The Legacy of the Brutal Murder of George Floyd: The Jury Did the Right Thing. Now, My Fellow Americans, It Is Our Turn.
All of those who believe in equality and justice shared a collective sigh of relief when the judge read aloud the guilty verdict against Derek Chauvin on all counts of murder and manslaughter. Relief because the alternative would have been another crushing blow to the criminal justice system and our hopes of a renewed commitment to racial equality fueled by the tragic murder of George Floyd on video, before our eyes and in broad daylight by a police officer sworn to serve and protect the public. The whole public.
Getting the right verdict this time is an important first step on a path with thousands of steep steps. Turning today’s hope into tomorrow’s actions and tomorrow’s actions into a generation of results is the job ahead for all of us as Americans.
Police reform, the struggle against systemic racism and the fight against voter suppression are in a moment of raised consciousness. We all need to do our part to meet these challenges and turn our anger into action and ideas into laws. Fundamental societal and legal change are the long-term goals, but immediate action is within our present power.
Individually, we need to continue to volunteer in support of social justice organizations and causes. We need to continue to march, demonstrate and petition our leaders for racial justice and racial equality. We need to vote for candidates that share the most basic American values of making our nation a more perfect union.
We must also continue to apply pressure to our state and federal legislators to pass laws that make such common sense to move forward the goals of racial equality, police reform and voting rights for all. The Senate must begin by passing the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the For the People Act. These three acts becoming law would be a good start to keeping the momentum of the verdict going in the right direction. So many other laws need to follow. So many attitudes need to be changed. So many institutions need to address systemic racism.
Let us honor the memory of George Floyd. May he rest in peace knowing that his young daughter Gianna’s words have come true, her daddy “changed the world”.
The Seditious and Terrorist Acts at the Capitol Today
America, do you understand the sanctity of the rule of law and elections? Democracy is fragile and is only as strong as its informed voters. Remember the names of every politician who enabled Trump and his minions in unraveling our precious institutions one by one. Each and every one of those elected officials is to blame for this ugly day in our nation. Never let anyone tell you voting doesn’t matter. Today is a tragic example of why voting always matters.
“Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus”
We all know what a difficult and challenging year 2020 has been for us all in so many ways. I wanted my holiday blog post to reflect hope, optimism and the triumph of the human spirit to launch us into the holiday season and throughout 2021.
There is no better way to capture the essence of the true meaning of the holiday season than through this immortal letter to the editor of the New York Sun and its response editorial on September 21, 1897:
“DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
Papa says, ‘If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.’
Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?
115 WEST NINETY-FIFTH STREET.
VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.
Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.
You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.
No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”
Season’s greetings and may you have a healthy, happy, and prosperous New Year. Stay safe. Be well.
Richard C. Bell, Esq.
545 Eighth Avenue, 8th Floor
New York, NY 10018
The Phony Issue of Covid19 Immunity From Lawsuits Is Being Used by the Republican Senate to Deny Survival Aid to Millions of Desperate Americans
I try not to get political when writing about my personal injury/medical malpractice/civil rights cases, but I must make an exception when millions of my fellow Americans, who are unemployed or facing eviction, are being used as pawns by the Republican Senate in stalling pandemic-related relief to them unless Republicans get their decades old wish of limiting personal injury/medical malpractice lawsuits using the pandemic as an excuse.
The Republican Senate’s insistence on protection of businesses from Covid19-related lawsuits is really a phony excuse to hold up aid to millions of poor, unemployed and otherwise desperate Americans who need aid for food, shelter and other necessities. We as Americans must not let our friends and neighbors be crushed by Mitch McConnell and his corporate lobbyist “friends”.
We cannot sit idle when the Senate Republicans have cruelly denied the necessary financial assistance to people who have lost their jobs after living from paycheck to paycheck when corporations and the very richest prosper during this devastating pandemic. The Democratic House of Representatives passed a $3 Trillion Covid19 relief bill in May, 2020 (the HEROES Act) yet the Senate had not even negotiated with the House about the bill until very recently.
Instead of saving the most vulnerable Americans and their state and local governments (very much at risk financially due to the cost of the pandemic and putting them on the verge of massive layoffs of police, first responders, teachers, sanitation workers and other municipal employees), the Republican Senate has created a phony issue of Covid19 liability immunity for corporations, businesses, nursing homes and others as a condition for agreeing to allocating some government funding for those in need (the Republican Senate has proposed $2 Trillion less than that proposed by the Democratic House).
