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Resistance Proceduralism: A Prologue to Theorizing Procedural Subordination


Portia Pedro


February 20, 2024

Several legal scholars have discussed the role of slavery within their own family histories and a growing number of scholars are exploring the successes and strategies of lawyers and Black litigants in freedom suits and other litigation in the United States antebellum South. I build on these literatures with a focus on procedure. In this Article, I analyze procedures involved in a few of my ancestral and personal experiences. Some of the experiences with process involved litigation to be free from slavery while other experiences did not explicitly involve any law. But they all involved process.

Engaging in this practice—marshaling procedure to increase justice for marginalized groups and to decrease procedural subordination and white supremacy—is a form of what I am calling resistance proceduralism. I draw from engagement with procedures, such as requirements to file a lawsuit or for bonds and securities, in my ancestors’ freedom suits—lawsuits fighting for their freedom from slavery—to query whether some marginalized litigants, and even people who were enslaved at the time, may have engaged in resistance proceduralism.


Portia Pedro, Resistance Proceduralism: A Prologue to Theorizing Procedural Subordination, 80 Wash. & Lee L. Rev. 2039 (2024).