Jagodinsky earns grant for habeas corpus digital project

Photo Credit: Katrina Jagodinsky
Fri, 03/20/2020 - 16:14

Katrina Jagodinsky, Susan J. Rosowski Associate Professor and Graduate Chair in the Department of History, received a three-year grant from the National Science Foundation for her project "Petitioning For Freedom: Habeas Corpus in the American West."

She will work with the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities to develop a robust open source and open access graph database with data from habeas corpus petitions that will demonstrate the relationships of power in claims to freedom and their significance and value within American jurisprudence.

Habeas corpus is a constitutional protection against wrongful arrest or detainment. For thousands of petitioners in the American West between 1812 and 1924, however, habeas offered an opportunity to challenge wrongful arrest and detainment and other inequalities.

The Petitioning for Freedom project documents the efforts of black petitioners to resist enslavement; of Indigenous petitioners to dodge Indian agents' authority and claim the right to leave their reservations or reclaim their children from the custody of boarding school superintendents and settler families; of Chinese petitioners to challenge deportation after the 1882 Exclusion Act; of parents to secure custody of minor children from former spouses and/or in-law; and patients and inmates to challenge detention in state asylums and institutions.

Users will be able to focus on the jurists and parties involved, jurisdictions hearing the petitions, and keywords drawn from petition narratives. This database will quantify the legal mobilization of thousands of otherwise unknown petitioners, inserting their stories squarely within the American legal history corpus. Data drawn from petitions will inform the work of scholars and practitioners of child and family law, federal Indian law, immigration law, labor law, and legal reform.