Michael Willrich delivers the keynote address at the first annual conference of the Stanford Center for Law and History
On April 20th, department chair Michael Willrich delivered the keynote address at the first annual conference of the Stanford Center for Law and History. The conference, titled "Legal Histories of Policing and Surveillance," attracted scholars from Stanford Law School, the UC Berkeley School of Law School, and law schools and history departments from across the country to the Stanford Humanities Center. Drawing upon his book in progress, Willrich's keynote was titled " 'Writ of Hocus Pocus': Anarchists and the U.S. Surveillance State." Tracing the legal and political experiences of the legendary New York anarchists Emma Goldman, Alexander Berkman, and their lawyer, Harry Weinberger, Willrich offered a new argument about the rise of controversial government surveillance and deportation practices during the early twentieth century. In an era of mass immigration, class conflict, and war, American political leaders made fateful decisions that expanded the powers of the federal state to control borders and police radical individuals and groups--citizens and immigrants alike--for their political beliefs. Willrich argued that anarchists like Goldman and Berkman--who envisioned a world without states, sovereignty, property, and man-made laws--became remarkably adept critics and strategists of the law. In their work with a rising generation of American cause lawyers, many of them immigrants or first-generation Americans like Weinberger, they challenged the emerging surveillance state with writs of habeas corpus, litigation, and appeals to the First Amendment. In the process, they undermined the political legitimacy of the nation's First Red Scare and helped sow the seeds of the modern civil liberties movement.