Unsettling result of Bulger trial: soon to hit big screen

Last week I sent out my review of the latest Whitey Bulger documentary that I wrote for Forbes.com. This week I have published another piece in response to Berlinger’s film, this time in Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, that considers the legal details of the Bulger trial in more depth. In this column I argue that, given the ambiguity in the case law governing the admissibility of Bulger’s claimed immunity agreement, Bulger should have been allowed to present this defense. 

I realize that my position here will be seen as questionable by many, and as both wrong and wrong-headed by some. If you have any feedback, whether in agreement or disagreement, feel free to make a comment below the piece on the MLW website, or write me directly at has@harveysilverglate.com .

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WHITEY: An Only-In-Boston Extravaganza Comes To The Big Screen

Last week I attended a screening of Joe Berlinger's excellent documentary WHITEY: United States of America v. James J. Bulger, about the life, times, and trial of Boston's most notorious mobster. I've written a review for Forbes.com examining the immunity defense Whitey Bulger was never allowed to present in court, and the film's thoughtful treatment of the explosive subject.

As always, I’d appreciate your feedback on the topic at hand and encourage you to either post a comment directly below the column on Forbes.com or reach me directly at has@harveysilverglate.com

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Mass. Governor's Council Settles the 'Armenian Genocide' Question...Sort Of

You may be familiar with the kerfuffle that occurred at the Governor’s Council this past fall regarding Joseph S. Berman’s submission for a Superior Court Judgeship. Despite having a distinguished career as a respected litigator here in the Commonwealth, Mr. Berman’s submission was met with fierce resistance due to his affiliation with the Anti-Defamation League. The ADL describes the slaughter of Armenian’s by the Ottoman Empire at the end of WWI as “tantamount to genocide,” but the inclusion of that modifier continues to draw critique and contempt from the Armenian community. While it is known that Mr. Berman worked internally to soften the organization’s line on the issue, his affiliation with the ADL, it appears, is sufficient to impeach his candidacy for the bench. I’ve had my own experience learning just how narrow and politically-ordained the acceptable narrative of the Armenian genocide is in this state, when representing a group of students and teachers wishing to keep so-called “contra-genocide” educational materials in a resource guide provided by the state’s education commissioner. The materials had been removed after significant pressure was exerted by the local Armenian lobby, which appears to be at work again in Berman’s case.

For a more detailed report on this issue of the Armenian genocide debate becoming a third rail in Massachusetts, please see my column posted on WGBH here: http://blogs.wgbh.org/scrum/2014/1/30/governors-council-settles-armenian-genocide-question-sort/

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The Buffer Zone Law Is Unconstitutional

On January 15, 2014, the Supreme Court heard opening arguments in McCullen v. Coakley concerning the abortion clinic buffer zone law in Massachusetts. Passed in 2007, this statute establishes a 35-foot perimeter around the entrances of reproductive health facilities in order to limit what is perceived as the harassment by anti-abortion protesters of employees and patients entering clinics. While I support a woman’s right to choose to terminate her pregnancy, this law extends beyond what is necessary to protect women accessing these facilities (numerous other laws already protect against harassment and violence) and infringes on the First Amendment rights of anti-abortion protesters. This case represents yet another example of the “free speech for me but not for thee” attitude. A free society assures liberty, but not necessarily comfort, for its citizens. 

For more insight on this issue please read my argument against the constitutionality of this law, presented alongside Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley’s argument in support, on the WGBH/News page.

The column after the jump...

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David Koch And The WGBH Controversy: Pledging Allegiance To The Flag Of The Day

A contretemps currently taking place at Boston’s public broadcasting network WGBH is one of the more recent examples of pressure applied by interest groups to enforce ideological conformity. This latest such controversy involves billionaire industrialist and philanthropist David Koch, who sits on the WGBH board. Climate change activists are calling for his dismissal from that post. Without any evidence that Koch – who donates generously to the station – has attempted to influence, much less actually influenced and corrupted the network’s programming, these voices believe that he has no place serving as a board member on account of his minority-held views on the nature of climate shift. A loud and very public campaign, including picket lines outside of the network’s headquarters in Boston, is taking place.


In my recent piece for Forbes.com, I explain the stunted logic of this kind of campaign. Citing Justice Robert Jackson’s famous and moving 1943 Supreme Court opinion in the West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette case, I remind those intolerant of Koch’s role in the public arena that unpopular opinions must be protected against the majority-held or “official” view of the day, particularly with regards to issues as important to all of us as the health of our planet. I invite you to read the full column here: http://www.forbes.com/sites/harveysilverglate/2013/11/15/david-koch-and-the-wgbh-controversy-pledging-allegiance-to-the-flag-of-the-day/.
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