Law and Disorder Radio

Archives for October, 2010

Law and Disorder November 1, 2010



ColorOfLaw1 ErnieGoodman

The Color of Law: Ernie Goodman, Detroit, and the Struggle for Labor and Civil Rights

The Color of Law recreates the compelling  story of Ernie Goodman, one of the nation’s preeminent defense attorneys for workers and the militant poor.  Author’s Steve Babson, Dave Riddle and David Elsila tell the story from the beginning, starting at Goodman’s early years as a corporate lawyer to his conversion to labor law during the Great Depression. From Detroit to Mississippi, Goodman saw police and other officials giving the “color of law” to actions that stifled freedom of speech and nullified the rights of workers and minorities. The Color of Law demonstrates that the abuse of power is non-partisan and that individuals who oppose injustice can change the course of events. Published by Wayne State University Press.

Bill Goodman:

  • The book goes beyond my Dad as just an individual person who led a wonderful life and talks about the experience of going through the 20s, the 30s, the 40s, the 50s and 60s and even into the 70s.
  • His awakening as a political person, came about out of the formation of the labor movement in the United States.
  • He was one of the key people that provided legal counseling to the UAW.
  • The sit down strike in Flint, Michigan:  Governor Frank Murphy refused to send in the National Guard troops.
  • Literally taking power and grabbing these factories from huge corporations was enormously important and symbolic. Ernie Goodman and others ended up representing UAW during McCarthy period.
  • George Crockett was one of the most courageous people I’ve ever known in my life. He would not bend.
  • My Dad got one of those Attica grand jury cases.
  • Colman Young was highlighted in this period. Our law firm took the lead in the National Lawyers Guild saying this has to be the priority of the guild to represent the civil rights movement.
  • Ernie Goodman grew up in the Jewish ghetto in Detroit

Steve Babson:

  • When Ernie Goodman died in 1997, his wife Frieda wanted some way of chronicling his life. She contacted Dave Elsila and he contacted Dave Riddle, and began writing the book.  Dave Riddle became ill. We saw what a wonderful start he made to the book so, we picked it up and I became the lead writer in 2005 and 2006.
  • Ernie was not unlike millions in the US that confronted the collapse of capitalism.
  • They were collecting the cadavers off the streets every morning (in Detroit, during Depression)
  • He was a repo-man, repossessing furniture, which brought him face to face with the unemployed councils and some of the early organizing in response to the Depression.
  • He finally has a conversion crisis, where he finds his way to the other side of barricades, where he joins those contesting the outcomes of the Great Depression.  It’s the Congress of Industrial Organizations, the UAW and this upsurge of worker mobilization on the job on behalf of industrial unions to turnback the Great Depression that leads to the black and white unity in the workplace.
  • The Civil Rights Federation was supported by these new unions. It was the Civil Rights Federation that not only questioned segregation in neighborhoods and on the job, but the role of these vigilante groups. (The Black Legion) that were trying to roll back the New Deal and the CIO.
  • The Lawyers Guild represented a progressive alternative and on that basis quickly grew in the late 30s to about 5000 members.  90 percent of the Guild was driven from its ranks from this concerted and fabricated web of lies, typical of the McCarthy era.
  • Ernie Goodman takes the Guild to the South, first Virginia, then Mississippi.

Guest – Steve Babson, one of the 3 authors, Steve is a labor educator and union activist living in Detroit for the last 32 years with his wife, Nancy Brigham. He received his doctorate in U.S. History in 1989 from Wayne State University, where he also worked as an instructor in the Labor Studies Center from 1985 to 2006.  Steve has published six books, including Working Detroit: The Making of a Union Town and Lean Work: Empowerment and Exploitation in the Global Auto Industry.

