Jun 202016
 

In light of today’s Fourth Amendment-eroding Supreme Court decision in Utah v. Streif, and Justice Sotomayor’s scathing indictment of it:

The Court today holds that the discovery of a warrant for an unpaid parking ticket will forgive a police officer’s violation of your Fourth Amendment rights. Do not be soothed by the opinion’s technical language: This case allows the police to stop you on the street, demand your identification, and check it for outstanding traffic warrants—even if you are doing nothing wrong. If the officer discovers a warrant for a fine you forgot to pay, courts will now excuse his illegal stop and will admit into evidence anything he happens to find by searching you after arresting
you on the warrant. Because the Fourth Amendment should prohibit, not permit, such misconduct, I dissent.

I thought I would repost something I wrote in law school about an earlier Supreme Court decision, Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial District Court, that ran roughshod over the idea that people might have a constitutional right — and need — to refuse to identify themselves to the police. Given, as Justice Sotomayor notes, that such an identification can lead to other incursions on one’s liberty I think it’s worth remembering some of the earlier jurisprudence that has brought us to where we are with this case today.

(Originally posted 3/23/04. I’ve edited the writing slightly now to make sure the point I was trying to make back then are more clearly conveyed now, but I have not otherwise edited it for substance. While today I would tend to frame my legal analysis slightly differently, I think the rough take of a 1L still captures valid concerns that today’s ruling exemplifies and exacerbates.)
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Jun 082016
 

Seeing news that Israel has named a street after Chiune Sugihara, I thought I’d repost what I wrote about him in law school:

There was another excellent show on PBS this evening on Chiune Sugihara, a Japanese diplomat in Lithuania who wrote visas for thousands of Jewish refugees during World War II. He suffered for his actions personally afterwards – his foreign career effectively destroyed as a punishment (a true shame, given his remarkable linguistic and cultural acclimation skills) – but today thousands and thousands of people and their descendants are alive because of his sacrifice, to risk sanction from his superiors and write all those visas.

The show was also interesting to me on another point: examining the relationship between the Jews and the Japanese. In particular it explained a comment I had heard in my family that previously had no explanation.

I’ve written before about my great-grandmother’s brothers who had escaped Russia in the early 1900s by running east to China. There they settled in Harbin, a city full of expatriate Europeans, including many other Jews. They thrived there, even through World War II. And that was the comment – that the Japanese treated the Jews very well. Unfortunately during that period the Japanese army treated the Chinese people very poorly, which is why there was such confused marveling over why my relatives had no problems themselves.

There seems to be two explanations: one, that there were industrialists in Japan who actively wanted to settle Jews in China, to develop industry using their skills and education. In fact, at one point the Japanese, at the urging of these industrialists, offered to Jewish leaders that it would accept all the European Jewish refugees, with or without passports, so that they could settle in Japanese territory. This offer, however, was unfortunately declined by an American Jewish leader in the misplaced hope that if the European Jews had no viable options left, Roosevelt would step in and finally let them come to the United States and England would let them enter Palestine. Sadly neither of these things came to pass. Boatloads of refugees were turned back at Palestine, many to end up immediately shipped off to concentration camps upon return to Europe, and largely at the urging of anti-Semites in the State Department, America’s borders stayed shut as well.

The other explanation stems from a conversation between Japanese officials, by then allied with the Germans, and a Jewish leader representing the large population of Lithuanian refugees who by now were temporarily settled in Tokyo. Their numbers and the irregularities surrounding their immigration were cause of some concern to the Japanese officials, and Germany was heavily lobbying for Japan to adopt its policies of Jewish extermination. So the Japanese officials asked the Jewish leaders why they should not abide by the Germans’ wishes.

“Because we are all Asians,” was the response. You from the eastern side in Japan, and we from the western in [Israel]. Besides, when the Germans talk about the population they aspire to have, it is all Aryan. It’s all about blonde hair and blue eyes, which the Japanese don’t have. Believe us, they said, when they’re done with us they’ll come for you next.

Whether this explanation was the reason or not, the Japanese chose to resist the Germans’ urgings and let the refugees stay. And Mr. Sugihara was eventually vindicated by history, being honored by the survivors, the State of Israel, and also his native Japan. In Israel, like Schindler, he is known as a righteous person, and more people should know of his deeds.

Originally posted May 5, 2005.  I then had a sad update about his widow here.

Jun 072016
 

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve gone back and forth, and back and forth, and back and forth some more about whom I would vote for in the California primary today. It is in many ways an awful choice to have to make, choosing between two such supremely qualified candidates. On the other hand, it is also the best possible choice to have to make, to have one’s electoral cup runneth over with two such excellent choices. Given the way they complement, and the way they differ, I wish they were the principle choice for the general election in November.

But I have to make a choice today, and I’ve chosen to go with Clinton. It’s hard because there is so much I like about Sanders: I like that he has forced a public dialog about wealth distribution in the United States and championed having the fundamental underpinnings of modern American life – in particular health and college education – available to all. I like that he has been able to move the needle as far as he has as an outsider, and, indeed, that he has challenged the status quo that tends to benefit political insiders at the expense of important policy values carried by outsiders. I like him as a man, and as a refreshingly ordinary man for whom intense attention does not appear to have caused him to internalize his own celebrity. And, as a Jewish person in America, I like that he has been able to open doors I was not convinced were open to other Jewish people aspiring to serve the country in such an office.

Identity politics are not the basis by which I generally like to make political decisions, however. Choosing the “X” candidate without any other inquiry into the candidate’s qualification is not likely to lead to good governance. And in this primary they are of little utility to me in any direct way anyway, because while on the one hand I’m Jewish, on the other hand I’m also a woman. Either way my purely demographic interests are advanced regardless of which candidate wins.

At the same time, one of the reasons diversity is an important value is because everyone is both shaped and inherently limited by their own lived experience. Problems and solutions will go unseen when they fall into blindspots, which is why it is good to have a diversity of perspectives represented. And I was starting to see a problem.
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