The real truth is that succeeding in a Covid19 personal injury or wrongful death suit is a very difficult proposition under the law since proving a customer or patron contracted the virus due to the negligence of a particular establishment is a very high hurdle to jump over. That is fine. One should have reasonable standards of proof to succeed in a case. Blanket immunity from lawsuits for such corporations/businesses or nursing homes is not the answer. If a nursing home unreasonably created conditions leading to the spread of the virus in confined quarters, why shouldn’t the residents or their families have recourse to sue and have their day in court before a jury? Why should insurance companies (the entity that almost always defends and pays out settlements/judgments in successful cases when victims prove their cases) be allowed to collect premiums from businesses but be protected from paying out compensation when their insureds (businesses/corporations) are negligent and the cause of injuries and deaths to others? It will be very hard to prove most Covid19 liability cases. The Senate wants to make it impossible. Apparently, some form of financial protection for employers who create unsafe and unsanitary workplaces is another issue being pushed by the Republicans who obviously support employer profits over worker safety during a pandemic. Why? Because the US Chamber of Commerce and insurance companies support Republican Senators and favor the destruction of our civil justice jury system to increase profits? You want a law to protect wrongdoers and encourage more wrongdoing without consequences?
If you agree that our most vulnerable Americans deserve government assistance in their unparalleled time of need, call or email your senator and congressperson to voice your concern. Contact information is available at https://www.senate.gov/ and https://www.house.gov/. The business and insurance lobbies put their profits over the greater good of hard-working and vulnerable Americans and are trying to use the Covid19 crisis to rip apart the civil justice jury system and at the same time limit aid to the most needy. Remember, the real power lies with We the People. Use your power. Tell your representatives where you stand. If they don’t agree, never forget what you just did in November – vote in the ones who support your values and vote out the ones who don’t. They work for you. Not the other way around.
For a more complete understanding of this issue, please click on my media interviews below (also available on my media page):
To find out more information about your potential personal injury/medical malpractice/civil rights case, please call me toll free at (877) CALL-LAW® (225-5529) or (212) 714-0988 for a consultation.
“All In: The Fight for Democracy” – A Film Review
I know you are not used to my blog posts including a movie review. There’s a good reason for this new addition – democracy is on the ballot and Amazon Prime has released an excellent documentary that all voters should view as a primer on voter suppression “All In: The Fight for Democracy”.
The focus of the movie is the appalling voter suppression event known as the gubernatorial election in Georgia in 2018 in which Stacey Abrams (poised to become the nation’s first African-American female governor) “lost” to Brian Kemp by “55,000 votes”. Clearly, the purging without notice from the voter rolls of 340,000 people and the blocking of approximately 40,000 African-American voters from registering due to insignificant administrative discrepancies were in-your-face acts of voter suppression. Worse yet, the person in charge of those heinous actions was Ms. Abrams’ opponent, Brian Kemp, who was the sitting Georgia Secretary of State and chief elections officer.
The film goes well beyond that one shameful “election” and traces the nation’s history of voter suppression in vivid detail from the poll taxes of literacy for Southern Black voters to the modern Jim Crow methods of overly strict ID, poll closings in predominately Black neighborhoods and laws involving impossible address requirements for Native Americans living on reservations without designated street addresses.
Stacey Abrams, despite being victimized by a stacked system hundreds of years in the making, still offers us hope and resolve. We learn about her determined response to the 2018 election, founding Fair Fight, a group fighting voter suppression on the ground and in the courts.
This important documentary parallels experiences I have seen in my many years at the polls and in the courts fighting voter suppression against Black and Brown people throughout the country. I chronicle those journeys in my new book, Voting: The Ultimate Act of Resistance.
I highly recommend this very timely movie. Then do your part and VOTE EARLY. VOTE NOW.
Covid19 Is Still Very Much A Threat To Our Lives – Continue Your Cautious Behavior
This post is unrelated to my usual topics of personal injury/medical malpractice/civil rights/voting rights law. Today is just a reminder to all of us about the pandemic that still threatens our lives daily.
While New York and New Jersey have done a magnificent job of reducing the number of cases and deaths from Covid19 in the past few months, it is not the time to put our guard down. Social distancing and masks should be the norm when we leave home, walk on the streets, enter buildings, shop or go to our offices.
