ABSTRACT :: Civil rights violations that appear relatively slight may warrant judicial redress despite their small size; some of them point up important principles. Leaving these violations unremedied may contribute to an ambient lawlessness that can foster bigger harms. A small infringement in this respect resembles the criminological construct of “broken windows,” which in its prescriptive form urges governments to view de minimis violations as harbingers of more disorder to come.
Using broken windows to understand privately initiated civil rights claims honors a statutory mandate and helps to achieve progressive ends. This application is potentially better than the one that police impose on the street, which has raised concerns about both justice and efficacy. Rendered as a maxim, the precept that this Article commends is De minimis curet lex: The law ought to concern itself with some affronts that appear small.
July 2015, Vol. 67, No. 4
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