Guest – Bill Goodman, former legal director for the Center for Constitutional Rights has been an extraordinary public interest lawyer for over 30 years, and has served as counsel on issues including post-Katrina social justice, public housing, voting rights, the death penalty, living wage, civil liberties, educational reform, constitutional rights, human rights work in Haiti, and civil disobedience.


brian_moynihan_bank_of_america1 Tent-City

Foreclosure Scandal: Last Stage of Mortgage Scams

Big banks have resumed the foreclosure process in 23 judicial states after a temporary suspension. Judicial states require a judge and court hearing for foreclosure proceedings, not so, for the remaining 27 non judicial states. Faulty databases that track mortgage foreclosures electronically have made big mistakes amid the high volume of mortgage defaults. Meanwhile, Bank of America started to file new paperwork for 102,000 foreclosures. Consumer advocates and lawyers for homeowners doubt Bank of America completed an accurate review of the paperwork. Ira Rheingold, executive director of the National Association of Consumer Advocates, expressed his skepticism to one media source, “These are lawyers. These are banks going to court and committing fraud,” he said. “For them to say this is a minor technical problem is mind-boggling.”

This is part 2 of the mortgage crisis. The same banks the public bailed out stand to make hundreds of billions more on these foreclosures of homes.

Ira Rheingold:

  • We have a broken mortgage system. The same system that created all those terrible mortgages, that led people into default and losing their homes also created a mortgaging servicing that’s completely broken.
  • Anything that would stop them from moving quickly they avoided, they figured they weren’t going to get caught.
  • You have GMAC, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup.
  • As a lawyer I’m offended by the law firms who are involved and really are knowingly committing fraud.
  • These affidavits that they were putting before the court, the person signing them, said I have knowledge we are proper owner of the mortgage. I have knowledge this is the amount that’s owed.
  • That person that was signing that affidavit was signing 500 that same day. They’re not going to suddenly have a staff to track down the original documents saying they have proper ownership.
  • We’ve seen time and again those industries, those banks add fees they’re not allowed to charge, mis-ordering payments like we’ve seen in the credit card industry.
  • The bottom line is what does this demonstrate? It demonstrates the banks can’t be trusted.
  • What the foreclosure crisis has done is devastate communities across this country.
  • The way we rebuild our economy is allowing homeowners to actually capable of affording thier house and stay in their homes.  We’re talking about 3 million foreclosures across the country.
  • FHA is a mortgage that the federal government insures.
  • You need to clean this mess up.

Guest – Ira Rheingold, executive director of the National Association of Consumer Advocates. (NACA), an organization dedicated to protecting consumers from unfair and deceptive business practices.  At NACA, Mr. Rheingold has testified before both Houses of Congress on various mortgage lending and consumer finance issues, offered commentary before federal agencies charged with regulating financial service industries and protecting consumers, and helped draft amicus briefs on issues of great concern to consumers before the nation’s highest courts


Law and Disorder October 25, 2010



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Rachel Corrie Lawsuit In Israel

Rachel Corrie, an American student activist and human rights defender from Olympia, Washington, was crushed to death on March 16, 2003, by a Caterpillar D9R bulldozer while nonviolently protesting Palestinian home demolitions with fellow members of the International Solidarity Movement.

The first phase of the trail began in March 2010, when the Corrie family presented its witnesses, including several of Rachel’s colleagues from ISM who witnessed her killing. During the second phase of the trial, which began last month, the government presented several witnesses, including the Israeli military police investigator who headed the investigation into Rachel’s death, and the bulldozer operators who struck and killed her.

The lawsuit charges that Rachel’s killing was intentional. It also charges that the Israeli government was negligent for allowing Israeli soldiers and military commanders to act recklessly using an armored military bulldozer without regard to the presence of unarmed, nonviolent civilians in Rafah, Gaza Strip.  Lastly the lawsuit alleges that the Israeli military failed to take appropriate and necessary measures to protect Rachel’s life, in violation of obligations under Israeli and international law.

