Rwanda

A recent New York Times article looks the current state of Rwandan society. The article describes how a country which saw one of the worst human tragedies in recent history 16 years ago has now become a “darling of the foreign aid world and something of a central African utopia.” Rwanda has gone from war-torn, corrupt, violent nation to one with clean, safe streets and national health insurance. But the radical change has come at a cost. In order to ensure that any violence simmering under the surface does not reappear, the Rwandan government has brutally repressed free speech and expression; political dissent or even dialogue is not tolerated. Civil society organizations are discouraged from mounting any criticism of the government. The situation in Rwanda is in many ways unsurprising when looked at through the Human Rights and the Holocaust lens. A country with such an excess of pent up spiritual


Apologies Anyone?

  The conventional legal system is only concerned with administrative closure and does not acknowledge moral righteousness. In contrast, the moral justice paradigm serves to integrate the conventional legal paradigm with moral awareness and sensitivity. Consequently, the legal system is misguided and inadequate. Under the conventional legal paradigm there is no interest in giving victims a sense of resolution- a spiritual resolution. The conventional legal paradigm does not acknowledge the power of spiritual penalties and the significance of apologies. Recently, an Oregon jury found the Boy Scouts of America liable for the sexual abuse of a 12-year old boy. The abuse occurred more than 25 years ago. The plaintiff, Kerry Lewis, now 38 is among six other victims who sued the Boy Scouts of America alleging sexual abuse. The victims alleged that during the 1980s, the organization was aware of at least one of the sexual abuse incidents. During the


Revenge: The Conventional Legal Paradigm Begs for It

“The conventional legal paradigm does nothing to prevent or diffuse the desire of revenge.” This sentence from The Myth of Moral Justice reminded me of the 1894 story of 11-year-old Jody Plauchéwho had been taking karate lessons from Jeffrey Doucet (25 year-old pedophile) in Louisiana. Jody was kidnapped by Doucet and taken to a hotel in California during which time Doucet was accused of molesting Jody. Authorities found both Jody and Doucet, and Doucet was quickly extradited back to Louisiana for trial. Leon Plauche, Jody’s father, was at the airport on March 16, 1984 when Doucet was being led by police officers through the airport. Plauche had managed to bring a handgun into the airport with him and stood at a set of telephone booths, pretending to use the phone, waiting until Doucet walked by. As Doucet walked past the telephones, Plauche turned around, raised his firearm and shot Doucet once


Big Ben

More than one week after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodellannounced his (conditional) six-game suspension of Pittsburgh SteelersQuarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the fallout from the decision is still front-pagenews. In case you missed it, here is a brief recap of the events that led up toGoodell’s announcement. On March 5, 2010, a 20-year-old female college studentaccused Roethlisberger of sexual assault following an incident in a bathroom ofa Georgia nightclub. The Midgeville, Georgia Police Department conducted a fullinvestigation and submitted a report to the District Attorney’s Office ofOcmulgee, Georgia. On April 12, District Attorney Fred Blight announced thatRoethlisberger would not face any charges stemming from the incident, notingthat while he did not “condon[e] Mr. Roethlisberger’s actions,” there wasinsufficient evidence to prove criminal charges beyond a reasonable doubt. Whether on ESPN, CNN, or MSNBC, the question posed to every sportsanalyst and legal expert called in to comment on the Roethlisberger situationhas been essentially the same:


Snapped

A few weeks ago I caught an episode of “Snapped,” a true crime series about female killers, on the Oxygen Network. This particular episode was about a woman who worked at a correctional facility as a nurse. While there, she fell in love with and eventually married one of the convicts. It was not long before he had her illegally bringing him food, drugs, and other items. A few months into their marriage, the convict convinced the nurse to figure out a way to break him out of jail. Her plan to do so went horribly wrong when she accidentally shot one of the officers that was transporting her husband. Although they managed to flee the scene, they were eventually found and arrested. The woman was charged with first degree murder and faced either life in prison or the death penalty. Surprisingly, the prosecutor left it up to the family


Honesty and the Law

On April 27th, Oklahoma passed a law requiring that doctors perform ultrasounds on patients considering abortions, as well as provide patients with a “detailed description of the fetus before getting an abortion.” The law is obviously controversial but is defended by the pro-life community as a “statement for the sanctity of human life.” Whether or not this is true, a companion law, also enacted on Tuesday, is unsettling on a level far removed from the pro-choice versus pro-life debate. The second law “prevents women who have had a disabled baby from suing a doctor for withholding information about birth defects while the child was in the womb.” The obvious consequence of the law is that doctors will no longer be required to fully inform pregnant women about the health of their future child. The medical condition of a future child is a relevant concern to any expecting mother, regardless of


Settlement for Goldman?

By Pavan Hari In Law and Literature, we discussed the idea of being able to tell your story in a court of law and having a forum in which your grievances against a defendant can be aired. Professor Rosenbaum has often lectured on the cathartic experience of being able to look your wrongdoer in the eye and telling them that they have wronged you. In many cases, the punishment that ultimately is meted out to a guilty defendant doesn’t bring the type of satisfaction that the plaintiff’s revelations to the court brings. In trial, therefore, a settlement or plea bargain serves to block this truth-seeking mechanism of the court. In the case of Goldman Sachs, the investment banking and securities firm that was recently charged by the SEC for misleading investors about the details of a mortgage-securities deal, it is disheartening to know that the SEC will probably accept a


Human Rights? Depends On Who You Are

Human Rights Holocaust and The Law wrapped up its last class yesterday. Last semester I participated in the International Human Rights Clinic. From my participation in both I have learned a lot and realize there is so much I don’t quite understand. For example, how does one determine the limits of human rights crusades in light of cultural relativity? How do you punish individuals for such vile atrocities like the holocaust and other forms of genocide taking place around the world keeping the notion of human rights in mind? Do human rights violators lose their right to be treated in humanely? Yesterday’s class discussion focused on the Displaced Person’s Act, the Holtzman Amendment, and the idea of collective responsibility. Professor Rosenbaum compared the rights afforded members the KKK even though they are one of the worst human rights violators in the country. To prosecute a KKK member there had to


Poor Journalism

By Nikos Valance It’s almost two weeks ago now that I read one of the – well if not the worst, then maybe the sloppiest or laziest – pieces of journalism I’ve come across in a long time.  The article I’m referring to appeared on the front page of the NY Times website on April 8th.  I don’t read the paper edition, so I’ve no idea where it appeared in that version, though I presume based on its placement on the website that it was prominently placed in the paper itself. The story was a profile of Don Blankenship, the CEO of Massey Energy titled “A Mine Boss Inspired Fear, but Pride Too”.  Massey Energy is the West Virginia coal mining corporation then in the headlines due to the recent accident in one of its mines which ultimately claimed the lives of 29 miners.  At the time the profile ran


Sonia Sotomayor and "12 Angry Men"

This classic 1950s black and white drama, originally written for television in its golden age, was Sidney Lumet’s first feature film for which he received his first of many Oscar nominations as best director. The film largely takes place in a jury room, during a sweltering New York summer where the heat from the weather and the claustrophobia in the room make it even harder for these twelve men to conceal the prejudice and pressure that comes with standing in judgment of a fellow human being. And best of all, the Forum will have Associate Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor as our post-screening guest for a film that she chose for our Festival, something we had never before invited a guest to do. We call it the “Supreme Court Justice prerogative.” Justice Sotomayor is a woman of truly supreme intelligence and accomplishment, and she is a true New Yorker, as