A legal philosophy built on honesty

2022 Law School Scholarship Winner

Published in Scholarship Winner on August 26, 2022.

Regan Osborn
The University of Virginia School of Law

Eskew Law 2022 Law School Scholarship Contest Essay

During college, I researched the racial disparities in the American correctional system,
the protection of white interests in society, and the censorship of race-related topics in education.
This exposure has heightened my desire to give a voice to those who are systematically silenced
and has shown me that lawyers, in their ability to advocate for individuals and ideas, have the
opportunity and the responsibility to combat systemic inequality/racism in society. As an
attorney, I hope to advocate for change in the way the legal system approaches racial
discrimination. For example, McCleskey v. Kemp (1987), states that statistical data showing
racial discrimination is not sufficient to warrant a case’s reevaluation under the Fourth
Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. Consequently, it prevents America’s history of systemic
racism in the criminal justice system from being admitted into evidence. In doing this, the Court
eliminates a large part of the appellant’s already very limited ability to offer proof of racially
discriminatory intent.

Furthermore, because direct proof of racial discrimination is rarely available in this era
due to the use of race-neutral language, this burden makes it nearly impossible to win a case’s
reevaluation under the Equal Protection Clause. However, if the Court were to reevaluate and
permit historical/statistical data to be used as evidence that racial discrimination does impact
individual cases, it would become possible to prove racially discriminatory intent and would
offer everyone, even the historically discriminated against, equal protection under the law. I
aspire to use my career to advocate for such change because it is not enough to simply advocate
for legislation geared towards furthering equality in society; we must also actively break down
the old rulings that continue to oppose it. Thus, because the legal field will allow me to join those
committed to creating a more equitable world, there is nowhere else I would rather be.

Attending UVA Law will allow me to learn the skills necessary to become a fierce
advocate for legal change. While in school, I hope to get involved with the Center of Race and
Law and the Appellate Litigation Clinic. Both programs focus on oral and written advocacy and
offer exceptional opportunities to improve critical skills. After law school, I hope to work for a
litigation group focused on substantive issues such as racial discrimination in sentencing,
prisoners’ rights, and fair housing practices. As an attorney in my local community, I hope to
foster positive change by hosting accessible record expungement consultations, know-your-rights
presentations, and even neighborhood meet-a-cop experiences. These events will help combat
the structural inequality, generational poverty, and racism prevalent in my community. I want to
become a lawyer so I can change the narrative that systemic racism does not affect or exist in the
legal system. Those victimized by social reproduction, stereotypes, and our occasionally
apathetic legal system deserve nothing less.

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