David Jones – 2016 Kenneth Sherrill Award Recipient


David Jones, University at Albany, State University of New York
“While Marriage Was Won: How Focused Litigation Campaigns Affect the Legal Advocacy Industry”

Legal advocacy organizations (LAOs) are important to social movements for a number of reasons: they are structural resources (Epp 1998), they create opportunities (Andersen 2006), and they can influence the agenda of non-legal organizations (Levitsky 2006; Leachman 2014). Yet, for all that we know about how LAOs can affect social change, we do not know as much about their priority-setting process and tactical choices (e.g. litigation, lobbying, public education, training, etc.). Further, certain tactics may feedback into the priority-setting of these organizations. For instance, critics of same-sex marriage litigation (SSM litigation) within the LGBTQ movement contend this focus has drawn attention and resources away from other important issues. This project first asks: how are priorities and tactics are chosen and how have those processes have changed over the last two decades? Second, it asks: how do different tactics, including the focused litigation campaign (FLC) on marriage equality, feed back into organizations, effecting their development and priorities?

Based upon both social movement and legal mobilization scholarship, the project theorizes that that the same-sex marriage FLC caused a change in three key components in organizational development of LAOs as well as the broader legal advocacy industry (LAI): an increase in the collection and spending of resources, an increase in networking and collaboration between organizations, and shifts in framing and legal strategies. While these changes may reflect a growing focus on marriage equality, the investigator hypothesizes that those shifts enabled new issue-areas to be developed. This project uses the method of process tracing to test this theory and utilizes a variety of data sources including annual reports, annual budgets, in-depth interviews, in-take data, memos, secondary sources, and newsletters.



Pat Egan (Chair), New York University; Meredith Weiss, University at Albany, SUNY; Ravi Perry, Virginia Commonwealth University