Law and Disorder Radio

Archives for April, 2017


Law and Disorder May 1, 2017


Death Penalty Focus

The state of Arkansas had plans to execute 8 men in 11 days this April, rushing to do so before the expiration date of one of the drugs used for the lethal injections. The executions have been temporarily stayed by several court orders. Arkansas’s unseemly rush has raise anew questions about the efficacy, humanity, cost, and morality of the death penalty.  Statistically, it has an discriminatory impact on non-white, intellectually deficient, and poor people. The United States along with Saudi Arabia and China is one of the few countries in the world still using the death penalty.

Guest – Mike Farrell, actor and activist and the president and founder in 1988 of the San Francisco based organization Death Penalty Focus. DPF views the death penalty as an ineffective, cruel, and inappropriate response to the serious problem of violent crime. The organization provides information to the public, conducts media campaigns and is a resource to lawyers and educators across the country.

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Republicans Propose Medical Malpractice House Bill Limiting Damages Award

The Republicans in the House of Representatives recently introduced a bill to limit medical malpractice lawsuits brought by low income people on Medicaid and elderly people on Medicare. It would do so by limiting the amount they could recover for their pain and suffering caused by, for example, getting infected bedsores in a nursing home, a medication mixup, malnutrition, dehydration, or being the victim of a egregious medical errors such as when a foreign body is left inside a patient. More examples include when a baby’s brain is damaged, or when surgery is performed on the wrong body part.  The bill has the support of the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, and the American Healthcare Association, a trade group for nursing homes.

The bill has several provisions that closely resemble legislation introduced by Tom Price,  President Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services.  When he was a House member from Georgia, Price, an orthopedic surgeon, championed legislation that would set limits on damages and make it easier for doctors to defend themselves and medical malpractice lawsuits.  For decades, Republicans have charged that there is a medical malpractice lawsuit crisis brought about by frivolous lawsuits.

Guest – Attorney Steven Pegalis, a trial attorney who represents patients and medical malpractice claims.  Attorney Pegalis is the author of the three volume textbook The American Law of Medical Malpractice.  He teaches the subject at New York Law School and is codirector of the New York Law School Health Law and Patient Safety Project.  Attorney Pegalis is the founding partner of Pegalis and Erickson and one of the nations foremost medical malpractice trial attorneys. He has practiced law for over 50 years.

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Law and Disorder April 24, 2017


NYTimes Armenian Gen

Speaking In Turkish: Denying the Armenian Genocide

To commemorate this, the first genocide of the 20th century, Law and Disorder co-host Heidi Boghosian presents a 60-minute documentary special titled “Speaking In Turkish: Denying the Armenian Genocide.”

Around the world, April 24 marks the observance of the Armenian Genocide. On that day in 1915 the Interior Minister of the Ottoman Empire ordered the arrest and hangings of Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in Constantinople. It was the beginning of a systematic and well-documented plan to eliminate the Armenians, who were Christian, and who had been under Ottoman rule and treated as second class citizens since the 15th century.

The unspeakable and gruesome nature of the killings—beheadings of groups of babies, dismemberments, mass burnings, mass drownings, use of toxic gas, lethal injections of morphine or injections with the blood of typhoid fever patients—render oral histories particularly difficult for survivors of the victims.

Why did this happen? Despite being deemed inferior to Turkish Muslims, the Armenian community had attained a prestigious position in the Ottoman Empire and the central authorities there grew apprehensive of their power and longing for a homeland. The concerted plan of deportation and extermination was effected, in large part, because World War I demanded the involvement and concern of potential allied countries. As the writer Grigoris Balakian wrote, the war provided the Turkish government “their sole opportunity, one unprecedented” to exploit the chaos of war in order to carry out their extermination plan.

As Armenians escaped to several countries, including the United States, a number came to New Britain, Connecticut in 1892 to work in the factories of what was then known as the hardware capital of the world. By 1940 nearly 3,000 Armenians lived there in a tight-knit community.

Pope Frances calls it a duty not to forget “the senseless slaughter” of an estimated one and a half million Armenians by the Ottoman Turks from 1915 to 1923. “Concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it,” the Pope said just two weeks before the 100th anniversary of the systematic implementation of a plan to exterminate the Armenian race.

Special thanks to Jennie Garabedian, Arthur Sheverdian, Ruth Swisher, Harry Mazadoorian, and Roxie Maljanian. Produced and written by Heidi Boghosian and Geoff Brady.

 

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Law and Disorder April 17, 2017


Update:

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US Bombs Syria

Donald Trump made two important promises during his presidential campaign: he vowed to not get involved in the Syrian Civil War where jihadist groups have been trying to overthrow the government of Assad for six years and the second promise he made during his campaign was to better relations with Russia which is a supporter of Assad and a strategic ally. Syria borders Russia to the south and has a warm water Mediterranean port.

