Law Permeates Everything

headshot of Alena Allen

A Discussion with Incoming Dean Alena Allen

Please briefly describe your research. How did you decide to focus on this particular area? How is it important to you?

The first female federal judge was appointed in 1928.  Currently, about 30 percent of federal judges are female and 34 percent of state court judges are female.  As a result, the vast majority of case law was created and authored by men.  My research analyzes how the masculine perspective has shaped and been encapsulated into legal doctrine.  

As a first year law student, I learned about originalism as a theory of constitutional interpretation.  Originalists believe that the Constitution should be interpreted based either on the original intent or original meaning.  It was difficult for me to understand how one could subscribe to a theory of interpretation that seemingly ignored the virtual non-status of women during the time period in which the Constitution was enacted. The principle of stare decisis which favors adherence to precedent seemed to further entrench a masculine perspective in case law, but it was too often ignored in class.  So, I wanted to change that. 

This topic is important to me because it impacts the rights of women today. For example, rape was formulated by male jurists to guard against women falsely accusing men of rape.  So, although women are raped far more frequently than men, the lens through which courts have historically defined the elements of rape has been clearly masculine. I think that history is important to formulating a holistic response to rape that respects survivors of sexual assault and vindicates their rights.

What impacts have you seen from your research? How have these impacts shaped your career?

In 2022, the ABA revised accreditation standards for law schools to require education on bias, cross-cultural competency, and racism.  My research falls under a wide umbrella of scholarship that seeks to explain how bias impacts legal structures.  The ABA’s recognition of the incredible educational value in teaching law students about how bias has impacted legal structures and systems is vital to making the law more just and more inclusive.  I have had the opportunity to participate in panels surrounding how to create inclusive classroom spaces and dialogues.

How does your research relate to LSU’s Scholarship First Agenda? How can the law, and LSU Law in particular, impact and serve Louisiana? 

Law permeates everything.  The Law Center is well positioned to align with all five points of President Tate’s Scholarship First Agenda.  As a health law teacher, I am most excited about biomedical collaborations.  Louisiana has one of the highest child poverty rates in the nation.  A medical legal partnership between the law school and an area hospital has the potential to be really impactful.  Many healthcare issues are intertwined with legal issues.  For example, a child who struggles with asthma is often living in a home where exposure to lead dust is a frequent occurrence.  A medical legal partnership clinic is a collaboration between lawyers and medical professionals. In a medical legal partnership, law students under the supervision of a clinical faculty member work with a team of healthcare professional to identify cases in which legal interventions would lead to better long-term health outcomes and then pursue the appropriate legal remedy.  Medical legal partnerships are often the catalyst for disrupting the cycle that causes some children to consistently present in emergency rooms.