All posts filed under: Law

Jeffrey Epstein and All the Others: An Explainer

Jeffrey Epstein is the model villain for this cultural moment. He stands at the nexus of three of our hottest flashpoints: male sexual assault, capitalism’s oligarchs’ greed, and corruption, and the vulnerability of children horribly mistreated in Manhattan townhouses and private Caribbean islands as well as along our Southern borders. So it’s understandable that a lot of people have looked at Epstein’s venality primarily through the lens of these contemporary themes—understandable, but myopic. Epstein’s crimes present an opportunity to consider larger historical, anthropological, cultural lessons about the seemingly endless, whack-a-mole reappearance of men with his obsessions. The truth is the attraction of older males to young females on the cusp of maturity is not so much the story of rich capitalist scumbags exercising droight du seigneur, as it is a universal urge for reproductive success likely grounded deep in our primitive brains. This is in by no means to excuse or forgive any grown men who seek sex with young girls. On the contrary. They violate one of the modern world’s key moral principles. And …

A Canadian Human Rights Spectacle Exposes the Risks of Unfettered Gender Self-ID

There’s an important category in logic known as reductio ad absurdum, according to which you contradict an argument by showing that its general application will produce absurd results. It has been in my mind over the past fortnight or so, as I’ve followed a human-rights tribunal in British Columbia, Canada, and watched it deal with complaints made by trans woman Jessica Yaniv (or “Jonathan Yaniv”: The person apparently goes by both names) against three aestheticians. When it comes to the notion that “gender identity”—the self-declared, subjective feeling of being a man or woman—can reasonably be taken to trump biological sex in law and daily life, Yaniv presents us with a reductio ad absurdum on two legs. For those who have not been following the case (which, oddly, has been covered by the international media, but mostly ignored by Canada’s own press), the details will sound unbelievable. Last year, Yaniv used social media to contact 16 female aestheticians in the Vancouver area, most working out of their own homes, who advertized Brazilian waxing—the removal of some …

The Many Lies of Carl Beech

On July 22, a two month trial at the Newcastle Crown Court ended with the conviction of Carl Beech on 12 counts of perverting the course of justice, and one of fraud. A seemingly unremarkable NHS manager, Beech had spun a web of falsehoods naming numerous men—alive and dead—from the world of politics, the army, and the security services, of murder and mind-bogglingly dreadful acts of child sexual abuse. Millions of pounds were spent by the Wiltshire and Metropolitan Police investigating his claims, and then millions more by the Northumbria Police, proving that they were false. To make matters even worse, it emerged during his trial that Beech had pleaded guilty in January to spying on children for his own sexual gratification, and had made and stored hundreds of indecent images of children. A man whose story had convinced the Metropolitan Police’s finest detectives, a number of MPs, journalists, and anti-abuse campaigners was finally proven to be a fraudster, a liar, and a paedophile. He will be sentenced tomorrow and can expect to spend many …

How Due Process Fell Victim to Good Intentions: A Veteran Court Reporter Looks Back

The essay that follows is adapted from remarks delivered by the author upon receipt of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms’ George Jonas Freedom Award on June 14 in Toronto. I find it amusing that we’re here, celebrating freedom, at a time when Canada’s federal justice committee unanimously has agreed to rewrite recent history. In the last week of May, Conservative MP Michael Cooper dared to quote three lines from New Zealand terrorist Brenton Tarrant’s dreary manifesto in response to a bit of a hectoring from a Muslim witness who’d appeared before the committee, which was studying online hate. The witness was Faisal Khan Suri, the president of the Alberta Muslim Public Affairs Council, and among the things he said was this: We’ve seen a lot of recent tragedies happen across the world. In January 2017, the Quebec City mosque killer, Alexandre Bissonnette, gunned down six Muslim men in execution style when he came into the mosque with two guns and fired more than 800 rounds. The evidence from Bissonnette’s computer showed he repetitively sought …

