Brown Appoints California’s First Muslim Superior Court Judge

Halim Dhanidina, who spent 14 years as a Los Angeles County deputy district attorney, was appointed to a California Superior Court judgeship May 18 by Governor Jerry Brown.

Dhanidina, a founding member of the Association of South Asian Prosecutors, will be the first Muslim American on a California bench, said Brown, announcing the appointments of 17 judges. Dhanidina will take up his new role June 20, although he has not yet been assigned to a court.

“I hope that my appointment serves as an example to others in the Muslim American community, particularly the youth, that our faith and identity need not be an obstacle to our full participation in California’s civic institutions,” Dhanidina told India-West. “Similarly, I hope to perform my new responsibilities in a way that demonstrates to society at large that Muslim Americans can serve the community in the pursuit of justice with dignity and honor,” he said.

The Chicago-born, Evanston, Ill.,-raised Dhanidina, whose Gujarati parents Lutaf and Mali emigrated from Tanzania to the U.S., in 1960, said that his 14 years as a deputy district attorney and being in court nearly every day have made him intimately familiar with how a courtroom works, including the rules that govern a trial.

The Los Angeles-based Muslim Public Affairs Council said it had advocated for Dhanidina’s appointment for more than a year. “Dhanidina’s appointment is an important step in ensuring that California’s leaders accurately reflect the communities present in our great state,” said Aziza Hasan, MPAC’s Southern California Government Relations director, in a press statement.

Dhanidina earned his law degree at UCLA, where he served as the co-chair of the Asian Pacific Islander Law Students Association. He earned his bachelor’s degree at Pomona College, where he founded the first Muslim Students’ Association, and currently sits on the Board of Governors of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association Los Angeles.

Jews, Muslims seek to remove initiative to ban male circumcision from San Francisco ballot

SAN FRANCISCO — An unlikely coalition of Jews and Muslims on Wednesday filed a lawsuit to block a San Francisco ballot measure that would ban the circumcision of male children, a procedure widely practiced by members of both faiths.

The case filed in San Francisco Superior Court asks the court to remove the voter initiative from the city’s Nov. 8 ballot, arguing that California law bars local governments from restricting medical procedures.
The plaintiffs include five Jews, three Muslims, two physicians who regularly perform circumcisions, the Anti-Defamation League and the local chapter of the Jewish Community Relations Council.

The Superior Court of Justice of Catalonia endorses Lleida’s veto to the burqa

Lleida was the first Spanish town to propose a ban of the burqa, and now the Superior Court of Justice of Catalonia has supported the veto. The Superior Court argues that the integral veil can “disturb the peace” of other citizens because it allows people to “hide their face” and this does not match the values of “Western culture” and “Spanish society” of equality between women and men. The Muslim association Watani, the one who presented the appeal to the Superior Court for infringement of fundamental rights in the first place, has already announced it will also appeal the ruling of the Superior Court. This ruling gives some reassurance and becomes a reference to other local councils to regulate these matters. So far, 13 municipalities have done so.

 

The Superior Court of Justice of Catalonia provisionally suspended the ban on burqa in municipal buildings of Lleida

The Superior Court of Justice of Catalonia has provisionally suspended the ban on wearing the burqa (or other garments that cover the face) in municipal buildings of Lleida (Catalonia) until a sentence is passed on the appeal that the Islamic association “Watani” interposed against the ban.

Lleida City Council approved the ban on wearing the burqa in public buildings on 8 October 2010. The ban was appealed by the Islamic association “Watani” of Lleida, considering that it threatened fundamental rights.

Canadian Court Rules on Admissibility of Full Veil in Trial

News Agencies – October 14, 2010

The right of a Muslim woman to wear a niqab while testifying in a criminal trial may be determined by judges on a “case-by-case assessment”, Ontario’s highest court has ruled.

The Ontario Court of Appeal ruling upheld a Superior Court decision. The court also set up a framework for lower courts to apply in balancing a defendant’s rights with a veiled woman’s religious freedoms. A lower court had ordered a woman to remove her veil, prompting the appeal.

