Monday, August 9, 2010

Rachel's Law: Might Not Be What You Think

Have you ever heard of Rachel's Law? Unlike Megan's Law or Amber Alerts, Rachel's law means different things in different places.

In Florida, Rachel's Law was named for Rachel Hoffman a recent Florida State graduate who was arrested for possession of marijuana and Ecstasy. She was coerced into being a confidential informant in a large drug sting. She was murdered in the process. Rachel's Law now requires training for police who recruit confidential informants; informants must be told that a sentence reduction may not happen; and informants must be told they have the right to a lawyer.

In New York, Rachel's Law is named for author Rachel Ehrenfeld. She was found liable of libel in an overseas court for her book "Funding Evil." The law is also known at the Libel Terrorism Protection Act. The law protects American authors against libel in foreign countries were libel laws are not as strict.

In Arkansas, Rachel's Law is named for Rachel Rutherford a 15-year-old girl who was killed in a boating accident. Rachel's law increases the age for lawful operation of watercraft from 14 to 16.

All three Rachel's' Laws were enacted within the last two years. Interestingly, Florida has enacted it own Rachel's Law (Hoffman) and has enacted New York's Rachel's Law (Ehrenfeld) as well. It's not clear which law actually gets the Rachel's Law designation or if its Rachel's I and Rachel's II.

My Take

On thing is clear. It seems every tragic event has a knee-jerk legislative response. In Arkansas, if a 16-year-old is killed operating a boat will the age be raised to 18? Will the Florida legislature respond legislatively to every incompetent act by police officers during criminal investigations? How about in New York, would the legislature have acted if Ehrenfeld's book was about a Hollywood starlet? The failure of the legisliature to protect someone writing about terrorism is unpatriotic.

From 2000 to 2007, 454 new offenses were added to the federal crime code. It is no coincidence that prison population grew at an enormous pace over the same period of time.


Anonymous said...

Rachel's Law in Arkansas raises the minimum age to 16 for operators of personal watercraft, not boats. The operator of the PWC that struck Rachel was 15. The Personal Watercraft Indiustry Asssociation (PWIA) recommends that no one under the age of 16 operate a personal watercraft. In fact, they even have "model legislation" available. The PWIA is comprised of the major personal watercraft manufacturers.

Dan Schwartz, Editor, The Hearing Blog said...

Mike, I wouldn't quite call the NY version of "Rachel's Law" a "tragic event [that] has a knee-jerk legislative response," as it involved Constitutional and international laws and treaties; and in fact there was Congressional action on it to extend the protections nationwide.

As to your contention that "would the [New York] legislature have acted if Ehrenfeld's book was about a Hollywood starlet?" the answer is a resounding YES, as New York City is the center of the English language publishing world.

What's more, the brand-new multi-hundred-million dollar libel lawsuit against Comcast's Buzzfeed over the phony Trump "dossier" involves these very principles, as it was filed in London.

I invite you to join the public discussion of the Buzzfeed suit, with much backup documentation, below — Be sure to see the comments:

Dan Schwartz, Editor, The Hearing Blog said...

BuzzFeed sued in London court for libel by Alexsej Gubarev over its publication of uncorroborated Trump dossier
…But "Rachel's Law" (named after Islamist terror researcher Dr Rachel Ehrenfeld) provides more stringent protection in US courts against "libel tourism."

A Russian-tied tech firm named in a controversial dossier containing uncorroborated allegations about President Donald Trump and the hacking of Democratic National Committee email accounts announced late Friday that it has filed defamation suits against the online news site BuzzFeed, its editor in chief and a former British intelligence agent.

The lawsuits were brought by XBT Holdings, a Cyprus-based company owned by Russian tech magnate Aleksej Gubarev. Lawyers for his firm filed complaints Friday in London against the former spy and his company, and against BuzzFeed and its editor in chief, Ben Smith, in Broward County Circuit Court in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where XBT’s subsidiary Webzilla is headquartered.

“The dossier included libelous, unverified and untrue allegations regarding XBT, Webzilla and Gubarev. The lawsuits seek yet undetermined compensation for the damages suffered by XBT, Webzilla and Gubarev as the result of the publication of the dossier,” a statement said. (more)

Post a Comment