00:51:13.889]a really enriching way
to teaching history at
[00:51:17.389]a very granular level that I
[00:51:19.789]think goes beyond what you
[00:51:21.309]can just capture in a textbook.
[00:51:33.080]I think, just be curious.
[00:51:36.550]There's like, what Ellis was saying,
[00:51:38.789]there are a lot of up and
coming public databases
[00:51:42.889]that will be out there that have
[00:51:44.249]really good quality historical
work in them,
[00:51:46.869]but also in your state,
[00:51:49.689]maybe even your town.
[00:51:51.409]If you want to look
at the college,
[00:51:53.750]there's archives that
are open to the public.
[00:51:56.370]Make an appointment, talk to
[00:51:58.229]an archivist. There's a lot of
[00:52:03.130]really amazing historical
work that's out there,
[00:52:05.709]you just have to kind of
go look for it,
[00:52:08.310]which I think is a good step in
[00:52:10.929]the right direction.
[00:52:16.870]We have time for a
couple more questions.
[00:52:20.459]I think one thread that I
maybe picked up on
[00:52:24.549]through a lot of this is that a lot of
[00:52:27.249]these injustices have
[00:52:30.229]law had not caught up to the
reality of the situations.
[00:52:34.389]So maybe I'm kind
of curious about
[00:52:36.909]the history– you talked about
[00:52:38.749]trying to translate it
and tell the stories.
[00:52:42.450]Do y'all plan
to look at where
[00:52:47.689]the law did kind of catch up and
[00:52:49.804]work to prevent more of
these things from happening?
[00:52:56.740]Great question. Who wants to talk about
law and its relationship to society?
[00:53:04.300]Because it's not always catching up,
[00:53:07.019]it is also constituting
[00:53:11.379]So we talked a lot about that in
[00:53:13.619]the seminar over many weeks.
[00:53:16.100]Maybe reflecting on
your specific example,
[00:53:20.940]one of you could offer
some thoughts about that.
[00:53:26.459]Ellis, do you want to lead us off?
[00:53:28.600]Sure, well I think
[00:53:34.300]might not be the best
one necessarily to think
[00:53:36.859]about, like, the very successful
[00:53:40.160]But I do think that there are
[00:53:41.979]examples within the
legal record of where
[00:53:44.719]as the sort of negotiation
[00:53:47.379]of what is legal
has been resolved,
[00:53:49.880]there have been times where
[00:53:51.039]the policy sort of
[00:53:52.359]shifted in the way that
litigants did want.
[00:53:54.459]So, for example, again like
I mentioned in Washington,
[00:53:58.240]this is a very volatile
[00:54:01.020]A judge on the Washington
Supreme Court decided
[00:54:05.060]that it's not acceptable
[00:54:07.479]to prohibit the smoking
of opium itself.
[00:54:10.100]Then that gets
reversed a year later.
[00:54:11.999]Then that gets affirmed in
[00:54:13.339]the Washington Supreme
Court a few years later.
[00:54:16.860]But for a brief period of time,
[00:54:19.339]what the litigants were asking for did
actually end up being affirmed.
[00:54:22.779]Similarly for the
Harrison Act in 1916,
[00:54:28.900]which is one of the first
federal prohibition acts,
[00:54:32.259]there was again– possession
[00:54:35.260]of narcotics was
[00:54:38.279]and the Supreme Court ended
up deciding that that was not
[00:54:40.959]a permissible way for
[00:54:42.739]the Federal Government
to use its authority.
[00:54:44.800]And that basically
meant that people
[00:54:46.940]who were– at least some of
addicts were able
[00:54:52.620]to be released from prison.
[00:54:55.700]Now, thinking about where
these laws translate to
[00:55:00.059]now, again, we're
in a similar period
[00:55:01.900]where there's a sort
of catching up,
[00:55:03.899]where there's maybe
[00:55:07.219]of addiction, or you know, view it
as something they should treat
[00:55:11.220]as a medical issue, and that's
[00:55:13.239]in some state legislatures.
[00:55:15.720]But again, it's sort
of uneven terrain.
[00:55:25.120]I think there's another question.
