ADL Disappointed In GA Supreme Court Ruling Striking Down State Hate Crime Law
Note: On October 25, 2004, the Georgia Supreme Court struck down that stateís hate crime law. This action should not prompt questions about the validity of other hate crimes laws. The Georgia law was unusually unspecific in its content and did not follow ADLís model on which many other state hate crime statutes are based. ADL will be working with a broad coalition of civic associations, law enforcement organizations, and civil rights and religious groups to enact a new law in Georgia that will meet these constitutional concerns as quickly as possible. ADLís basic approach, endorsed unanimously by the United States Supreme Court in Wisconsin v. Mitchell, 508 U.S. 47 (1993), is unaffected by this decision and remains legally sound.
Atlanta, GA, October 25, 2004 Ö The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) expressed disappointment in the ruling today by the Georgia Supreme Court striking down the state's hate crime law on the basis that it was too vague, and urged state legislators to tighten up the statute in the next legislative session to make it constitutionally acceptable.
Deborah Lauter, ADL Southeast Regional Director, stated: "The Georgia Supreme Court has made it clear that just saying a crime was motivated by "bias" or "prejudice" is not enough to pass constitutional muster. Now that our legislature is on record for supporting hate crimes legislation, it is incumbent upon them to go back to the drawing board and draft more specific language that will make clear the specific context in which a person's bias or prejudice may apply and give rise to an enhanced penalty."
"All Georgians have a stake in an effective response to violent bigotry. Our statute can easily be re-drafted so that we once again are among the 45 other states, the District of Columbia and the federal government that have passed hate crime statutes that have survived judicial scrutiny. ADL will carry this fight forward into the 2005 legislative session Ė continuing our leadership of the broad coalition of law enforcement, civic, religious and civil rights groups working to enact this necessary legislation."
In Wisconsin v. Mitchell (1993) the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously upheld a Wisconsin hate crime statute that was based on model legislation originally drafted by ADL. That statute provided for an enhanced sentence where the defendant, "Intentionally selects the person against whom the crime [is committed] because of the race, religion, color, disability, sexual orientation, national origin or ancestry of that person."
Citing the annual FBI report, "Crime in the United States 2003," released today which contains statistics on hate crimes, Ms. Lauter said: "In the year 2003 alone, there were close to 7,500 hate crimes reported nationally. That amounts to almost one hate crime every hour of every day in this country. It is imperative that we continue to send a message that such crimes will not be tolerated and will be given a priority response because of their special emotional and psychological impact on the victim and the victim's community."
The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.