Peter Erlinder

* Yesterday was a big day at the Supreme Court. Who were the Biglaw winners and losers at One First Street? [Am Law Daily]

* Of the four opinions from yesterday, McDonald v. Chicago, aka “the guns case,” seems to have generated the most headlines. [How Appealing (linkwrap)]

* And Solicitor General Elena Kagan wants to get in on all the fun. Dana Milbank summarizes yesterday’s confirmation hearings in five words: “talking about Elena is boring.” [Washington Post]

* Federal prosecutors have accused 11 people of being part of a Russian spy ring — including couples living apparently normal lives in places like Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Montclair, New Jersey. [New York Times]

* BP gets hit with a RICO suit. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Some people can’t get a break. Law professor Peter Erlinder, back in St. Paul after his release from a prison in Rwanda, got mugged at gunpoint. [ABA Journal]

Law professor Peter Erlinder’s summer break continues to suck.

Last week, we told you about the William Mitchell College of Law professor, who traveled to Rwanda to help with the defense of a political leader running against the incumbent president. He was arrested soon after his arrival because of his “genocidal ideology.” He allegedly violated Rwanda’s laws against minimizing the 1994 genocide in which more than 500,000 Rwandans, mainly ethnic Tutsis, were killed.

Erlinder, who previously defended a Hutu during the International Criminal Tribunals in 2003, contends that it’s inaccurate to blame just one side for what happened. That got him locked in the Rwandan slammer, along with the opposition leader he went to Kigali to defend. During interrogations last week, he fell ill, leading to his hospitalization. Erlinder’s wife says he needs his blood pressure medicine. His daughter told us she’s hoping the State Department will intervene.

He pleaded not guilty to the genocide-denial charges during a hearing on Friday, but the Rwandan judge decided today to turn down Erlinder’s bail application.

What are the charges based on? It appears obscure publications don’t just come back to haunt lawyers during Senate confirmation hearings….

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A law professor from Minnesota is not having a very good start to his summer break. As we previously mentioned in the Memorial Day Docket, a William Mitchell College of Law professor, Peter Erlinder, 62, traveled to Rwanda last month to help with the legal defense of Victoire Ingabire, an opposition leader running against current-President Paul Kagame in the central African country’s August elections.

Erlinder, who previously defended a Rwandan accused of genocide during the International Criminal Tribunals in 2003, was arrested within a week of his arrival for denying that genocide occurred there. (If you need a history lesson here, watch Hotel Rwanda.) From the Associated Press:

Erlinder is accused of violating Rwanda’s laws against minimizing the genocide in which more than 500,000 Rwandans, the vast majority of them ethnic Tutsis, were massacred by Hutus in 100 days. Erlinder doesn’t deny massive violence happened but contends it’s inaccurate to blame just one side.

Erlinder’s views are generally controversial. See, e.g., this open letter he wrote about Darfur (via the WSJ).

Erlinder could face up to 25 years in prison. His defenders say his arrest has more to do with his efforts on behalf of an opposition candidate than his views on genocide. But the Rwandan government has a different view:

[Rwandan Prosecutor General Martin] Ngoga’s office compared Rwanda’s laws to those in some European countries against denying the Holocaust.

“We understand that human rights activists schooled in the U.S. Bill of Rights may find this objectionable,” government spokeswoman Louise Mushikiwabo said in a statement. “But for Rwandans — schooled in the tragedy of the 1994 genocide and who long for peace — Mr. Erlinder’s arrest is an act of justice.”

How did Erlinder get into this mess? We corresponded with his daughter, who shed some light on the situation….

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