[00:55:27.060]Go ahead, you make your comment,
[00:55:28.659]and we'll take the
[00:55:30.540]With the law that I looked
at for my research,
[00:55:35.120]the first law that
[00:55:39.104]was that it allowed
the physicians at
Departments kind of
[00:55:43.889]examine any woman
that they wanted,
[00:55:46.270]who they suspected of
[00:55:49.270]So, which kind of
[00:55:51.169]translated to prostitutes
in their mind.
[00:55:53.789]But after, I forgot,
[00:55:56.490]I think in 1919, the mayor,
[00:55:59.430]Mayor Smith, he was against
[00:56:02.830]the idea of women who were
not convicted of a crime,
[00:56:05.970]being forced to take,
take the examination.
[00:56:08.989]So, he changed the Omaha law
[00:56:11.349]to kind of say that the
only people that could
[00:56:13.949]obviously be examined were
[00:56:17.109]women who were convicted of
vagrancy, of prostitution,
[00:56:19.829]of anything connected
[00:56:22.389]And while it did help, and it did
[00:56:25.169]limit the power of the
[00:56:28.210]it didn't really, at its core,
[00:56:29.909]address the bigger issue,
[00:56:31.509]which was like what the
detention home was doing.
[00:56:34.350]And I think a huge reason for
[00:56:36.469]that was because of how society
[00:56:38.770]perceived prostitution and women
[00:56:41.270]who were promiscuous
at the time.
[00:56:43.549]And we still see that happen
again in World War Two.
[00:56:47.349]And even today, there are
[00:56:49.009]certain things, like,
because of how
[00:56:50.949]society perceives certain
things that other people do,
[00:56:55.309]the law never, in my opinion,
[00:56:58.350]I feel like the law
never really catches up
[00:57:00.469]to address the abuse
[00:57:02.770]that they experienced.
[00:57:08.810]Okay, one more question off the chat.
[00:57:10.879]Alright. This comes from Hardeep Dhillon.
[00:57:14.490]In the histories
that you presented,
[00:57:16.930]the lives and agencies of
[00:57:20.529]I'm curious to ask you to
[00:57:22.229]reflect on the legal
[00:57:24.649]knowledge of historical
[00:57:26.869]come from some of the most
[00:57:29.489]How do the materials
you worked with
[00:57:31.649]underline everyday people's
knowledge of the law?
[00:57:36.130]So how do these cases,
[00:57:37.850]the materials you worked
with, underline everyday
[00:57:41.669]people's use of the law?
[00:57:45.960]I guess I was surprised
by how many there were.
[00:57:48.569]Like, I guess I was thinking,
[00:57:49.690]especially for Nebraska,
[00:57:51.149]that there wouldn't
be that many.
[00:57:53.049]But there are hundreds
[00:57:55.330]So I think that
really goes to show,
[00:57:57.549]like, I know I don't use–
before a part of
[00:58:00.580]this program, I didn't use
[00:58:01.739]the words habeas corpus
in my daily life.
[00:58:04.059]But it seems like a lot of
[00:58:06.779]people in late 19th century
[00:58:09.120]or early 20th century
[00:58:11.119]and they were very willing
to, and they were
[00:58:13.979]very legally literate and
[00:58:15.459]able to advocate for themselves,
[00:58:17.520]even if not always successfully,
[00:58:19.959]when things got hairy.
[00:58:25.654]I think that when we think about
[00:58:28.660]we always like– the way that
we imagine it is like,
[00:58:31.799]oh, you need to know
every single law,
[00:58:33.599]you need to know how
to use each law.
[00:58:35.599]But one thing that
I've learned from
[00:58:37.559]this experience is
that that can also
[00:58:39.880]be seen in their ability
[00:58:41.679]hire the right people
to advocate for them,
[00:58:44.419]who know how to use the law in
[00:58:46.319]a specific way. And with a
lot of these women,
[00:58:48.739]what I discovered is
[00:58:51.219]that that was a way that
[00:58:52.579]they were able to
[00:58:54.340]that they were
aware of what they
[00:58:55.959]were going to lose and the
risks that they were taking,
[00:58:58.340]and they still did so.
[00:58:59.559]So even those who
didn't use the law,
[00:59:02.039]they used the Omaha Daily Bee
to tell their stories.
[00:59:05.440]And by doing that, they
were exposing the abuse,
[00:59:08.340]and all of
[00:59:10.620]And that in itself was
[00:59:17.864]Isabelle. Would you like
to make a comment?
