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Justicesí positions in ADL Cases (1993-2007)
NEWSLETTER: ADL in the Courts
Hate Crimes

New York vs. Mazin Assi (New York Court of Appeals, 2009)
This case involves the first hate crime prosecution under the New York Hate Crime Act. The defendant and his friends placed Molotov cocktails outside a Bronx synagogue to send an anti-Israel message to the Jewish community. The defendants argued, in part, that their act was not a hate crime because it targeted a building, rather than a person. ADL, which was active in advocating for the passage of the New York Hate Crime Act in 2000, submitted an amicus brief arguing that the statute’s plain language, the legislative purpose at the time of its passage, and public policy confirm that the New York Hate Crime Act covers crimes against property. New York State’s highest court agreed with ADL and held that the New York legislature clearly intended for crimes against property to be covered under the Act, and that “although the target of defendant's criminal conduct was a building, the true victims were the individuals of Jewish faith who were members of the synagogue.”

Wisconsin v. Welda (Wisconsin Supreme Court)
This case involves a challenge to a hate crime penalty enhancement to a disorderly conduct criminal charge. Petitioners argue that because the underlying crime was speech-only, and speech forms the basis of the penalty enhancement, the charge is unconstitutional. ADL submitted an amicus brief arguing that the U.S. Supreme Court had upheld this very statute as constitutional in Wisconsin v. Mitchell. The League further argued that unprotected speech that constitutes a crime may be subject to penalty enhancements. PDF 3,000 kb

Virginia v. Black (2003): The question at issue in this case is Virginia's cross burning law. The statute outlaws the use of a burning cross as a means of threatening another person, but not for other purposes. ADL argues that a cross burning statute does not run afoul of the First Amendment if it punishes only criminal behavior such as intimidation and that the government has the clear power to outlaw serious threats of violence as criminal conduct is not immune from punishment merely because it is disguised as expressive activity.

R.A.V. v. St. Paul (505 U.S. 377 (1992)) This case concerned a local bias-motivated criminal ordinance which prohibited the display of a symbol which "arouses anger, alarm or resentment in others on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, or gender." A local teenager was charged under this ordinance after allegedly burning a cross on a black family's lawn. ADL's brief argued that the ordinance was constitutional. The brief stated that punishing hate crimes advances clear and compelling public policy and that a municipality may properly prohibit cross burning when that act constitutes a bias-motivated personal attack. Further, ADL asserted that the ordinance prohibited only conduct which constituted fighting words or which incited imminent lawless action. As so construed, the ordinance was neither overbroad nor vague. The Court, however, held in a 9-0 opinion that the ordinance was overly broad and impermissibly content-based in violation of the Free Speech Clause. PDF 174 kb

State of Wisconsin v. Mitchell (508 U.S. 476 (1993)): The question at issue in this case was whether or not hate crime legislation, which authorizes increased penalties for bias-motivated crimes, violates the First Amendment. In its brief, ADL successfully maintained that these laws do not impermissibly penalize thought or speech, but rather punish a particularly egregious and socially unconscionable type of conduct.

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Justices' Positions in Supreme Court Hate Crimes Cases
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