Katherine Gallagher:

  • Rachel had been serving as a peace activist with the Palestinian International Solidarity Movement.
  • The case is unfortunately taking quite a while, it was filed back in 2005, then the evidentiary phase opened in 2010.  At that point the Corrie’s were able to call their own witnesses. They also called an expert who could speak about how to conduct a proper investigation.
  • The investigator testimony revealed huge errors in the way the investigation was carried out.
  • Errors include: The bulldozer was removed from the scene of the killing. There were investigators in the case who never went to the scene of the crime.
  • On October 7, right before testimony, it was permitted that soldiers involved in the incident be allowed to testify behind a screen.
  • This is an extraordinary step, the family if unable to see those soldiers who are able to provide some answers even through their body language as they testify.
  • For the Corries who have waited 7 and a half years for some answers, that they won’t be able to assess the credibility by his body language is a significant blow.
  • When you say the name Rachel Corrie in Israel, people know who she is.
  • CCR Lawsuit: Caterpillar had aided and abetted war crimes and other serious violations of international law.
  • It struck how Jerusalem has changed. There’s been a massive amount of construction in the old city and particularly around East Jerusalem.

Guest – Katherine Gallagher,  Senior Staff Attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, where she focuses on holding individuals, including US and foreign government officials, and corporations, including private military contractors, accountable for serious human rights violations. Among the cases she is working on are Arar v. Ashcroft, Matar v. Dichter, Saleh v. Titan and Estate of Atban v. Blackwater.


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You Can’t Be President: The Outrageous Barriers to Democracy in America

John Rick MacArthur is the president and publisher of Harper’s Magazine. He’s an award winning journalist and author. We want to talk with Rick about his third book titled You Can’t Be President: The Outrageous Barriers to Democracy in America and explore the topic of who finances the Republican and Democratic parties. A recent book review states, that it (quote) advances a familiar argument: that moneyed and privileged interests, rather than the needs and opinions of ordinary citizens, dominate contemporary American politics. MacArthur, begins by lamenting the lack of basic comprehension of the Constitution and American government on the part of the political and media elite. The book also criticizes Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Rick MacArthur:

  • There are two balance sheets, there’s one with regard to the people of the United States and the other which I talk about in You Can’t Be President is the internal party structure.
  • The balance sheet for the people is bad, we are now enmeshed even more in a self destructive war if possible than Iraq was.  Afghanistan is a disaster and you don’t have to ask a peacenik.
  • You have a fake health care reform which really reinforced the power of the insurance companies.
  • You have a very feeble reform of Wall Street. You have a continuation of anti-labor,orthodox “free trade” policies.  You have the continued corruption of the lobby system in Washington.
  • Coming from Chicago, if Obama attacked the lobby system it would be like committing political suicide.
  • Obama broke every record in corporate fund raising, PAC fund raising. He raised money from Jack Abramoff’s old law firm.
  • In sum, he’s (Obama) has been an anti-reformer, anti-progressive.
  • On civil liberties, if you criticize Bush it’s great, if you criticize Obama, you can hear a pin drop.
  • I met someone who did a tour of the new prison in Baghram, Afghanistan. He said it was terrifying.
  • You have to understand that the Chicago machine, is the most powerful local machine in the country.
  • Almost every important job in the county is held by a Democrat. The mayor of Chicago is very much like the dictator of Chicago.  Obama came out of the most intolerant, the most monopolistic, one sided political machine in the country.
  • Murdoch’s bundled campaign contributions were 50/50 between Clinton and Obama.
  • I don’t see why we can’t organize around an opposition candidate, raise some money.
  • I think what you’re seeing is disillusionment among the party leadership with Obama, because he hasn’t delivered the goods.
  • They wanted Obama to deliver the 2016 Olympics to Chicago.
  • Obama is a tremendously prudent and cautious politician, there’s no audacity at all.

Guest – John Rick MacArthur, an American journalist and author of books about US politics. He is the president of Harper’s Magazine.  MacArthur has been a reporter for The Wall Street Journal (1977), the Washington Star (1978), The Bergen Record (1978–1979), Chicago Sun-Times (1979–1982), and an assistant foreign editor at United Press International (1982).

