Hate Crimes

A Sixth Circuit ruling earlier this week is a victory for critics of federal hate crime legislation, as well as the defendants in the case, a group of Amish men and women who forcibly cut the hair and sheared the beards of their Amish victims. The defendants, members of the Bergholz Amish community, admitted to a series of attacks against other Amish with whom the defendants had longstanding feuds. In the Amish community, men wear long beards and women grow long hair as signs of piety and view voluntarily cutting one’s own hair as a sign of contrition. Cutting another person’s hair is a forceful condemnation of the victim. Prosecutors had argued that the defendants assaulted their victims because of their religious identity. The case is the first appellate case involving a religious hate crime brought under The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009. The statute prohibits “willfully caus[ing] bodily injury to any person . . . because of the actual or perceived . . . religion . . . of [that] person.”

In one of the instances at issue, Martin and Barbara Miller’s children and their children’s spouses cut Barbara’s hair and sheared Martin’s beard. The children insisted at trial that they attacked their parents to punish them for “bad parenting.” The kids thought Martin and Barbara were cruel, punitive, and spiteful as a father and mother. The kids did not argue that Martin and Barbara’s “bad parenting” justified assaulting them. The kids only argued that they didn’t attack their parents because their parents were Amish, or even because they believed that their parents’ bad parenting was a sign of them being lousy at being Amish. Rather, they attacked their parents because they believed that their parents were lousy at being parents.

Assaulting your parents in a way that is particularly hurtful to their religious values is a good way to make clear that you won’t be attending the next family picnic, but is it a good way to commit a federal hate crime?

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* While Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts made a plea to keep funding for the federal judiciary intact, we learned that student loan default cases have fallen since 2011. You really gotta love that income-based repayment. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* Introducing the Asia 50, a list of the largest firms in the Asia-Pacific region. When it comes to the firms with the biggest footprints, only one American Biglaw shop made the cut. Go ahead and take a wild guess on which one it was. [Asian Lawyer]

* Congratulations are in order, because after almost a year of stalling, Arnold & Porter partner William Baer was finally confirmed by the Senate as the chief of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. [Bloomberg]

* Our elected officials might not have allowed the country to fall off the fiscal cliff, but the American Invents Act was put on hold, so if you’re a patent nerd, you can still be mad about something. [National Law Journal]

* Remember when Rutgers-Camden Law said “many top students” were making bank after graduation? Yeah, about that: Law School Transparency just filed an ABA complaint. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* Here are some law school trends to look out for in 2013. FYI, the applicant pool is smaller because no one wants to foolishly gamble on their careers anymore. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News & World Report]

* In the latest NYC subway shoving death, a woman was charged with second-degree murder as a hate crime, and allegedly bragged about other hate crimes she’s committed to police. Lovely. [New York Times]

* Next time you’re trapped on a plane that’s literally filled with other people’s crap for 11 hours, don’t bother suing over your hellish experience — you’re going to be preempted by federal law. [New York Law Journal]

Sometimes bad things happen on campus and the administration tries to cover it up and pretend like everything is swell and ugliness does not exist.

This is not one of those times.

At the University of Florida Levin College of Law, a law professor appears to have been the victim of a hate crime. Upon learning of the issue, the dean of the law school condemned the action in the strongest language possible and asked any student with knowledge of the events to come forward and inform the authorities.

It’s really the only appropriate response for a school to have in a situation like this…

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* Man brings knife to a gun fight with NYPD. I think we all know how that ended. [Huffington Post]

* The House has brought a civil compliant against Eric Holder. In other news, it’s an election year! [Blog of the Legal Times]

* Ah, the never-ending quest for the perfect suit for the female attorney. All of the jokes I have right now are sexist. So I won’t make one. But I’m thinking it. [Corporette]

* Golf, even mini-golf, remains an excellent way to network. [Asbury Park Press]

* It looks like the Oak Creek shootings are going to go down as a hate crime. I care less about why the shooter did it and more that he’s punished. [CNN]

* Stop-and-Frisk doesn’t so much work. [DNAinfo]

* Don’t forget to submit your awesome office for our Lawyerly Lairs contest. [Above the Law]