Both these promises were broken on April 4, 2017 when President Trump illegally ordered the bombing by 54 Tomahawk missiles of the Shayrat Air Base in eastern Syria. The missile strike violated the United Nations charter, the convention against the use of chemical warfare, and United States law called the War Powers Act, not to mention Article 2 of the US Constitution. In support of his unilateral decision to bomb a sovereign nation with whom the United States is not at war,  President Trump claimed that he was motivated by learning of the horrible death of several children in the farm village of Khan Shaykhun.  The children died of an alleged poison gas attack which Trump claimed was carried out by the Assad government, which denies the charge. Without an impartial objective investigation required by The Chemical Weapons Convention,without going to the United Nations Security Council, and without any evidence, President Trump claimed that sarin, a poisonous nerve gas, was used by the Assad government.

Trump’s former critics who sprung to his defense included Hillary Clinton, Senate Minority Leader Democrat Chuck Schumer, and Republican leaders John McCain and Lindsey Graham, the entire mass media including the New York Times, Washington Post, MSNBC, and CNN.  Television reporter Brian Wilson use the word “beautiful” three times to describe the tomahawk missile explosions. Why did Trump reversed his position of not getting involved in the Syrian civil war? Why did he all the sudden take on Russia, to whom he had pledged better relations?

Guest – Phyllis Bennis directs the New Internationalism Project at IPS, working as a writer, activist and analyst on Middle East and UN issues. She is also a fellow of the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam. In 2001 she helped found and remains active with the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. She works with many anti-war organizations, and writes and speaks widely across the U.S. and around the world as part of the global peace movement. She has served as an informal adviser to several top UN officials on Middle East and UN democratization issues.

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A Chicago Cop is Accused of Framing 51 People For Murder

Fifty years ago the great comedian Lenny Bruce used to crack that “Chicago is so corrupt it’s thrilling.” It has become known as “the conviction capital of the USA.” Today retired Chicago detective is accused of framing at least 51 people for murder, most of them from Humboldt Park in Chicago, a working class predominately Puerto Rican neighborhood. He was on the force from the 1980s through the early 2000’s. Guevara’s alleged misconduct sent 48 men and one woman to be sentenced to a total of more than 2300 years in prison. Three were acquitted. Five received life sentences. Three were sentenced to death, but spared when in 2003 Governor George Ryan, disturbed by a rash of wrongful convictions, commuted all of the death sentences to life in prison or less. Two men died behind bars.The initial work in uncovering Guevara’s misconduct fell by default to a group of women, mostly working class mothers, aunts, and sisters with limited English and limited familiarity with the law.

As investigative reporter Melissa Segura has written in BuzzFeed, “armed with nothing more than dining room tables full of transcripts, police  reports, and post it notes, marking the cracks in cases against their love ones, together they identified patterns running through Guevara’s cases.” They achieved some victories.  They gave information to civil rights attorneys at the Loevy and Loevy Chicago law firm which helped free Juan Johnson who later went on to receive a record $21 million and a judgment against the city of Chicago because of Guevara’s misconduct. So far six men have had their convictions overturned, 12 others have been released, 29 say they were framed remade in prison. Detective Guevara’s Witnesses by Melissa Segura

Guest – Attorney Tara Thompson is the founder of the Exoneration Project at Loevy and Loevy. Following law school Tara worked as an associate in Mayer Brown’s Chicago office, where she represented clients in a variety of litigation matters, including a significant commitment to pro bono representation. She left Mayer Brown in 2006 to clerk for Judge Elaine Bucklo of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. After completing her clerkship, she joined Loevy & Loevy in 2007.

Guest – Attorney Anand Swaminathan, is litigating the civil damage cases arising from the work of Guevara’s frame ups and which have demonstrated a pattern and practice of police misconduct. Since joining the firm, Anand has worked on a broad range of constitutional and civil rights cases, including wrongful convictions, the denial of medical care to inmates and detainees in jails and prisons, and retaliation for exercising free speech rights. Anand also works extensively on False Claims Act litigation, in which he represents whistle-blowers alleging military and other government contractor fraud, Medicare and Medicaid fraud, construction/contractor (MBE/DBE) fraud, bid-rigging, and tax fraud. Anand also represents whistleblowers in financial fraud cases under the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill, and in complex fraud cases under other federal and state statutes.

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Carl Messineo Consent Decrees and Policing in the U.S.

During the Obama administration, the Justice Department has sought to reform police practices considered discriminatory by using a statutory tool little known by the public and even less well understood. So-called “consent decrees” were established after the Los Angeles Rodney King riots, and allow the Department’s Civil Rights Division to sue local police forces that have been found to have “a pattern and practice” of using excessive force or violating individuals’ rights.

