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February: Legal Eyes: Law, Politics & Social Justice

By February 12, 2022April 6th, 2022News

In February, I had my eyes on: 

LAW & POLITICS

Shockingly, lead prosecutors in Manhattan DA’s office resigned over new DA Alvin Bragg expressing doubts about a criminal case against Trump.  It’s very rare for a top prosecutor – especially one brand new to the job – to go against the prosecutors closest to the case.

NY AG James’ case should be unscathed by this so all eyes will turn to her civil matter now.

  • AAPI ISSUES:

Criticism of Olympic gold medalist Eileen Gu reflects racial animosity towards AAPIs stoked by racist rhetoric.

While countless American athletes have participated under the flag of different nations in the Olympics, whether for greater opportunity or for ancestral heritage, none have drawn attention and controversy like Eileen Gu. The 18 year old gold medalist differs from many of these athletes because she was easily skilled enough to compete on behalf of the United States, but chose to represent China. While many of those criticizing this decision and calling it treasonous claim to be doing so on behalf of China’s human rights violations, the geopolitical tensions between the two countries and the increasing violence against Asian Americans clearly play a part as well. Gu made her decision three years ago, long before the pandemic destabilized political tensions, but the controversy it generated is certainly in the present.

  • DOJ ends the racially tinted “China Initiative” after having a judge throw out a particularly flawed case against Professor Gang Chen.  

Reality Check: DOJ will simply be expanding it to include more countries in efforts to defuse the damaging optics of the persecutory program.  The dogmatic initiative aimed to prevent espionage by targeting researchers who failed to disclose funds from China or partnerships with academic institutions there, but after five years of loose allegations and a very low indictment rate, it is clear what the real incentive of the program was. It spurned from the increasing geopolitical tensions between China and the United States. The DOJ claims the initiative will be rebranded to include multiple countries, but it is worth asking if the damage is already done. 

  • Murder victim Christina Yuna Lee was killed by suspect Assad Namash after he followed her into her NYC Chinatown apartment.  

Police & prosecutors need to start viewing hate crime charges more expansively in order to make the hate crimes laws that are on the books effective tools of prosecution.

  • SOCIAL JUSTICE

The successful hate crimes prosecution of Ahmaud Arbery’s killers and federal civil rights convictions of the police officers who failed to protect George Floyd were examples of successful use of federal hate crimes and civil rights laws.  But the use of federal civil rights enforcement against police officer remains all too rare. And the remarkably light sentence of police officer Kim Potter for her killing of Daunte Wright shows the double-standard still prevalent when it comes to policing the police.

Hopefully, prosecutors will take away from the trial of Arbery’s killers the lesson that hate crimes laws already on the books need to be used. To do otherwise is to erase those laws just as the history of racial violence has been erased in our country.