Experts expect a second wave of cases likely to spike in the fall season https://abcnews.go.com/Health/americans-brace-2nd-wave-covid-19-experts-predict/story?id=72817318. The highly respected model from the University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation predicts more than 410,000 people could die from Covid19 by January 1, 2021 nationwide. https://www.cnn.com/2020/09/04/health/us-coronavirus-friday/index.html
The two simple acts of social distancing and mask use every time we are in a public setting (any time outside the home) are essential for our health and the well-being of our fellow Americans. The pandemic is far from over. Be careful. Be cautious. Be respectful of the fact that we all have the ability to save lives – ourselves and others. Let’s continue to do it!
Voting Options For My New York Clients and Friends
You have heard me praise the power of voting many, many times. I even wrote a recent book about it, Voting: The Ultimate Act of Resistance.
Now is crunch time to make sure you are registered, apply for a vote-by-mail ballot if that’s your preference and cast your ballot whether in person (early voting is best), by mail or other forms of delivery. Do not wait another minute to find out your deadlines by going to https://www.vote.org/.
In New York, if you choose to vote-by-mail (you must apply NOW at https://absenteeballot.elections.ny.gov/) then you can return your mail-in ballot as follows:
- By mail (do it as soon as you get the ballot and fill it out);
- At drop boxes in various locations;
- At your County Board of Elections in person: https://1010wins.radio.com/articles/ny-state-voters-can-now-drop-absentee-ballots-at-boe-offices?s=09
- At early voting sites from October 24, 2020 – November 1, 2020;
- At your polling site on Election Day.
Of course, you still have the option to vote in person at early voting sites from October 24, 2020 to November 1, 2020 as well as on Election Day November 3, 2020 at your neighborhood polling site.
Whichever way you choose to vote, have a plan and do it Early, Early, Early.
RIP RBG – YOU MADE OUR COUNTRY A MORE JUST, FAIR AND EQUAL PLACE
I am deeply saddened by the passing of my legal hero, Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
She is a legend in the fields of women’s rights, civil rights and equal rights. Most of all, she believed in expanding rights which is the very core of our democracy (until January 20, 2017). Intellectually, she was a legal scholar but with a full understanding of and empathy for real people. Her written opinions, especially her dissents, are legal works of art. Her soul was as kind as her mind was keen. It is no exaggeration to say she is one of the most important figures of the past half century.
What other justice was a rock star to so many? A very sad day for anyone who loves freedom, equality and civil rights. As an advocate for equal rights for women, she stands with Susan B. Anthony and Eleanor Roosevelt as American legends. Deep condolences to her family at this very sad time. RIP RBG.
Voting – The Ultimate Act of Resistance
That is the title of my latest book released on August 14, 2020 on Amazon.com. I am very proud of the message of this book.
At a critical moment in the age of dual challenges of a pandemic and a racial reawakening everyone focuses on step one – protests, marches and raised consciousness. All great, but the time has come for step two – voting. That is the ultimate act of resistance. It turns anger into action and ideas into laws.
For almost two decades I have worked pro bono to fight race-based voter suppression at the polls and in the courtroom throughout the nation. My book lays out that journey, the obstacles faced mostly by voters of color on Election Day and the solutions we need to ensure free, fair and just elections for all.
Vote Like Your Life Depends On It Because It Does
Everyone is acutely aware of the troubling times we live in. A continuing pandemic. A moment of reckoning on racial injustice. An economic downturn that has been catastrophic for so many workers and small businesses. Potentially catastrophic climate change issues threatening our planet.
The solutions aren’t easy but they must be implemented with the right kind of leadership, thoughtful plans and commitment to fairness and equality. It is your choice who to vote for, but it is essential that you vote in November to have your voice heard by electing political leaders at every level to carry out your desires and to protect the future for you and your family.
There are many different ways to vote. No one should have their right to vote taken away from them. MAKE A PLAN TO VOTE NOW. PLAN EARLY. REGISTER EARLY. VOTE EARLY. Find out how to vote in your local area by going to www.vote.org. Go to it today. Not tomorrow. Today. Your life and your family’s lives depend on it. Literally!
I have been fighting voter suppression for almost two decades. Don’t become a victim of voter suppression. Do your registration and voting early, early, early to avoid problems. VOTE.
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