Law and Disorder October 18, 2010


  1. Anwar Al-Aulaqi Case – Drones Targeting US Citizens – Obama Wants To Dismiss CCR/ACLU Case
  2. CCR Guantanamo So Called Suicide Cases
  3. Supreme Court Will Not Review Case On Feds Wiretapping Guantanamo Lawyers
  4. Bombing of the USS Cole – Could Prosecutors Use The Fruit From the Poisonous Tree?


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NYC NLG Street Law and Racial Profiling Program

Today we’re joined by Paula Segal and Gabriela Lopez with the New York City Lawyers Guild Street Law Clinic Program. The project sends groups of attorneys to conduct “Street Law” workshops with a range of students in high school. We’re also joined by students from the Aarturo A. Schomburg Satellite Academy High School who were part of the street law classes.

Street Law Students:

  • In my neighborhood it’s really common for the Police to bother you for no reason. I don’t think they had the right to go into my pockets unless they had reasonable suspicion. This happens at least 3 times a week.
  • One time they took me into the precinct, took my picture, ran my fingerprints.
  • I was getting off the train and these two big police men were getting off the train and they stopped me. They said we have her on the walkie-talkie.  This women said take off your sneakers. She kept asking, where is it? Where is it? That’s when she started to get physical and she lifted up my shirt. “If you don’t f-in’ tell me where it’s at, I’m going to strip search you. It happened on Elder Avenue, next to the 6 train.
  • They say no, we’re not going to touch you, then he throws me on the car.
  • You guys are unfolding my socks right now, and I don’t like this. There’s a certain way that I fold my socks.
  • After they find nothing, they say you should change your attitude. I said, you should change your attitude.
  • A lot of cops judge character, when I see cops, you have to give them an expression. Hey look I’m out here, I’m not tryin to get in that car.
  • I’m thinking about the cops catching the real villans. If you’re really guilty you’re going to get hassled, if you’re not guilty,then you can be free.  The advice I get from the street law project is not consenting to the search.
  • From my knowledge, the cops need a certain amount of arrests at the end of the month, so they’ll pick on anybody.  They curse a lot. Undercover cops, they’ll probably have on a hoodie, try to fit in with everybody else, it just don’t work.
  • Law Student Paula Segal: We focus on giving people tools to walk away, to avoid arrest.
  • Law Student, Street Law Coordinator Gabriella Lopez: Last year we went to more than sixty different sites. Sixty to Seventy different trainings that occured last year.
  • Email the Street Law Team –

Guests – Paula Segal and Gabriela Lopez with the New York City Lawyers Guild Street Law Clinic Program. Aarturo A. Schomburg Satellite Academy High School Students: Charisma Whaley / Joseph Campbell / Kiara Avila / Stephanie Colon / Jonathan Jeffries.


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Grand Juries Historically and the Minneapolis / Chicago FBI Raids

A total of 12 people were served with subpoenas during last months FBI raids in Minneapolis and Chicago. The FBI targeted anti-war peace activists and key organizers of demonstrations and marches who have been asked to appear before a grand jury. What is a grand jury? Historically, a grand jury was supposed to be citizens coming together to determine if charges should be filed criminally against someone. Today, it’s very different. It’s mostly a rubber stamp for what the prosecutors want. If you refuse to testify at a grand jury, you can be taken to a judge to answer questions. If you refuse to answer those questions you could be put in jail.

Margaret Ratner-Kunstler:

  • If you were subpoenaed before a grand jury in 1968 and you asserted your grand jury right, then that really was the end of your participation in the grand jury.
  • You asserted immunity and if you we’re given immunity, you couldn’t be indicted.
  • Immunity: Nothing you say could be used against you, but anything you testified about could not be the subject of a criminal indictment against you.  Your words could not be held against you, or the fruits of those words. But it’s so easy to get around that, by a prosecutor saying, this didn’t come from this.
  • If you then refused to testify given this minor immunity, you could be subject to imprisonment.
  • If you refuse to testify you’re brought back before the judge and the judge then holds you in “civil contempt.”
  • The grand jury is usually about 18 months. The grand jury in Chicago is a special grand jury which means it’s twice as long.
  • That’s important because if you’re held in civil contempt, the keys to the jail are in your pocket. You’re in jail for as long as you refuse to testify.
  • If you say something you could wave your fifth amendment right by already saying something.
  • The recent FBI raids represents the tremendous see-change we have in terms of the ability for people to actively oppose this government’s policy.
  • In 1983, there were many groups in this country who were joining forces with progressive groups in Central America.  You had the Committee in Solidarity With the People Of El Salvador.
  • Each of the 11 individual persons subpeoned wrote letters to the Attorney General saying that they would assert their fifth amendment right and that they would not testify.
  • If they can’t get you on a federal charge it’s often that they’re looking for a mistake you made in conversation, even an informal conversation with a federal official.

