Shalom Rubashkin’s Universal Narrative
Yet again, the plight of Agriprocessors boss Shalom Rubashkin has been the subject of more media attention, as his attorneys argued an appeal before a panel of judges in Missouri last week. The ruling was however delayed.
At this juncture it is widely accepted that his overzealous sentencing by District Court Judge Linda Reade, was a gross perversion of justice. What is at stake here however, is the contention that the judge should in reality have been disqualified from presiding over the case, due to her active and early engagement with law enforcement officials leading up to the raid on the Iowa meatpacking plant. As lawyer Nathan Lewin argued that it certainly appeared “that the judge had stepped into the shoes of a prosecutor.”
Writing on the subject last year, I surmised that due to the high profile nature of the case, it was vulnerable to manipulation by individuals seeking to make a name for themselves. Now it seems apparent that Linda Reade is a primary culprit in this self-glorifying stunt, pulling the strings from very early on in the case she has penned her own narrative from beginning to end, trampling on her mandate for impartiality.
A few minutes on Google is enough to indicate that the Rubashkin trial is by far the highest profile case that a she has presided over. She seems determined not to let this ‘opportunity’ to make a statement with her sentencing, pass by.
Luckily, but also as a matter of common sense, a significant number of prominent individuals has come out in his defense. This group includes Congressman Jerrold Nadler, Eliot Engel, Carolyn McCarthy, Edolphus Towns, Carolyn Maloney, Steve Israel and Yvette Clarke amongst others. Additionally the head of the Democratic National Committee, Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, has been active on Rubashkin’s behalf, as well as a number of former U.S. Attorneys General and esteemed Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz.
The Rubashkin case is by no means a limited matter of a community supporting one of their own, or knee jerk Jewish huddling, but a matter of national significance. The integrity of the American justice system has been challenged by the effects of mass media influence and the culture of judicial arrogance.
Activists who are campaigning on behalf of Rubashkin are aware that in order to counterbalance the established prejudice, it is of primary importance to effectively communicate the relevance of this cause to the widest possible audience.
It is crucial that those involved in this campaign, do not allow the cause to be considered in the eyes of lawmakers as just an orthodox Jewish one, or even solely a Jewish one for that matter. The focal point of the Rubashkin cause is not only connected to the man himself, but rather to the cause of Justice and fairness not limited to an individual and effecting all.
Some of the initiatives that have been implemented up until this point, may have been well meaning, but neglected to address this concern. As a consequence, their impact may be limited, possibly even having an adverse effect on the outcome.
For example, the Unity for Justice Campaign produced a video that strongly suggested that support for the cause was limited to Orthodox Jews. This is a gross misrepresentation considering the vast array of public figures that have come forward in support for justice. Any media materials produced with the aim of building popular support for Rubashkin, must include statements made by the most recognizable and influential champions of the cause.
The Shalom Across America program, is a powerful initiative if the correct message is conveyed. I would suggest however that the depiction of a tipped scale would be appropriate to incorporate into the imagery. This would immediately convey the crux of the cause that is being fought for and the necessity for broad involvement, while appealing to people’s most basic moral sense.
Make no mistake, the fight for fairness and impartiality in America’s courts is broad and far reaching in its appeal. A concerted and continued effort to educate the public is vitally important, and as long as the messages are correctly packaged, they can go a long way.