The DOJ launches an investigation into a police department’s operations, frequently after a high-profile incident – such as the 2014 shootings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, and Laquan McDonald in Chicago. If the feds find that the departments operate with an ongoing pattern of abuse, they sue, in essence forcing the law enforcement groups to settle the cases and undergo a change to their culture to a degree deemed sufficient by the court and the DOJ.

Some of the more recent agreements, like those with the Baltimore and Ferguson Police Departments, are better known to the public, but others are not and many haven’t yet seen a resolution. Out of 19 investigations carried out since 2010, six are considered “ongoing.”

Jeff Sessions said in 2008 that “One of the most dangerous, and rarely discussed, exercises of raw power is the issuance of expansive court decrees. Consent decrees have a profound effect on our legal system as they constitute an end run around the democratic process.” The new Attorney General has threatened to do away with them.

Guest – Attorney Carl Messineo, co-founder of The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, a nonprofit progressive legal organization based in Washington DC. The organization focuses on cases regarding free speech and dissent, domestic spying and surveillance, police misconduct, government transparency, and educating the public about their rights. In the “Founders Message,” the organization states, “As we look to the future, the Partnership will continue to be at the forefront of legal struggle, using the law to defend and create room for the peoples’ movement for progressive social change.”

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Law and Disorder April 10, 2017


 

The Hundred-Year Walk: An Armenian Odyssey

April 24 marks the 101st anniversary of the Armenian genocide. Until recently, most Americans never heard of the genocide and rarely hear the individual stories of those who survived atrocities at the hands of the Ottoman Turks. Journalist Dawn Mackeen came to learn the personal account of her grandfather Stepan Miskjian after reading notebooks that he had kept a century ago chronicling his story. She then embarked on a multi-year journey, using her research skills to scour newspapers and archives around the globe to recreate, and then actually retrace, his steps taken 100 years earlier through Turkey and Syria.

She has written an eye-opening book, The Hundred-Year Walk: An Armenian Odyssey. It recounts not only her grandfather’s experience, but those of the approximately 1.5 million Armenians who were tortured and killed in the genocide that began in 1915. As many Armenian genocide survivors did, Dawn’s grandfather escaped just before the members of his caravan with were massacred by disguising himself as an Arab.

Guest – Dawn Mackeen is an award-winning journalist who spent nearly a decade researching and writing her grandfather’s story. Previously, she covered health and social issues for Salon, SmartMoney, and Newsday, where her investigative series on assisted living facilities’ poor care helped prompt legislative reform. Her work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Elle, the Sunday Times Magazine (London), the Los Angeles Times, and elsewhere. She lives in Southern California.

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International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Exceptionalism and Responsibility

At the request of its member states, the United Nations economic and social commission for Western Asia commissioned a report on Israeli practices towards the Palestinian people and the question of apartheid. Apartheid is a crime against humanity under international law. The report found Israel in violation of three international laws. One of them, the  1998 Rome statute of the international criminal court states that “the crime of apartheid means inhumane acts committed in the context of AN institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.” The commission report concluded that Israel operates in an Apartheid regime against Palestinian citizens of Israel, Palestinians in East Jerusalem, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, and Palestinian refugees and exiles.The commission made recommendations to dismantle the apartheid regime. In response, Israel and its ally the United States of America had to report rejected and caused the resignation of the head of the commission.

We speak with two anti- apartheid activists. Both have just returned from an important conference on Israel held at the University of Cork, in Cork Ireland.  The conference had twice been prevented by pro Israeli forces.

Guest – Richard Falk is the former UN Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights and Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University. Since 2002 he has lived in Santa Barbara, California, and taught at the local campus of the University of California in Global and International Studies and since 2005 chaired the Board of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.

Guest – Author Joel Kovel, politician, academic, and eco-socialist. He has lectured in psychiatry, anthropology, political science and communication studies. He has published many books including the controversial Overcoming Zionism: Creating a Single Democratic State in Israel/Palestine.

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Partisan Gerrymandering In Wisconsin

In a backlash to the 2008 Obama election victory, two years later, in 2010, the Republican Party of Wisconsin won both houses of the legislature and the governorships. The Republicans then redrew the legislative map making it impossible for the Democratic Party to capture a majority of the legislative seats at any time in the decade,  no matter how many votes they get.  This is called partisan gerrymandering, the process of drawing distorted legislative districts to undermine democracy.  Now, in Wisconsin, instead of voters choosing their legislatures, the legislatures choose the voters. As a consequence people in Wisconsin have had their great university system harmed, right to work laws have been enacted wrecking their unions, and there has been substantial environmental damage.