Guest – Magaret Ratner-Kunstler, an attorney in private practice. As education director at the Center for Constitutional Rights, she originated the Movement Support Network and authored “If an Agent Knocks.” Kunstler is the President of the William Moses Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice, a foundation established in 1995 in the memory of her late husband to combat racism in the criminal justice system.


Law and Disorder October 11, 2010

Attorney Mara Verheyden-Hilliard mara22

Lawyers You’ll Like Series: Mara Verheyden Hilliard Part II

Today we’re joined by attorney Mara Verheyden Hilliard co-founder of The Partnership for Civil Justice Legal Defense & Education Fund in the second part of our Lawyers You’ll Like series. Mara and her partner Carl Messineo have worked to defend and advance fundamental civil, constitutional and human rights secured by the U.S. Constitution and under law. We talk about her work, and criminalizing dissent, surveillance, data mining, and FBI harassment. A lot of Mara’s work is at the intersection of first and fourth amendment rights, such as the assault on free speech, assembly and misuse of datamining tools. The Partnership for Civil Justice has many victories, and recently a settlement was reached in a class action lawsuit about the illegality of the arrests of approximately 700 protesters and other persons on Saturday, April 15, 2000 in Washington, D.C.

Attorney Mara Verheyden-Hilliard:

  • I co-founded the Partnership for Civil Justice in 1994 with Carl Messenio. We decided we wanted to do this work specifically, Constitutional rights, civic justice, public interest litigation.
  • We began this work right after we left law school. We undertook some of the longest running protest cases that we had, in particular, the recently settled class action from the April 2000 mass arrests.
  • I grew up in Washington DC and I spent my childhood going to civil rights demonstrations, anti-war demonstrations, having our house filled demonstrators.  Both of my parents are deeply political people who care very much about civil rights, liberation struggles and womens’ rights.
  • The core of the work we do we recognize as the underlying social justice movement.
  • The municipalities, the governments, they want these cases to go on as long as possible, they want to fight a war of attrition, because they want plaintiffs to feel they have to take toothless settlements.
  • The fact is the law has changed in DC, we’ve changed the way police operate. They can’t use these tactics, these tactics we took apart piece by piece have been removed from the arsenal of the police department in DC.
  • The DC police can’t use the trap and detain tactic, they can’t hold people, they have to release them within 4 hours now. They can’t use the wrist to ankle handcuff mechanism against people anymore.
  • Police need to have their badges plainly available and visible, they can’t come out in riot gear to first amendment assemblies.  Now we’re seeing this effort (FBI) against solidarity activists with the raids and subpoenas. I think it is outrageous, and baseless for the government to be coming in and targeting people for solidarity work.
  • It’s also reflective of the huge security apparatus that was put in place under Bush and is being accelerated under Obama.  Those beliefs, that hope, that thought, that you can  change the direction of the country that you live in, is absolutely true.
  • All you gotta do is look at the past history of the United States, all 150 years.
  • Recognize that it’s no fault to hope and to think that an elected official is going to do it, but historically the elected official has never been the one to do it.

Guest – Constitutional Rights Attorney Mara Verheyden Hilliard co-founder of The Partnership for Civil Justice Legal Defense & Education Fund. Mara Verheyden-Hilliard is an activist, Constitutional Rights attorney, and the cofounder of the Partnership for Civil Justice. She is also co-chair of the National Lawyers Guild Mass Defense Committee.