* The Sixth Circuit delved into the question of law professors’ tenure in a recent decision, noting that it doesn’t guarantee a job for life. But seriously, why on earth would you want to have a lifetime career at Cooley Law anyway? [National Law Journal]

* Was the Wisconsin Sikh temple shooting a hate crime? Well, the shooter was in a racist skinhead band and purchased supplies from a neo-Nazi group, if that gives you a clue. [Reuters]

* Bet nobody saw this kind of douchebaggery happening: Jackson Lewis has been tapped to represent a member of Penn State’s board of trustees to appeal the NCAA’s unappealable sanctions, and he’s recruiting fellow trustees to join him. [Am Law Daily]

* No more “no comment” for this former reporter: Bruce Brown, a partner at Baker Hostetler, was appointed as the new executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. [Blog of Legal Times]

* As expected, Jared Lee Loughner pleaded guilty in the Arizona shooting that killed six people and wounded 13 others. He’ll likely receive several life sentences as opposed to the death penalty. [Wall Street Journal]

* “This sh*t ain’t no joke yo, I’m serious, people are gonna die like Aurora.” Twitter, please cooperate so the police don’t have to subpoena you when a user threatens to commit a massacre in NYC. [NBC New York]

Today is the sentencing hearing for Dharun Ravi in the Tyler Clementi case. Ravi has been convicted of invasion of privacy and bias intimidation.

Prosecutors in the case have been asking Superior Court Judge Glenn Berman to sentence Ravi to prison time. And of course there are a bunch of other people who want Ravi to pay the stiffest possible penalty.

I’ve been listening to the hearing all day. Let’s take a look at what happened…

Various UPDATES have been added after the jump. Refresh this post for the latest.

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[T]he fact that it is constitutional and commonplace does not quiet the nagging sense that hate crime legislation resembles something from an Orwell dystopia. Horrific crimes deserve stern justice, but don’t we want to be careful about criminalizing a defect of character? Because our founders believed that democracy requires great latitude for dissent, America, virtually alone in the developed world, protects the right to speak or publish the most odious points of view. And yet the government is authorized to punish you for thinking those vile things, if you think them in the course of committing a crime.

Bill Keller, former executive editor of the New York Times, in an op-ed piece discussing the cases of Tyler Clementi and Trayvon Martin.

(A law professor makes a cameo in the column, after the jump.)

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Members of the University of Illinois College of Law community received sad and disturbing news yesterday when they learned that a faculty member at the law school was the victim of an apparent hate crime.

The law professor (who remains anonymous at the request of the University) was found on the second floor of the Illinois Terminal on Wednesday.

University president Michael Hogan assured students and faculty that the alleged attack was made by a person who is not affiliated with the university….

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I’m on record as being somewhat uncomfortable with hate crimes legislation. I’m just not wild about the government punishing people for what’s in their thoughts. But I do see why society might want to make racial animus an aggravating factor in crimes.

It’s complicated, and that makes me think that prosecutors should show some flex when it comes to slapping a hate crime designation on top of a crime. But reasonable people will disagree, and I get that.

What I don’t get is how any rational human being could legitimately think that a small child is guilty of a “hate crime.” I don’t even see how a 6th grader — an 11-year-old kid — has the mens rea to commit a hate crime. Eleven-year-olds don’t commit hate crimes, they throw temper tantrums.

But New York City is going to try to stick a hate crime on a little kid from Staten Island…

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I’m on record as being generally uncomfortable with hate crime designations. I’m not against hate crime laws across the board. You show me a guy with a demonstrable history of bigotry who then goes around beating people of some particular group, and I’m all for enhanced punishment. But in general I don’t think the state should be involved in punishing what’s in a man’s heart. If you murder someone, you are a hater; does it really matter why you hated the person?

And hate crime laws seem to force law enforcement into ridiculous positions. They’ve got to try to use physical evidence to prove or disprove what people were thinking when they did something. That’s like trying to figure out why I smoke based on my ashtray.

A great example of the problems with hate crime legislation is what’s going on at Harvard University right now. People found books in one of the undergraduate libraries were soaked in urine. But the books were about LGBT issues. HATE CRIME ALERT!

Or is it? Harvard police don’t really know, so they are being forced to say some absolutely ridiculous things…

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