The case involved a 32-year-old Muslim woman who alleged that her cousin and uncle had repeatedly sexually abused her when she was a child. A lower court judge ordered the woman to remove her veil during a preliminary inquiry, sparking controversy in the Canadian Muslim community. The Superior Court then quashed that decision following an appeal.

Toronto-area Muslim women to appeal veil-in-court decision

A Toronto-area Muslim woman who alleges she was sexually assaulted by two men – and wants to give evidence in court wearing a niqab – is appealing an Ontario Superior Court ruling that initially appeared to be in her favour, but did not fully grant her the right to testify with her face covered.

The woman, who is a Canadian-born mother in her 30s, is in the centre of what has become a controversial legal question as to whether a person can cite religious devoutness as justification for testifying with her face hidden. At a preliminary inquiry for two defendants last year, Provincial Court Judge Norris Weisman decided that the woman’s veil was a reflection of “comfort” rather than belief, and ordered her to remove it.

But in late April, Mr. Justice Frank Marrocco of the Ontario Superior Court ruled otherwise. While he did not grant the woman’s request outright, Judge Marrocco ordered the preliminary inquiry to convene two hearings to determine whether the woman’s beliefs are sincere, and if they are, whether testimony from a veiled witness would be admissible as evidence. The appeal means the preliminary hearing, scheduled to resume next month, could be postponed.

Court hearings consider whether Muslims may testify in Canada wearing veil

An Ontario Superior Court judge has ruled there is no blanket right of a Muslim woman to wear a veil while testifying in court. Justice Frank Marrocco did not issue a broad finding under the Charter of Rights, however, and instead suggested this should be decided by judges on an individual basis in court proceedings. The Superior Court judge released his ruling after hearing arguments this spring in a high-profile case about the clash between religious freedoms and the fair trial rights of a criminal defendant. “The Canadian approach may be a compromise,” wrote Judge Marrocco. ”

Judge Marrocco presided over the appeal of a 32-year old alleged sexual assault victim in Toronto, who was ordered to remove her veil while testifying at the preliminary hearing of the two defendants. If Judge Weisman determines that the statements given while wearing the niqab is not proper evidence, he may order the woman to testify again without the veil. If she refuses, the charges could be dropped against the two men.

Ontario Superior Court judge told that justice “cannot be veiled”

Permitting alleged victims or any witness to wear a veil while testifying would fundamentally change core principles in the Canadian justice system, an Ontario Superior Court judge was told yesterday. Defense lawyer Jack Pinkofsky claimed that, “The face of justice cannot be faceless.” Superior Court Justice Frank Marrocco has been asked to decide whether an alleged victim in a sexual-assault case in Toronto will be permitted to testify while wearing her niqab.

The provincial court judge presiding over the preliminary hearing of the two defendants ruled last fall that the woman’s religious beliefs were not that strong and ordered her to remove the veil. She refused and was granted the right to appeal the decision to the Superior Court. The Criminal Code permits witnesses such as alleged sexual-assault victims or children to testify by video or behind a one-way screen. In both situations, the defense lawyer and accused can see the witness. The woman’s lawyer explained that this would not be acceptable for his client because men could see her without the veil. The hearing is set to continue on April 3.

Closing Submission in the First Trial of Alleged Member of the “Toronto 18”

Crown lawyer John Neander argued in his closing submissions at the first trial of an alleged member of the “Toronto 18” that it would be an “insult to reason” to think the man didn’t know what the group was about. He told the Superior Court Justice John Sproat that there was “a sheer superabundance of evidence” that the leaders were planning terrorism and that all others involved knew. A key witness had testified in the trial that the male youth was naïve and that the leaders kept him in the dark about their murderous aims. While the accused, a convert to Islam, might have initially thought the 12-day camp in December 2006 was a Muslim religious retreat, “In the midst of the camp, it would have been apparent what was going on – it was a terrorist camp.”

Charges have been stayed or withdrawn against seven arrested. The accused, who has pleaded not guilty, is the first of the remaining 11 to stand trial.

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