May 08

US Attorney General Eric Holder Addresses the Faculty of Law at University of Auckland

US Attorney General Eric Holder Addresses the Faculty of Law at University of Auckland

The United States Attorney General Eric Holder was in Auckland on May 7, 2013 to meet with the attorney generals of the Quintet (NZ, Australia, UK, USA and Canada) to discuss international cooperation on fighting cyber crime, human trafficking, corruption, child pornography and domestic violence. This meeting took place on the campus of the University of Auckland and was hosted by the University’s Faculty of Law.

Attorney General Holder explained that crime in the 21st Century has become international in nature, and the enforcement and prosecution of this crime must be an international effort. The lessons that the United States and other members of the Quintet have learned through their cooperation together to thwart international terrorism is now being opened to other areas of law enforcement. Mr. Holder stated that the common values between the countries of the Quintet allowed for an interchange and intermingling of best practices to help protect the most vulnerable people in our societies. Attorney General Holder’s comments were of particular interest given the recent attempt by the United States Justice Department to extradite Kim Dotcom, owner of the defunct internet giant MegaUpload, from New Zealand to the United States on charges of criminal copyright violations. Mr. Holder’s comments were vague at best regarding exactly what discussions, if any, took place on the Dotcom case. Further, it is the exact topic of cooperation amongst governments to share intelligence to assist each other in the prosecution of domestic crimes which has some Kiwis up in arms regarding the possible extradition of Kim Dotcom. The US Justice Department’s extradition case is in part built on evidence and intelligence which was obtained through the GCSB (the New Zealand security and intelligence agency) and is arguably illegal. Some question the US’s commitment to international principles of due process when it seems willing to use the fruit of the poisonous tree to achieve its goals of extradition. This also bring up the question of whether such illicitly gained evidence could be used in the US courts even though it may have been gained in violation of NZ law. Mr. Holder also addressed the continued importance of cooperation amongst government national law enforcement agencies to prevent further international terrorism. He stressed that although the strength Al Qaeda to stage large scale attacks like those of September 11, 2011 has been broken, the growth of independent terrorists still generally have an international character about them which call for international cooperation. Mr. Holder expressed a desire to more closely associate the sentencing guidelines of the Quintet countries to each other so that judges are given more leeway to punish and rehabilitate criminals, as well as deter crime. The Attorney General expressed that the United States government under the Obama administration was interested in promoting and protecting the civil liberties of individuals, which brought his speech to points regarding US gun laws and the US Supreme Court’s expected ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act (which prohibits interstate recognition of same-sex marriages).

Mr. Holder stated that he believe that toxic political bickering between the political parties is keeping common sense gun laws from being put into place. Specifically, Mr. Holder cited the recent demise of a law which would require background checks for those seeking to purchase a gun. The public in general is in favor of such a regulation, says Mr. Holder, but the agenda of a very small segment of society has kept such common sense regulations from passing. Mr. Holder also cited the Justice Department’s official finding against the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act and expressed his opinion that he believes the US Supreme Court will strike the law down for its violation of the Equal Protection Clause and Full Faith and Credit Clause of the US Constitution. He expressed the view, much in line with the modern view of the historic Voting Rights Act of 1965, that the next generation of Americans will wonder at the previous generation’s hang-up on gay rights and gay marriage. The attorneys at Norris Echetebu Law were in attendance at Mr. Holder’s speech and continue to be on the cutting edge of US legal issues in New Zealand.