Doing Racism while Doing Justice in Chicago's Criminal Courts

Past Event
Tuesday, May 17, 2016
12:30 PM — 1:30 PM
Vera Institute of Justice

Nicole Gonzalez Van Cleve is an Assistant Professor at Temple University in the Department of Criminal Justice with courtesy appointments in the Department of Sociology and the Beasley School of Law. She is a recipient of the 2014-2015 Ford Foundation Fellowship Postdoctoral Award and a Visiting Scholar at the American Bar Foundation.

Her current book entitled, Crook County: Racism and Injustice in America’s Criminal Courts is under contract with Stanford University Press and examines some of the classic questions about how our criminal courts function by engaging race as a central variable. She shows how color-blind legal institutions reproduce racial bias, systemically, and under the guise of procedural justice. Ultimately, her account reveals the courts as "the cultural engine" and crucial gateway for the racialization of criminal justice – where racism and discretion collide with dire effects to both the experience and appearance of justice.

Van Cleve received her Ph.D. in Sociology from Northwestern University where she was a legal studies fellow. Her work examines the cultural impact of mass incarceration on criminal justice apparatuses. She explores the contradictory ways that racial stigma is reproduced by these institutions in a purportedly, "colorblind" era. She received her B.A. and M.A. from Northwestern University where she was awarded the Farrel Grant for Public Policy and the Badesch Fellowship from the Chicago Appleseed Fund for Justice. Nicole’s chapter, "Reinterpreting the Zealous Advocate: Multiple Intermediary Roles of the Criminal Defense Attorney" is in the book, Lawyers in Practice: Ethical Decision Making in Context (Leslie Levin and Lynn Mather eds., University of Chicago Press, 2011) and was the winner of the 2010 Outstanding Graduate Paper presented by the Sociology of Law Section of the American Sociological Association.

Prior to receiving her Ph.D., Van Cleve served in The Office of the Chief of Staff at the White House during the Clinton Administration and subsequently worked for five years as a Consumer Brand Planner for Leo Burnett, USA. She is the outgoing Research Director for Chicago Appleseed Fund for Justice – a policy/nonprofit organization that specialized in legal advocacy. Van Cleve is the current co-chair of the Law and Society Association’s Collaborative Research Network on Critical Research on Race and the Law, a Junior Fellow of Yale University’s Urban Ethnography Project, and a member of the Racial Democracy, Crime and Justice Network (RDCJN).


  • Prof. Nicole Gonzalez Van Cleve
    Assistant Professor at Temple University in the Department of Criminal Justice