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United States Plays Down UN Report on the Gaza Flotilla Attack

A United Nations fact finding mission into the May 31, 2010 Israeli lethal attacks of ships traveling to Gaza, has reported that Israeli forces violated international law, “including international humanitarian and human rights law.” Eight Turkish activists and one Turkish-American were killed in the raid on board the ships attempting to break the Gaza blockade.  The UN Human Rights Council’s investigation judged Israel’s naval blockade of the Palestinian territory to be “unlawful” because there was a humanitarian crisis in Gaza at the time. However, the United States criticized what it termed as the report’s “unbalanced language, tone and conclusions.”

The Center for Constitutional Rights, the Free Gaza Movement and the National Lawyers Guild responded to the report and the comments made by the United States at the Council

“Unfortunately, the United States used the opportunity of the Human Right Council’s discussion on the flotilla fact-finding mission’s report to promote its political agenda instead of engaging on the issue of legal accountability for Israel’s illegal blockade of Gaza and the unlawful attack on the Gaza flotilla,” said CCR attorney Katherine Gallagher. “The U.S. must recognize that there can be no peace without justice, and that until it supports accountability for violations of international law–even when violations committed by Israel – instead of a culture of impunity, it lacks the legitimacy necessary to serve as a broker of peace.”

Attorney Katherine Gallagher:

  • There were 6 civilian ships and their goal was to both bring humanitarian aid to Gaza which has been under a Naval blockade by Israel for the last 4 years as well as to challenge the legality.
  • The United Nations back in June 2010 set up a fact finding mission. The 3 commissioners traveled to London, to Geneva, Istanbul and Jordan to interview passengers. They met with legal experts and others to analyze the evidence they heard.
  • The UN fact finding report was submitted last week, 56 detailed pages of what precisely happened that night on those ships on the night of May 31.  It was concluded that the blockade is illegal under international law. It found that the 6 ships traveling to Gaza to break the blockade presented no imminent threat to the Israelis.
  • The 3 commissioners have experience in international law matters. One had been a judge on the international criminal court. Their conclusions are grounded in law and not political conclusions. They were peaceful protesters preparing for an attack on the ship.
  • It’s hard to see what they find as unbalanced. I think the report is carefully written, it’s cautiously written beginning with an analysis of its own mandate. Turkey very much welcomed the report.
  • The bulk of the passengers were detained in Israel, at detention sites that had already been established.
  • Confiscated property consists of cameras, computer chips, video equipment. It contains electronic equipment that provides first hand evidence of the flotilla passengers activities and then the attack on the ship.
  • In the past 4 months Israel has been in possession of that material.

Guest – Katherine Gallagher,  Senior Staff Attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, where she focuses on holding individuals, including US and foreign government officials, and corporations, including private military contractors, accountable for serious human rights violations. Among the cases she is working on are Arar v. Ashcroft, Matar v. Dichter, Saleh v. Titan and Estate of Atban v. Blackwater.


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Post Coup Honduran Human Rights Crisis

A human rights crisis continues to get worse in Honduras, more than a year after the June 28, 2009 military coup. People on the front lines that oppose the regime installed after the coup are beaten and illegally detained by the state. Nectali Rodezno, Co-Coordinator of National Front of Lawyers in Resistance Against the Coup in Honduras is among the lawyers dircectly involved in defending those are being abused and whose lives are on the line everyday. To inform people about the ongoing crisis in Honduras, there will be a speaking tour this fall called JUSTICE IN HONDURAS: Witness for Peace Mid-Atlantic Fall Speakers Tour will be November 1 – 22.

