Your Subject Doesn’t Matter: Subject Matter Jurisdiction and the Human Rights Law in Hoffman v. Parade Publications

Lisa Alexander, Public Relations Chair, Albany Government Law Review Member

Introduction

Mr. Howard Hoffman said he was fired because of his age.  The New York Court of Appeals essentially said too bad.  In a 4-3 decision, the court held that since Mr. Hoffman was “neither a resident of, nor employed in, the City or State of New York . . . .  [and did not] state a claim that the alleged discriminatory conduct had any impact in either of those locations” he was not covered by the Human Rights Laws and thus his claim was properly dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.[1] Though the majority strenuously argued that non-residents who are unable to show that a discriminatory act had an impact in New York are prevented from bringing claims under the Human Rights Laws, this conclusion is contrary to precedent and public policy.

The New York City and State Human Rights Laws

At issue in Hoffman was the scope of the protection granted by the New York City and State Human Rights laws.  The stated purpose of the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) is to

assure that every individual within [New York] is afforded an equal opportunity to enjoy a full and productive life and that the failure to provide such equal opportunity . . . not only threatens the rights and proper privileges of its inhabitants but . . . threatens the peace, order, health, safety and general welfare of the state and its inhabitants.[2]

Continue reading “Your Subject Doesn’t Matter: Subject Matter Jurisdiction and the Human Rights Law in Hoffman v. Parade Publications”

The Irony of International Law; How International Law Limits State Sovereignty

Jason Riegert, Government Law Review member

            “International law is based on the concept of the state.”[1]  In turn, the state is based upon the foundation of sovereignty, which is defined as “supreme power especially over a body politic; freedom from external control.”[2]  The idea of state sovereignty dates back as far as the notion of the state itself.[3]  However, the development of international law has slowly weakened the idea of state sovereignty, causing a tension between international law and state sovereignty.  This juxtaposition has developed because while the preservation of peace and state sovereignty was the original concern that led countries to form international law, international law itself has now become a threat to state sovereignty.[4]

            In Thomas Franck’s article entitled, The Emerging Right to Democratic Governance, he discusses certain normative expectations within the international community.[5]  Franck outlines four indicators, “pedigree, determinacy, coherence and adherence,” that a new state must have in order to gain international legitimacy and recognition.[6]  In Franck’s analysis, he gives examples of different states and their struggle to gain legitimacy.[7]  One example he gives occurred in the early 1990’s, when the United Nations (UN) came in and controversially monitored elections in Haiti.[8]  The article emphasizes the idea that not only do states legitimize international law, but that the international body legitimizes states.[9]  This poses the question of how sovereign are these new “legitimate” states.  These states are being forced to jump through hoops and meet these “indicators” in order to gain international legitimacy, but what happened to the idea of “absolute power over a body politic,” and “freedom from external control.”[10]   

            Another example of the struggle between state sovereignty and international law can be seen with Iran nuclear testing.  In analyzing the Iran nuclear testing issue, it becomes clear that there are obvious limitations to what a state can and cannot do, thus limiting the state’s sovereignty.  International organizations like the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), work with the United Nations (UN) to help “promote the peaceful use of atomic energy.”[11]  In their promotion of peaceful atomic energy, the UN and IAEA restrict countries’ uses of atomic energy, seriously limiting what is allowable.  In response to Iran’s admission of nuclear testing back on September 29, 2009, the IAEA Director General issued a statement in which he declared that there is a “need to move from national to multinational control of the nuclear fuel cycle.”[12]  There were agreements by the IAEA and Iran to have the agency come in and inspect the nuclear testing facilities.[13]  This raises the issue of what ever happened to the UN charter? The charter outlines the rights of states, recognizing state sovereignty and independence and declaring that the UN may not intervene in matters “essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state.”[14]  Don’t the IAEA’s polices directly violate the UN charter itself? 

Continue reading “The Irony of International Law; How International Law Limits State Sovereignty”

Child Soldier Prevention and Accountability: The First Step in a Domestic Response to a Global Issue

 

          Amanda Sherman, Staff Writer

         Ishmael Beah was eleven years old when the war in Sierra Leon began.1  When the war finally reached his town, he was separated from his family members and left to wander from town to town with a few of his friends, in search of safety.2  After hearing news that his family members had been killed, Ishmael and his friends arrived at a village occupied by the Sierra Leonean Army.3  When Ishmael was thirteen, the soldiers declared their intent to recruit more able bodies because they had lost so many men.4  Ishmael and his friends were told they must join the army or be killed.5  Ishmael recalls:

My squad had boys who were as young as 7 . . . . I couldn’t shoot my gun at first.  But as I lay there watching my friends getting killed . . . I began shooting. Something inside me shifted and I lost compassion for anyone. After that day, killing became as easy as drinking water. I had lost all sense of remorse.6

           Ishmael’s story is the story of many young boys and girls worldwide.7  The military recruitment of children under eighteen years of age and their use in hostilities is taking place in at least eighty-six countries and territories around the world.8  By the end of 2007, seventeen armed conflicts directly involved children, which is a significant decrease from the twenty seven armed conflicts directly involving children in 2004.9  In its 2008 report, the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers stated its belief that this decrease was most likely due to wars ending rather than to any specific efforts to decrease child involvement in armed conflicts.10  There are many different reasons for the proliferation of children as soldiers; however, “[T]he underlying causes of the rise of child soldiers include such overarching problems as world poverty, the lack of economic and educational opportunity for many of the world’s youth, and the spread of war and disease.”11 

      On April 24, 2007, the newly formed Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law of the Committee on the Judiciary of the United States Senate held the first congressional hearing on child soldiers.12  The hearing resulted in the enactment of three pieces of legislation, including the Child Soldier Accountability Act of 2008 and the Child Soldier Prevention Act of 2008, which most directly deal with the issue of child soldiering.13  Continue reading “Child Soldier Prevention and Accountability: The First Step in a Domestic Response to a Global Issue”