Monica Bell is an Associate Professor of Law at Yale Law School, with a secondary appointment as an Associate Professor of Sociology at Yale University. In 2020-2021, Monica will be a Visiting Scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation.
Monica's areas of research include law and sociology, law and inequality, criminal justice policy (especially policing and prosecution), welfare and public benefits law, housing law and residential segregation, and race and the law. Monica's scholarship aims to center the voices and experiences of people who experience exclusion through specific bodies of law and their implementation. She uses multiple techniques for analysis, theory construction, and data presentation, with an emphasis on qualitative methodology and inductive theory building.
Monica's scholarship has appeared or is forthcoming in the American Journal of Sociology, Yale Law Journal, NYU Law Review, Law & Society Review, Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review, and other journals. She has also published writing in popular outlets such as the Los Angeles Review of Books and the Washington Post.
A first-generation college graduate from Upstate South Carolina, Monica holds a B.A. from Furman University, an M.Sc. from University College Dublin, a J.D. from Yale, and a Ph.D. in Sociology & Social Policy from Harvard. She clerked for the Hon. Cameron McGowan Currie of the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina. Monica has been honored as a Harry S. Truman Scholar and a George Mitchell Scholar, and she has worked as a Liman Fellow for the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, among other fellowships and public service experiences.
CRIMINAL JUSTICE & LEGAL ESTRANGEMENT
Legal estrangement is a concept that reflects the intuition among many people in poor communities of color that the law and its creators and enforcers operate to exclude them from society. In contrast to scholarship that places law abidingness and cooperation as its core goal, research on legal estrangement interrogates how law and its institutions create and reinforce a sense of group social non-citizenship--and how legal institutions can change course to increase social solidarity. Most of this research has focused on policing in the United States.
Police Reform & the Dismantling of Legal Estrangement, Yale Law Journal (2017)
Hidden Laws of the Time of Ferguson, Harvard Law Review Forum (2018)
"TRUST" IN THE LAW
Research on relationships between legal authorities and communities often focuses on whether and how much people trust a specific institution. But it fails to consider the ecosystem surrounding trust and distrust. For example, one cannot understand how distrust of the police affects daily life without juxtaposing it against distrust in the welfare state, schools, neighbors, family members, friends, and intimate partners, or without accounting for the lived reality of poverty and inequality. This line of research examines trust in legal authorities in these overlapping contexts.
Situational Trust: How Disadvantaged Mothers Reconceive Legal Cynicism, Law & Society Review (2016)
What Happens when Low-Income Mothers Call the Police, TalkPoverty.org (2017)
HOUSING, WELFARE & POVERTY LAW
In the United States, race has been a core vector along which the political system, the economy, social life, civic life, and other locations of power have been organized since (and before) the Founding. This line of research examines how that vector has evolved and operates today, with special attention to the complex, mutually constitutive relationship between racial and spatial inequality.
Located Institutions: Neighborhood Preferences, Residential Segregation, and the Case of Policing (working paper) (draft available upon request)
The Dynamics of Policing and Segregation by Race and Class, The Dream Revisited (NYU Furman Center) (2017)
The Braiding Cases, Cultural Deference, and the Inadequate Protection of Black Women Consumers, Yale Journal of Law & Feminism (2007)
Despite increased attention to economic inequality in the past several years, poverty remains a serious yet oft-unrecognized problem in the United States. Lawmakers and bureaucrats have struggled to respond to the realities of poverty and have often failed to democratically engage poor people in policymaking that affects their families and communities. This line of research aims to capture those realities and to offer new proposals for housing, family, and welfare law as responses to poverty.
Housing, Poverty, and the Law, Annual Review of Law & Social Science (2015) (with Matthew Desmond)
Relationship Repertoires, the Price of Parenthood, and the "Costs" of Contraception, Social Service Review (2018) (with Kathryn Edin, Holly Michelle Wood & Geniece Crawford Mondé)
Laboratories of Suffering: Toward Democratic Welfare Governance (forthcoming 2019) (with Andrea Taverna, Dhruv Aggarwal & Isra Syed) (draft available upon request)
This course is about how the U.S. Constitution bestows and harnesses the power of the United States government. We examine the sources, organization, breadth, and limitations on that power. We probe the powers of each of the three branches, as well as relationships between the federal government and states, territories, and Native American tribes. We also cover various enumerated and unenumerated rights as a check on the government's power. We operate with an eye toward how constitutional law develops both inside and outside the courts, and we particularly take stock of how slavery and colonialism have inflected constitutional construction and interpretation since the Founding.
LAW & SOCIOLOGY
This course is an introduction to the intersection between sociology and legal analysis. We cover fundamental concepts in sociology that can shed light on how best to design law and policy, such as class, status, power, bureaucracy, social control, social reproduction, culture, inequality, solidarity, race, stigma, and legitimation. Students also receive a primer on sociological research methods and analysis, with emphasis on qualitative methods. We then apply these concepts and methodological understandings to a variety of contemporary social and legal issues, ranging from immigration enforcement, to affirmative action, to the causes and consequences of mass incarceration, to family law and inequality.