Attorney Pam Spees:

  • From that moment on you began to see alot of repressive tactics immediately after the coup.
  • Immediately, leaders of that resistance were being targeted. There were several key people who were killed in aftermath of the coup. Walter Trochez was a key LGBT activist who was targeted and killed in a very brutal way.  You also saw the targeting of labor leaders. The killing continue even in this new de facto administration.
  • In March you saw the targeting of journalists. In that month alone, 8 journalists were killed.
  • The Honduran judiciary were taking certain steps before the coup to help undermine Zelaya and what he was doing. We’re still learning about how much of this was driven by official US policy.
  • Before the coup we had the financial crisis in the US that was effecting food security which was making it difficult everywhere. Zelaya was trying to buffer the Hondurans against this. One of the things he did was raise the minimum wage. He raised it and tied it to the food index.
  • The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America
  • On June 28, the Honduran resistance has set up its own truth commission, The Alternative Truth Commission. The International Criminal Court is an actor and could investigate and potentially prosecute some of these acts.
  • In the US we have the Alien Tort Statute. It’s a very old law that allows non-citizens to bring suit in US courts for violations of international law.
  • The courage show by all sectors of this resistance is just incredible.

Guest – Pam Spees,  senior staff attorney in the international human rights program at the Center for Constitutional Rights. She has a background in international criminal and human rights law with a gender focus, as well as criminal trial practice.


Law and Disorder October 4, 2010



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Nationally Coordinated FBI Raids Minnesota/Chicago

Last week the FBI raided six homes in Minneapolis and two in Chicago allegedly searching for links to terrorism. The Minneapolis raids targeted anti-war activists among them, Jessica Sundin, and Mick Kelly. They were key organizers of the big march on the first day of the RNC in 2008.   In one Minneapolis home, FBI agents arrived with warrants, searched every room, attic and basement, looking through CDs DVDs, books, and photos. Passports, travel and phone records were among items seized from the homes. The FBI issued subpoenas for the peace activists to appear before a Grand Jury in Chicago on October 12. FBI’s search warrants indicate agents were looking for connections between local antiwar activists and groups in Colombia and the Middle East. NLG HOTLINE – 888-654-3265

Jim Fennerty:

  • We’re putting a group of lawyers together from the National Lawyers Guild. We’re speaking to our clients right now about what a grand jury is, how it functions, and they have a right to refuse to testify at a grand jury or not.  A total of 12 people were served with subpoenas.
  • Humanitarian Law Project decision emboldens the government to push the envelope and see what they can get away with. I have not been told that anyone is a target, and we’re concerned about what that means.
  • Technically the Attorney General’s office is not suppose to issue a subpoena to a target unless they get a higher authority to do that.  Historically a grand jury was supposed to be citizens coming together to determine if charges should be filed criminally against somebody.
  • Now it’s pretty much a rubber stamp for what the prosecutors want. People should be very concerned about going there, because what you say can be twisted around.
  • Most cases, people can say they don’t want to testify at a grand jury, they’re going to exercise their fifth amendment rights against incrimination.  However, if they offer you immunity and you refuse to testify, you can be taken to a judge, they’ll read the questions to the judge, and ask you to answer them.
  • If you refuse to answer them then a judge can hold you in civil contempt and you can be incarcerated for the length of the remaining time of the grand jury.  The government is not showing us all their cards, we don’t know where they’re going with this.
  • Regarding activism: I’ve seen some unity here I’ve never seen before in my life, where groups that don’t get along, are now rallying around them.
  • Do not speak to federal agent, do not lie to a federal agent. National Lawyers Guild Issues New Report on Policing of Protests

Guest – Attorney Jim Fennerty, attorney, activist and National Lawyers Guild member. Jim has been handling activist cases for 38 years.


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Death Penalty Cases -Virginia / Georgia / California

In late 2009, The American Law Institute which created the intellectual structure for the current capital justice system for nearly 50 years, essentially announced that its project has failed. The New York Times, in one article wrote  the institute’s move represents a tectonic shift in legal theory. The article also points out that capital punishment was plagued by problems including racial disparities. We continue to see these types of problems in 3 recent death penalty cases in Virginia, Georgia and California.  In Virginia, Teresa Lewis, a grandmother was the first woman to be executed in that state in nearly 100 years. Last week Teresa Lewis was given a lethal injection at 9PM in Greensville prison. Teresa was convicted of hiring two gunmen to shoot her husband and stepson to collect on their life insurance policy. Both gunmen were sentenced to life without parole. Attorneys argued that the court consider a key piece of evidence on Teresa’s behalf. That evidence was a letter from one of the gunmen who killed himself in jail in 2006, in which he claimed full responsibility for the murder plot and suggests he pushed Lewis into it. Lewis also had an IQ of 70.

