Saturday, September 24, 2011

UC Irvine Students Convicted of Disrupting Israel Ambassador's Speech

Our colleagues at the Constitutional Law Prof Blog have posted about the jury verdict in Orange County, California.  Eleven Muslim students disrupted a speech at the University of California at Irvine by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren in February 2010.  The jury found them guilty of disrupting a public meeting and the students were sentenced to probation.

The case may remind some international law professors about the pre-Constitutional case of Respublica v. de Longchamps, 1 U.S. 111 (1784).  In that case, the Chevalier de Longchamps was indicted of threatening violence to the consul-general of France to the state of Pennsylvania.  He actually made an assault on the consul-general (something none of the Irvine students did) by striking the consul-general's cane.  The jury convicted him of assault.  The decision by Chief Justice McKean of Pennsylvania in sentencing the Chevalier stated that the crime was:

an infraction of the law of nations.  This law, in its full extent, is part of the law of this state, and is to be collected from the practice of different nations, and the authority of writers.  The person of a public minister is sacred and inviolable.  Whoever offers any violence to him, not only affronts the sovereign he represents, but also hurts the common safety and well-being of nations--he is guilty of a crime against the whole world.

Further, he wrote (in language we really wouldn't see today in a court opinion):

You then have been guilty of an atrocious violation of the law of nations; you have grossly insulted gentlemen, the peculiar objects of this law (gentlemen of amiable characters, and highly esteemed by the government of this state), in a most wanton and unprovoked manner: and it is now the interest as well as the duty of this government, to animadvert upon your conduct with a becoming severity--such a severity as may tend to reform yourself, to deter others from the commission of the like crime, preserve the honor of the state, and maintain peace with our great and good ally [France], and the whole world. . . .

As Mark Weston Janis and John Noyes note in their casebook on International Law (on page 264, 4th edition), the De Longchamps case "provided ammunition for those favoring the creation of a federal judiciary under the U.S. Constitution with jurisdiction to hear cases involving foreign citizens."  And as Constitutional scholars will remember, Article III(2) of the U.S. Constitution now provides that the judicial power of the United States shall extend "to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls . . . ."

Click here to read the blog posts and to see a video of the Irvine demonstrations.



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