State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez in Chicago has long been criticized for her efforts to bar the public filming of police officers, bizarre positions, and anti-civil liberties positions. Now she is again under fire for refusing to re-open four cases that were identified in an independent investigation as “more likely than not” resulting in the conviction of innocent men.
The elevation of Saudi Arabia (in what appears now a secret deal with England) in 2013 to the United Nations Human Rights Council was to say the least controversial. After all, the Kingdom denies basic rights to women, bars basic religious freedom for non-Muslim (including the construction of any church in the Kingdom), engages in torture, and applies a medieval Sharia law that imposes grotesque and draconian punishments. It is widely viewed as the appropriate target (not a member) of the Council. Saudi Arabia has not wasted time in obstructing human rights measures. This week for example the Kingdom blocked plans for an international inquiry into human rights violations by all parties in the war in Yemen despite massive death counts among civilians in the last six months. It also announced at a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva that it will opposed any and all protections for gay people as anti-Islamic.
There is a new conflict over religious rights in public education in New Jersey where Muslim families demanded an official holiday for Eid al-Adha. The meeting erupted when the school board refused to create such a holiday just six days before Eid al-Adha, which would have required thousands to families to scramble to find accommodations for their children. It also raises the slippery slope of adopting some religious holidays and not others. For example, the Jewish community noted that their families do not have official holidays for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The confrontations raises the question of why public schools should create religious holidays as opposed to giving students excused absences for such holidays, which New Jersey does.
Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s far-right National Front, has been criminally charged with inciting racial hatred in the latest example of the rollback on basic free speech rights in France and other European nations. I have been a critic of the crackdown on free speech in France, including the hypocrisy of the government in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo massacre. In this case, Le Pen compared Muslin street prayers to a Nazi-like occupation, a statement that should be clearly protected as political speech in France. Instead, she will be pulled before a tribunal in another example of how free speech is being eviscerated by anti-discrimination and hate speech laws.
University of Missouri associate professor of law Royce de R. Barondes has placed himself at the forefront of the gun rights debate with a lawsuit challenging the ban on guns on campuses in the state. The lawsuit follows the gunning down of history professor Ethan Schmidt on the Delta State University campus. Schmidt was unarmed and Barondes does not intend to go so easily, it appears.
When the case of the shooting of a Chicago police officer in 2012 came to the chambers of Cook County Circuit Judge Thaddeus Wilson, the court saw something that it said was obvious to anyone who has done any practice in the criminal law: the statement of the mother of the suspect Paris Sadler was free of any corrections or edits. Since the mother Talaina Cureton said that she had edited and corrected the statement prepared by Assistant Cook County state’s attorney Joseph Lattanzio, it was a curious fact. However, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, long criticized for her policies such as prosecuting citizens who dare to video police in public, fought to block any effort to reexamine the statement and denied that her office omitted critical information. Now, it appears that one of those videotapes that Alvarez hates, existed showing Cureton editing the statement. Lattanzio has been fired. However, once again, without the videotape, Alvarez’s office would have likely succeeded in blocking the challenge and protecting the prosecutorial misconduct.
I have the honor today and tomorrow of speaking at the Utah Valley University’s annual Constitutional Conference sponsored by The Center for Constitutional Studies. The CCS, under Director Rick Griffin, has blossomed into an extraordinary center for intellectual exchange in Orem, Utah with figures regularly brought from all over the world to discuss a myriad of legal and policy questions. This conference is particularly fortunate to have a group of diverse academics and lawyers, including Judge Sir Christopher Greenwood, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland Judge on the International Court of Justice. Sir Christopher will give a keynote address entitled “The Powers and Privileges of U.S. Presidents Abroad under International Law.” He is one of the truly towering figures in international law.