Mock trial pits free speech against hate speech, October 25

By Melanie Deeds
Legal News

The Society of Active Retirees (SOAR) doesn’t shy from the tough topics when putting together its schedule of events — and the mock trial scheduled this week is evidence of that.

When does one person’s free speech become another’s hate speech is the question posed at the forum scheduled on Friday, Oct. 25, from 1 to 3 p.m., at the Adat Shalom Synagogue in Farmington Hills.

Steven Steinhardt, a Mount Clemens attorney who is producing the event, said it was inspired by events and the court case following the Nazis’ quest to march on Skokie, Ill., in the 1970s.

“We do tackle the tough stuff and a battle of ideas takes place,” he said. “What’s good about this setting is that everyone who attends can be involved. It’s not just someone talking to an audience; the audience is very involved.”

The event is an imitation trial in which real jurists use actual court procedures to explore the issue. Members of the audience will act as the jury.

In the upcoming program, the trial will pit the rights and responsibilities of free speech against the risks and negative consequences of hate speech.

“Defending Nazi hate speech is not the purpose of the trial,” Steinhardt said. “The question is whether any speech can be suppressed based upon its content, or are we compelled to allow all speech in the
marketplace of ideas?”

Among those taking part in the mock trial are Macomb County Circuit Court Judge Carl Marlinga, Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Michael Warren, and Wayne State University Law School Prof. Robert Sedler.

Other participants include: Joseph Kosmala, a Mt. Clemens attorney; Christopher Nesi, an attorney from Grosse Pointe; and Bloomfield Township Supervisor Steven Kaplan, an attorney and former assistant Macomb County prosecutor.

This is the third mock trial sponsored by SOAR in Oakland County and fifth in which Steinhardt has been involved.

“The feedback from the other events have been very, very good,” he said, noting that the prior mock trial attracted a crowd of 500.

The earlier SOAR mock trials dealt with the Kennedy assassination and the Second Amendment.

SOAR is a lifelong learning program affiliated with Wayne State University and the Road Scholar Institute Network. It serves more than 1,200 members from 54 communities in southeast Michigan.

No registration is required to attend the mock trial and there’s no cost.  The synagogue is located at 29901 Middlebelt Rd.

Additional information can be obtained by visiting SOARexplore.com or calling 248-626-0296.

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