[00:59:20.469]I think also people's personal experiences
[00:59:24.080]with these institutions or
[00:59:26.599]carceral facilities lends
itself to legal sophistication.
[00:59:30.259]Just having to interact
[00:59:32.599]with these places in
their everyday lives
[00:59:34.780]already gives them an
[00:59:37.399]of how these laws work
and how they affect them.
[00:59:39.959]And so I think that is
[00:59:41.899]reflected in many
people's everyday lives.
[00:59:48.050]I think for me, it
made me kind of want to
[00:59:53.339]sit and think about how much of
[00:59:55.379]this is still going on now?
[00:59:58.579]How many kind of ordinary people
[01:00:01.520]are using the law
on a daily basis
[01:00:05.640]and that's more than you see in
[01:00:07.459]just the celebrity cases that
[01:00:10.039]are on the news all the time
or something like that.
[01:00:13.139]But especially because a lot
[01:00:16.119]of the issues that we're seeing
[01:00:17.720]people talk about in
[01:00:20.319]the Progressive Era
are still issues
[01:00:22.480]that people are unfortunately
talking about today.
[01:00:25.720]I'm at a very
[01:00:28.200]to not have to use
the law in that way,
[01:00:30.039]but doing this and thinking
[01:00:32.440]about the present repercussions,
is kind of like,
[01:00:35.980]there's probably a lot
of people who are still going
[01:00:40.099]through these motions and
[01:00:42.339]using the law to do a
lot of the same things.
[01:00:44.999]That's something that
we should stay cognizant of.
[01:00:49.119]So, all right, well,
[01:00:51.939]this webinar is part of a
series of webinars that we'll be
[01:00:55.999]hosting for the U.S. Law and
[01:00:58.139]Race Initiative here at the
University of Nebraska.
[01:01:01.259]It's a partnership with the
College of Law faculty and
[01:01:05.359]the College of Arts
and Sciences and
[01:01:07.919]the Center for
Digital Research in the
Vision Maker Media,
[01:01:11.800]and the Institute for Policy,
[01:01:14.280]Politics and History at
[01:01:15.719]the University of the
District of Columbia.
[01:01:17.480]And it's funded by the
[01:01:20.559]The next webinar is
scheduled for September 28,
[01:01:25.379]and it is on U.S.
[01:01:28.319]and Native American Sovereignty.
[01:01:30.959]Our guests on that webinar
will be Ned Blackhawk,
[01:01:35.019]Professor of History
at Yale University,
[01:01:37.779]And Maggie Blackhawk,
[01:01:40.279]Law at New York University.
[01:01:43.899]So tune in for that webinar.
We'll circulate it.
[01:01:46.939]It will be on the
same evite address,
[01:01:51.539]and we'll certainly
push that out to all
[01:01:53.619]of our friends and colleagues.
[01:01:56.560]What you've heard here
today is the work of
[01:01:59.679]the Digital Legal Research Lab.
[01:02:04.580]Students in this group
[01:02:07.140]are part of a cohort that
were here this summer.
[01:02:09.560]We'll have another group of
students coming next summer.
[01:02:14.850]If you're at all
interested in applying,
[01:02:18.569]the link will be in the chat.
[01:02:21.290]It is srp.unl.edu/application
and that will open in November.
[01:02:27.881]Applications will open in
[01:02:30.269]November for students
from across the country,
[01:02:32.430]just like these fabulous
students to apply
[01:02:35.130]and come here next summer and be
[01:02:37.509]part of the Digital
Legal Research Lab.
[01:02:40.749]And last, we will be
[01:02:43.309]initiating, as part of our
U.S. Law and Race project,
[01:02:46.850]a graduate fellows program.
[01:02:50.590]So next year, simultaneously with
the Digital Legal Research Lab,
[01:02:55.489]we will have four
[01:02:59.370]to be selected nationally as
[01:03:01.749]Mellon Fellows in U.S.
Law and Race to join
[01:03:04.829]us here in June next
summer of 2024.
[01:03:08.690]The applications for
that will open in
[01:03:11.389]November as well on the
U.S. Law and Race site.
[01:03:19.599]Please join me in thanking
[01:03:22.799]and congratulating our group
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