Judge in Van Dyke trial is wrong to restrict the public’s right to attend

SHARE Judge in Van Dyke trial is wrong to restrict the public’s right to attend
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Protesters say they came to the Leighton Criminal Courthouse on the first day of the Jason Van Dyke murder trial to make sure Laquan McDonald gets justice and is not forgotten. | Ashlee Rezin/Chicago Sun-Times

Like many Chicagoans, I’m very concerned about the outcome of the Jason Van Dyke trial. The proceedings represent a historic moment for our city, potentially a watershed moment. I’d like to attend portions of the trial, but in keeping with the judge’s unprecedented rules, I’d have to pre-register at the courthouse the day before I want to attend. I think this unnecessarily impedes the public’s ability to participate in civic affairs.

The public’s constitutional right to observe cases ought to be protected and promoted, especially when it’s the public that brings forth that case in the first place. Van Dyke is on trial because of citizens, activists and journalists who made the police dashcam video of Laquan McDonald’s shooting public. The people brought this case to light, and they deserve to watch the trial they made happen. Just as the city tried to justify the suppression of the dashcam video, under the pretext that it would cause riots if seen by the public (it didn’t), the same powers-that-be are allowing an undue burden to be placed on our right to observe the trial, presumably based on the same false assumptions.

What other purpose could the pre-registration rule serve than to ensure that not too many people access the courtroom? Don’t bother showing up for history, the court seems to be saying. And we wonder at the decline of civic engagement! Our presence in the courtroom is a reminder that this our case and our city. We want to be in the room, to be part of history, to show we care about matters of the utmost importance for our communal life. Our presence means something, and our presence is being obstructed.

Simply put: ensuring Van Dyke’s constitutional right to a defense should not come at the expense of our constitutional right to public participation. The pre-registration rule in the Van Dyke case is unjust and should be removed.

Gabriel Montero, Andersonville

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Questioning Kavanaugh integrity

The nomination and approval of a U.S. Supreme Court justice requires determining whether the nominee has the excellent professional expertise and experience as well as the character and integrity worthy of a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the nation. Two important aspects of Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination indicate that he does not meet the high standards required to sit on the Supreme Court.

First, the Republican majority on the Judiciary Committee have left out of the review dossier the majority of the documents regarding Kavanaugh’s work in the Bush administration. The documentation of Kavanaugh’s career and legal opinions is unusually sparse compared to previous nominees.

Second, Kavanaugh’s integrity is under question because of inconsistencies between his recent testimony to the Judiciary Committee and his past public statements and because of allegations of sexual harassment and assault of women in the past.

The question at hand is not whether Kavanaugh could be convicted in a court of law for his past actions. The relevant questions are a) whether we know enough about his professional career, b) whether his legal work demonstrates excellent understanding of U.S. law and a careful, intelligent concern for the rights and well being of the American people at large, and c) whether his honesty and integrity are of a high standard.

There are enough problems with the review process and documentation of this nominee, and enough questions about his integrity and character, that either his nomination should be withdrawn or the Senate should vote “no” on his nomination. The health of our democracy requires this standard of integrity from our public servants.

Diana Swanson, Sycamore

Sexual abuse and power

Thank you, Lisa Madigan, for your recent op-ed(“In listening to Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s accuser, we can right a historic wrong,” Sept. 20) on sexual abuse, male power and women.

For years, we girls in our family were warned not to go near a certain uncle. Despite the warnings, several young girls were abused by him through the years. He was never confronted until he was finally reported and arrested at the age of 83. It went on so long because of fear, shame and the knowledge that they would not be believed by the men in the family.

It is long past time for female survivors of sexual abuse at any age to be heard and believed. It takes tremendous courage for a victim to come forward. Listen to to them and believe their stories!

Carol A. Schuberh, Ashburn


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