Legal Ethics

Two public defenders fired over 'hate speech' in Facebook comments

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Apparently angry about the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens that has been in the news recently, two assistant public defenders in Broward County, Florida, seeming used inflammatory language about Palestinians in Facebook comments about the killings that their boss characterized as hate speech.

Although Bruce Raticoff told the Sun Sentinel someone else made the comments on his account, he was fired Tuesday. Also axed was Gary Sheres, who said the comments on his account referred specifically to those responsible for such atrocities, and clearly were never meant to characterize an entire people, reports the Sun Sentinel.

Public defender Howard Finkelstein told the newspaper in an email after the firings that it is “time for us to learn and grow and draw the line in the sand firmly that as public defenders we have a higher calling and we cannot engage in hate speech that interferes with the mission of this office, which is equal justice for all.”

In a comment on a Facebook post that claimed Palestinians were celebrating the slayings of the three Israeli teens, a post was made using Raticoff’s account which stated: “That’s why the Palestinian people are considered the cockroaches of the world. Reprehensible and despicable with utter disregard for civility and humanity. Burn them to the ground.”

Sheres “liked” that comment, the Sun Sentinel reports, and wrote in his own account “They are the filthy swine they don’t eat. Their ignorance to the world bewilders the dumbest people I have ever met.”

Last week, Finkelstein said he was “personally shocked and disappointed by these ignorant and hate-filled generalizations of a people,” and said that public defenders, in particular, should know better than to “spew hate” that further inflames “an already dangerous situation” and makes it harder to resolve the underlying issues.

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