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Critique of Using Civil Litigation to Suppress White Supremacist Violence

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice Review Volume: 36 Issue: 4 Dated: December 2011 Pages: 498-512
Brett Garland; Pete Simi
Date Published
December 2011
15 pages
The authors of this article challenged the key assumptions that underlie the use of civil litigation to dismantle White supremacist groups.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has employed a litigation strategy to dismantle White supremacist organizations and reduce racist violence. Like all social control strategies, lawsuits brought against these organizations can create unintended consequences that undermine intended goals. This article explores the assumptions underlying the litigation strategy and presents several arguments that question the utility of this approach. Utilizing theory and research from a variety of academic disciplines, both perceptual and organizational consequences of litigation are addressed, with an emphasis on potential violent outcomes. In particular, the article explores how civil lawsuits against White supremacists might influence organizational form and structure, and the effect on leadership in the movement is examined. The impact of litigation on feelings of injustice and the strength of collective identity is also investigated. In addition, potential impediments posed to the lawsuit strategy by the Internet and modern technology are explored. (Published Abstract)