March 25, 2021

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How is it that corporations have the right to spend unlimited sums in our elections, but a Black defendant has no right to a death penalty ruling free of racial bias? Why does a company have the right to sell private prescription data, but marginalized children don’t have the right to an adequate public education?

According to constitutional scholar Jamal Greene, it’s because our courts “flatten textured rights conflicts” into binary, all-or-nothing questions with clear winners and losers. In his new book, How Rights Went Wrong: Why Our Obsession with Rights Is Tearing America Apart, Greene argues that courts should reconcile competing rights, not discriminate between them. In a conversation with the Brennan Center’s Alicia Bannon, he discussed how the United States became so “rightsist,” and how we can shift this paradigm to truly ensure justice, once and for all.

This event was produced in partnership with the Brennan Center for Justice.

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Jamal Greene

Jamal Greene

Alicia Bannon

Alicia Bannon

Jamal Greene is a constitutional law expert whose scholarship focuses on the structure of legal and constitutional argument. He teaches constitutional law, comparative constitutional law, the law of the political process, First Amendment, and federal courts. 

Alicia Bannon is the managing director of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program. She leads the Center’s Fair Courts Project, where she directs research, advocacy, and litigation to promote a fair judicial system. Bannon has authored several nationally recognized reports and articles on judicial selection, access to justice, judicial diversity, and government dysfunction, and her writing has been featured in the New York TimesAtlantic, and Time, among other outlets.