Human Dignity and Human Rights

My forthcoming monograph for the University of Wales Press, Making Human Dignity Central to International Human Rights Law: A Critical Legal Argument, discusses a number of topics, ranging from the state of critical legal scholarship to international relations. However, much of what I might have written even a year earlier was profoundly altered by the rise to power of postmodern conservatives. Frequently agitating for a nationalist agenda, and opposed to universal human rights, this development lent my book a more cynical edge. Nevertheless, I still consider it an optimistic text—one that defends an emancipatory conception of human dignity and the steps we might take to realize it. Dignity’s Unusual History Conceptions of human dignity go back a very long way. Many of the great religions of the world—including the monotheistic faiths of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam—offer human dignity as something bestowed by God. Buddhists argue that the locus of human dignity lies in our capacity to pursue self-perfection. The term itself arose in the thirteenth century from the Latin dignitas, which referred to the “worthiness” of …

How Antifa’s Apologists Fell in Love With Street Violence

A day before the 2017 Women’s March, spectators and activists of all stripes descended on Washington, D.C. for the inauguration of President Trump. Supporters of the new president wore “Make America Great Again” baseball caps and toted “Trump-Pence 2016” signs. Detractors were more colorful. “Trump is the symptom, capitalism is the disease, socialism is the cure,” read one sign, wielded by a woman with a T-shirt depicting a clenched fist. Others were at least funny: I spotted a man holding a sign featuring a cartoon Batman slapping Trump in the face with the caption “Stop tweeting!”—a parody of a drawing from the Batman comics, in which the caped crusader slaps Robin. The demonstrations were mostly peaceful. Mostly. Masked protesters known simultaneously as the “black bloc” (because they wear black clothes and hoods to mask their identities) and “antifa” (as in anti-fascist) smashed the windows of a local Starbucks and a Bank of America. They also set a limousine on fire. How these acts of property damage were intended to undermine Trump remains a mystery, given …

Ideology and Facts Collide at Oberlin College

Our political and media cultures are suffering the effects of too many opinion-havers and too few fact-finders. This can make it difficult to figure out what is going on in a story and to distinguish fact from partisan or ideological bias, especially when those biases flatter our own. The recently concluded libel trial involving Oberlin College offered a demonstration of this phenomenon on the part of both the defendants and much of the media covering the case. On June 7, an Ohio jury found that Oberlin College had libelled a local shop, Gibson Bakery and Market, as racist, and awarded the family business hefty damages. The case aroused a great deal of interest in legal, academic, and civil rights communities, which in turn produced a great deal of commentary, much of which was tendentious, speculative, and/or uninformed. The news coverage of this case was puzzling from the beginning. It was a case that involved college student protests, a liberal arts college with a history of progressive activism, free market economics, free speech, defamation, accusations of …

My Testimony on Reparations

Editor’s note: Coleman Hughes delivered the following testimony at a United States House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on Bill H.R. 40 on June 19, 2019. If passed, the bill would establish a commission for reparations. Thank you Chairman Cohen, ranking member Johnson, and members of the committee. It’s an honor to testify on a topic as important as this one. Nothing I’m about to say is meant to minimize the horror and brutality of slavery and Jim Crow. Racism is a bloody stain on this country’s history, and I consider our failure to pay reparations directly to freed slaves after the Civil War to be one of the greatest injustices ever perpetrated by the U.S. government. But I worry that our desire to fix the past compromises our ability to fix the present. Think about what we’re doing today. We’re spending our time debating a bill that mentions slavery 25 times but incarceration only once, in an era with zero black slaves but nearly a million black prisoners—a bill that doesn’t mention homicide once, at a …

The Life of a Transgender Prisoner

Last month’s school shooting in the suburbs of Denver, Colorado, claimed the life of an innocent child. Eight more were injured. In the way that this crime affects the victims and their families, the tragedy is similar to many previous incidents. But it also uniquely highlights a criminal justice challenge that has been the subject of debate: what to do with transgender criminals? In the UK, where prisoners are classified primarily according to a policy of “self-identification,” recent controversy has focused on Karen White, a violent transgender woman who was moved to a male facility in 2018 after being accused of sexually assaulting multiple female prisoners. In the United States, where prisoners generally are classified according to their biological sex, the issue has been less prominent. However, that may soon change. One of the two suspected shooters in Colorado is listed in court records as Maya McKinney, a 16-year-old female. However, the suspect now identifies as “Alec,” and has asked that male pronouns be used in all official proceedings—even though Alec is being housed in …