Notre Dame University Law Professor Nicole Garnett will deliver OCU LAW’s annual Brennan Lecture at 5 p.m. Thursday, April 8 in the Homsey Family Moot Courtroom. Professor Garnett’s lecture will be titled “Restoring Lost Connections: Land Use, Policing and Urban Vitality.”
Professor Garnett’s scholarly interests were sparked when, as a young lawyer, she worked for a nonprofit group that litigated school choice cases and – to this day – continues to help poor, inner-city entrepreneurs get started in business. “I spent a lot of time in poor neighborhoods with my clients,” she says, “and I saw how a good school or a small business could make a huge difference, not just in the lives of the people directly affected by it but in the neighborhood as a whole.”
Since then Garnett – who earned her law degree from Yale in 1995 – has focused her research on the impact that land-use laws have on urban community life. “I’m really interested in cities, city health, and the way that land-use policies affect the residents’ lives, particularly from the urban poor,” says Garnett. She is completing a book that explores the intersection of two ideas that have revolutionized thinking about urban policy in recent years. The first is James Q. Wilson and George Kelling’s “broken windows” hypothesis, which holds that urban disorder is a precursor to serious crime and social deviance. The second is Jane Jacobs’ assertion that healthy urban environments are busy, vibrant, and even somewhat disorderly ones. “Legal scholars tend to group all ‘disorder’ into one undifferentiated category,” Garnett observes, “but in reality, there are many kinds of disorder, some of them harmful and others benign or even affirmatively good.”
A prolific scholar, Garnett also is a Fellow of Notre Dame’s Institute for Educational Initiatives. She teaches a first-year property course and advanced classes in land use regulation, local government law, and cities and urban development. Her goal is to get students “to think critically about what the world really looks like, and how policies that we may have come to accept as natural or good may sometimes have unintended consequences.”
Named in honor of Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., the Brennan Lecture at OCU LAW brings leading scholars in state constitutional law to campus. The Brennan Lecture is sponsored by the Center for the Study of State Constitutional Law and Government, under the direction of Professor of Law Andrew Spiropoulos with assistant directors Professor of Law Dennis Arrow and Assistant Professor of Law Michael O’Shea. By sponsoring workshops, scholarly writing and public lectures, the Center takes advantage of its location in the heart of Oklahoma’s capital city to promote scholarship and discussion on important issues relating to state and local government.