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Rascuache Lawyer

Toward a Theory of Ordinary Litigation

Alfredo Mirandé

Publication Year: 2011

Alfredo Mirandé, a sociology professor, Stanford Law graduate, and part-time pro bono attorney, represents clients who are rascuache—a Spanish word for “poor” or even “wretched”—and on the margins of society. For Mirandé, however, rascuache means to be “down but not out,” an underdog who is still holding its ground. Rascuache Lawyer offers a unique perspective on providing legal services to poor, usually minority, folks who are often just one short step from jail. Not only a passionate argument for rascuache lawyering, it is also a thoughtful, practical attempt to apply and test critical race theory—particularly Latino critical race theory—in day-to-day legal practice.

Every chapter presents an actual case from Mirandé’s experience (only the names and places have been changed). His clients have been charged with everything from carrying a concealed weapon, indecent exposure, and trespassing to attempted murder, domestic violence, and child abuse. Among them are recent Mexican immigrants, drug addicts, gang members, and the homeless. All of them are destitute, and many are victims of racial profiling. Some “pay” Mirandé with bartered services such as painting, home repairs, or mechanical work on his car. And Mirandé doesn’t always win their cases. But, as he recounts, he certainly works tirelessly to pursue all legal remedies.

Each case is presented as a letter to a fascinating (fictional) “Super Chicana” named Fermina Gabriel, who we are told is an accomplished lawyer, author, and singer. This narrative device allows the author to present his cases as if he were recounting them to a friend, drawing in the reader as a friend as well.

Bookending the individual cases, Mirandé’s introductions and conclusions offer a compelling vision of progressive legal practice grounded in rascuache lawyering.

Published by: University of Arizona Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-viii

Many people have contributed directly or indirectly to the completion of this book. I would like to fi rst thank the students in the Lawyering for Social Change (LSC) curriculum at Stanford Law School and Gerald P. López, who taught me much about rebellious lawyering and has served as a colleague, mentor, and friend. I took a directed-readings course on critical race theory (CRT) from...

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Introduction: The Return of the Brown Buffalo and the Rise of the Rascuache Lawyer

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pp. 1-18

Since its inception in the 1980s, critical race theory (CRT) has challenged the basic assumptions underlying traditional legal scholarship and law practice.1 Francisco Váldes, Jerome McCristal Culp, and Angela P. Harris note that CRT challenges three popular beliefs about racial injustice in the United States.2 The fi rst and most resistant belief challenged by CRT is that “race blindness” will eliminate...

Crimes against the Person

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1. Attempted Murder: “My Brother’s Keeper”

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pp. 21-53

How wonderful it was to receive your last letter! It’s been a long time. I hope this letter fi nds you in good health and in excellent spirits. I am well, although singing at El Sombrero last weekend has taken a toll and added a lot of strain on my voice. By the way, there is a great vegetarian restaurant that I would love to take you to when you come to the Bay Area. I am working on a new...

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2. Child Abuse: María y José

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pp. 54-72

I want to talk about death, a topic most people would rather avoid, but I fi rst want to thank you for your recent letter and for your comments on the fi rst couple of chapters. I have tried to spell-check carefully, to use fewer commas, and to limit capitalization as per your suggestion....

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3. Domestic Violence: Xavier, the Painter

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pp. 73

I want to thank you for your patience, as I have been extremely busy and have not had the time to write. I have been running around quite a bit, teaching and continuing my work with Milagro. Enclosed you will fi nd a picture from a recent immigrant rally in Phoenix, and yes, the one on the left is me, albeit unrecognizable with such a dark tan!...

Denial of Due Process

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4. Concealed Weapon: Carlito’s Güey (Way)

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pp. 91-103

I want to tell you about Carlito Cruz, my youngest and most precocious client. Carlito, a bright nine-year-old fourth-grader, faced possible expulsion from school after being suspended and charged with carrying a concealed weapon to school. The tale is pretty incredible, and it is best captured in Carlito’s own...

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5. Trespassing: Benny, the Homeless Man

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pp. 104-124

I hope this letter fi nds you in good health. I am really excited because I am teaching law and subordination. Before describing my current case, I want to tell you a little bit about the class. I feel privileged to have the opportunity to work with these young people. Actually, they are not all that young. We have an interesting...

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6. Speedy Trial: Rodrigo Torres

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pp. 125-139

Like the story of the twins I told you about (Marcos and Mario), this is a case about two brothers, Rodrigo and Rodolfo Torres. But before getting into the case and talking about the brothers, I want to talk a bit about my practice. As I refl ect on the practice, one of the things that intrigues me most is the intricate...

Morals Charges

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7. Indecent Exposure: The Story of Bud Black

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pp. 143-164

I hope this letter fi nds you smiling and enjoying the wonderful Southern California fall weather. The busy season at El Sombrero has just ended, so I have been able to devote more time to teaching and working at Milagro. Also, I am looking forward to starting...

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8. DUI: A Bag Full of Tricks

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pp. 165-203

I want to apologize for the long delay since my last letter. I have been teaching an undergraduate sociology class called “Law, Race, Class, Gender, and Culture.” It is a large class with about a hundred students, and I do not have a teaching assistant. I decided not to do weekly letters or fi eld reports for you in this...

Wrongful Termination

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9. Age Discrimination: Big John

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pp. 207-227

I am sorry to hear that you have been sick and that your health was interfering with your courses and your practice. Fortunately, my health has been great and I have really been able to dedicate myself to work and to my new poetry project. When I fi nish, I will be sure to send you a copy. I have to...

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10. Toward a Theory of Rascuache Lawyering

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pp. 228-242

I was very saddened to hear about the death of your friend, Big John. I understand that you shared a very special relationship with him and I appreciate your sincerity in talking about him. Thank you for painting such a vivid picture of John and honoring him in your work....


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pp. 243-253


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pp. 255-259

About the Author, Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780816521029
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816529834

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2011