Agree That Her Judges are Ignoring
Margaret Marshall delivered a speech
last month to the Chamber of Commerce
in Boston that was delivered in the
context of the recent terrorist attacks.
lectured about the dangers of judges
who ignore the law and due process
in a misguided attempt to correct
a perceived evil.
of the state say she should have remembered
that a week previous when picketers
from the Fatherhood Coalition confronted
her at the Courthouse in Salem.
that day, Justice
Marshall and the Supreme Judicial
Court traveled to Salem Superior Court,
rather than hold court in Boston as
they usually do. They were greeted
by two dozen picketers.
picketer's message was that Massachusetts
courts are conducting a modern-day
witch-hunt against fathers
and men in order to stamp out an illusory
epidemic of domestic violence against
women. This removes many children
from the guidance and companionship
of their fathers.
sign held by a father read:
of the fathers
who picketed Justice
Marshall at the Salem Courthouse.
COURTS ARE HOLDING WITCH TRIALS &
SEX DISCRIMINATION AGAINST
NEED BOTH PARENTS."
interviewed each of the protesters
that day. The men complained that
in domestic matters, judges too often
ignore due process and the law where
they are concerned.
said unfair judges and court personnel,
who are beholden to gender politics,
treat men as though they are dangerous
and evil. They place men automatically
under suspicion as the guilty party.
Women, they said, are automatically
assumed by the courts to be victims,
despite the evidence.
said an atmosphere of hysteria about
domestic violence has contributed
to the problem.
it possible that the fathers
managed to get Margaret Marshall to
hear their message, even though she
didn't stop to talk to them? Marshall's
assistant later told MassNews she
saw some photos from the Salem protest
on the MassNews website, but she did
not want to comment any further.
to Witch Trials
speech to the Chamber contained remarkable
parallels to what the fathers
were saying is happening to them.
They say they feel like victims of
a judicial witch-hunt.
said there have been other times in
our history when anxious communities
have clamored for the illusion of
safety at any price.
gave an example in her speech that
mirrored what Salem protesters were
trying to tell her is happening to
hope you will not find it too far-fetched
if I look back to some events that
may seem far removed from our present
challenges - events that took place
in Salem 300 years ago," said
related that in 1692, the new governor
of the Massachusetts Bay Colony returned
from London with a new charter from
their royal majesties, William and
new charter gave the legislature the
sole power of establishing courts,
while the governor had the right to
governor arrived in the midst of a
crisis. Witches were rumored to be
everywhere destroying livestock, tormenting
children and stealing souls. More
than 60 people had been charged with
practicing witchcraft, which was a
to eradicate witchcraft, the governor
appointed a special court to hear
the charges of witchcraft, even though
exclusive power to create a court
rested with the legislature.
judges, backed by the legal community
and prominent citizens, including
clergy, set about to create the proofs
they needed to convince people that
the court could remedy the problem,"
court began to convict people accused
of witchcraft based not only on confessions
- hard to obtain - but on whole new
categories of evidence developed to
fit a perceived threat.
judges created new rules. They ignored
rules of evidence long developed at
common law. The first victim, Bridget
Bishop, was hanged within a week of
the court's opening term. Little due
process there. Within a matter of
months, 19 people had been hanged,
the victims of both public sentiment
and what might be termed 'judicial
early fall, 1692, reaction had set
in. There was a mood of concern that
system, under the sway of popular
opinion, had distorted the principles
of due process of law."
went on to say that the governor himself
had a change of heart, perhaps precipitated
by rumors that his own wife was a
said the legislature then established
a new court of justice,
the Supreme Judicial Court. Of the
56 accused witches remaining in jail,
only three were declared guilty after
trial by jury, and they were later
pardoned by the governor.
had changed?" asked Marshall.
She said not only had popular opinion
changed, but a court separate and
distinct from the other branches of
government had been lawfully established
- the Supreme Judicial Court. "It
was not a mere instrument for venting
mass anxiety. It was a court subject
to the common law, and governed by
long-established procedures to ascertain
the facts reliably."
then praised the Constitution. "It
emanates from one bedrock premise:
obedience to the rule of law - to
neutral principles of justice
- is the cornerstone of all freedom.
Federal Constitution demands that
the same rules apply equally to everyone.
It demands that justice
be administered fairly and impartially."
said she turned to the words of the
of the Israeli Supreme Court, Aharon
Barak, to help answer the question
about whether the constitutional course
is compatible with the broader public
to Marshall, Barak said that judges
are guided by fundamental values,
not public opinion, hysteria or transient
fashions. Even terrorists have rights
and are to be treated with dignity.
who greeted the SJC at Salem, who
are seen as a threat to public safety
because they are men, say they were
crying out for the same rights and
dignities that Margaret Marshall implied
are owed, even to terrorists.