Guest – Professor William “Bill” Whitford who recently retired as a Law Professor at the University of Wisconsin. He is the lead plaintiff in a federal lawsuit against partisan gerrymandering. His cases is likely to be heard in the Supreme Court. In the case Whitford v Gill 12, Wisconsin voters are challenging the constitutionality of the states Republican drawn legislative maps. Heretofore, the Supreme Court has been unwilling to get involved.  This case may change that and restore a measure of democracy to a broken system  in Wisconsin, and later elsewhere.

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Law and Disorder April 3, 2017


Trial Judge Rules Against 69 Year Old Palestinian Activist Rasmea Odeh

In 1969, when she was a 21 year old college student in Ramallah in the Israeli occupied territories on the West Bank,  Rasmea Odeh, a Palestinian woman, was arrested for killing two Israeli University students with a bomb placed in a supermarket.  She confessed to the crime and served 10 years in prison, getting out in a prisoner swap. She came to United States 20 years ago, obtained citizenship, and settled in Chicago as a community organizer of immigrant Arab women.  Odeh was criminally charged two years ago by the federal government with “unlawful procurement of naturalization.” In her application, she omitted mention of the crime for which she was convicted in Israel. In her defense, she said that she could not remember, that she had post traumatic stress disorder as a result of being tortured in jail for 25 days and forced to sign a false confession. Her expert witness was not allowed to testify as to the PSTD and the torture.  The trial judge’s ruling on this was overturned by a Federal Court of Appeals. Last week she agreed to a plea arrangement where she would be stripped of her citizenship and deported rather than face a 5 to 7 year prison sentence and indefinite detention by ICE. She is 69 years old and does not know where she will be sent inasmuch as she cannot go home.

Guest – Attorney Michael Deutsch  had represented Rasmea Odeh. He is a partner at the Peoples Law Office in Chicago and a former legal director at the  Center for Constitutional Rights. After clerking for United States Court of Appeals Judge Otto Kerner, Mr. Deutsch went into private practice, joining People’s Law Office in 1970 where he has represented political activists and victims of police and government civil rights violations. His advocacy has taken him all around the world, including to hearings in the United Nations. He has tried many civil and criminal cases in federal and state courts, and has written and argued numerous appeals, including several in the United States Supreme Court.

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New York City Titanpointe National Security Agency Protest

There is a massive 550 foot tall gray granite and cement NSA spying hub hidden in plain sight in a windowless skyscraper in downtown Manhattan. At noon on April 15 an action is planned by a group called the Quiet American. It is an arts and politics journal based in Ridgewood, Queens, New York. They will perform a rite of exorcism on the building in order to, as their press release states, “to metaphysically purge the edifice of the data it hoards and to invoke a less maniacal version of citizen-government relations.”

The building is located at 33 Thomas Street where the action will take place. It is a windowless monolith that people say is “creepy as hell” and “a monument to the bottomless fear that locks us in permanent war”. The building was designed to withstand a nuclear assault and sustain its employees working there for two weeks.

Guest –  Eli Smith, a musician and activist from Brooklyn, who has helped organize the event. Eli Smith is also a folklorist and music producer who organizes the annual “Brooklyn Folk Festival”, a huge weekend music gathering now in its ninth year, and coming up at the end of April.

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Lawsuit Forces EPA Head To Release More Emails Exposing Fossil Fuel Ties

Donald Trump’s nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, was recently sued by the Center for Media and Democracy to force the release of emails exposing ties with fossil fuel backers and the Oklahoma Office of Attorney General.

The suit, filed on behalf of the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), seeks an emergency injunction to prevent Pruitt from destroying any documents relevant to the group’s open records requests before his confirmation hearing. Since 2015, CMD filed seven records requests with Pruitt’s office seeking communications with Koch Industries and other coal, oil, and gas corporations as well as the corporate-funded Republican Attorney General’s Association.

Pruitt has yet to turn over a single document, despite acknowledging that his office has 3,000 emails and other documents relevant to CMD’s initial request. The Oklahoma Open Records Act provides that “the people are vested with the inherent right to know and be fully informed about their government . . . so they may efficiently and intelligently exercise their inherent political power.”

The act also mandates that a public body “must provide prompt, reasonable access to its records.” With Pruitt seeking confirmation to become EPA administrator, these public records are essential for the U.S. Senate to do its job.

“There is no valid legal justification for the emails we received last night not being released prior to Pruitt’s confirmation vote other than to evade public scrutiny,” said Arn Pearson, general counsel for CMD. “There are hundreds of emails between the AG’s office, Devon Energy, and other polluters that Senators should have been permitted to review prior to their vote to assess Pruitt’s ties to the fossil fuel industry.”

Guest – Arn Pearson, General Counsel and Policy Advisor from the Center for Media and Democracy. He previously served as the Vice President for Policy and Litigation at Common Cause. Arn has worked for more than 20 years developing federal and state policy and legal strategies around campaign finance reform, government ethics, corporate accountability, and tax reform.

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