Last week in a Georgia death penalty case,  Brandon Joseph Rhode was found in his cell with his arms and neck slashed days before his scheduled execution by lethal injection. According to reports, his lawyers have pleaded clemency, arguing he suffered brain injury from alcoholism and because his mother took drugs during pregnancy. If executed, he will be the 25th person put to death by the state, the last one was in June. Rhode and an accomplice were sentenced to death for murdering an 11-year-old boy, his 15-year-old sister and their father during a botched robbery in 1998.

In California, a federal and state court judge refused death row inmate Albert Greenwood Brown’s request to block his scheduled execution. Brown and another death row inmate have filed a lawsuit challenging the state’s new lethal injection regulations,saying the procedures were improperly adopted. State procedures have since been revised after a federal judge halted the death penalty in California amid concern that it’s method lethal injection amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.

David Michaels:

  • These are two horrible executions. Teresa Lewis had an IQ of 72. She was executed after Governor MacDonald refuse her clemency requests. The judge said she was the head of the serpent in this particular case and he decided horribly to have her executed.
  • There’s no deterrent for people with the IQ of 72 or for someone with an IQ of 150. This murder happened in 1992, this execution happens in 2010.
  • There are about 3 dozen states that have capital punishment laws. In California, one of the drugs they use for lethal injection has expired and they can’t get anymore.
  • LINKS – NCADP / Death Penalty Information Service

Guest – Attorney David Seth Michaels.  David has represented clients for 30 years, clients such as prison inmates in Mississippi and Tennessee. He’s worked with Brooklyn Legal Services B and with the Federal Defenders Service Appeals. He is also a novelist, has his own practice in New York.  David Michaels’ Blog


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Circuit Court of Appeals Throws Out Nigerian Claims Against Shell Oil

It is now up to the Supreme Court to decide if corporations could be held liable in U.S. courts for violations of international human rights law. Recently, a U.S. Appeals Court dismissed a case against Royal Dutch Shell in which the oil company was accused of helping Nigerian authorities violently suppress protests against oil exploration in the 1990s.  One judge on the three-member appeals court panel wrote a strong dissent of the majority opinion, calling it “a substantial blow to international law.”  In a past interview with attorney Peter Weiss, Peter explained how a 1789 U.S. statute Alien Tort Claim was used to hold multinational corporations accountable for human rights crimes. The case was brought by families of seven Nigerians who were executed by a former military government for protesting Shell’s exploration and development.

Maria LaHood:

  • This was a class action brought by the Ogoni people against Shell parent companies and Nigerian subsidiaries.
  • They brought the case because Shell had been complicit with the military dictatorship in the nineties.
  • They were detaining, torturing and killing people to oppress the grassroots opposition movement to Shell’s environmental degradation. Shell Oil is the US company.
  • Basically, two judges went out of their way to find that corporations can’t be held liable for international human rights violations. The result is that corporations can profit from killing and torturing and can’t be required to compensate the victims.
  • Hopefully this decision won’t stand. This is the first Circuit to rule like this.
  • Unfortunately I think corporations are going to be submitting this decision in their own cases around the country. Hopefully, that won’t be successful. As it stands the decision applies to the Second Circuit, New York, Connecticut and Vermont.
  • Even if this decision stands, the court left open and confirmed you can sue individuals. Even here we can sue CEOs and directors of corporations.

Guest – Attorney Maria LaHood has worked on the case Wiwa v. Royal Dutch/Shell, for the torture, detention and execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and other human rights activists and protesters in Nigeria. Maria LaHood joined the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) in 2004. She specializes in international human rights litigation, seeking to hold government officials and corporations accountable for torture, extrajudicial killings, and war crimes abroad.


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