Say you're sorry: Court-ordered apologies as a civil rights remedy

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This Article proposes that civil rights plaintiffs pursuing cases against governmental defendants should be entitled to receive court-ordered apologies as an equitable remedy. Part I discusses the importance of apology in American society and concludes that apology is culturally embedded as an essential component of everyday dispute resolution. Part II provides a brief overview of current legal scholarship in the area of apology, including the lack of such scholarship related to court-ordered apologies as a civil remedy. Part III argues that traditional forms of compensation fail to provide adequate relief to civil rights victims because they neglect psychological, emotional, and symbolic injuries. It proposes court-ordered apologies as an effective means of healing psychological wounds, reinforcing norms, restoring social equilibrium, promoting social change, and compelling governmental reform. Part IV anticipates and responds to likely objections to court-ordered apologies, including the misguided notion that public apologies must be sincere to be effective. Finally, Part V provides some guidance in the art of compelled apology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1261-1311
Number of pages51
JournalCornell Law Review
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law


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