Supreme Court Declines to Hear Genocide Case


By Thomas C . Nash
Special to the Mirror-Spectator

BOSTON — After nearly six years winding its way through the legal system, a high-profile Armenian Genocide case will not be heard by the US Supreme Court.

The case, known as Griswold v. Driscoll, had seen First Amendment lawyer Harvey Silverglate, backed by the Assembly of Turkish American Associations (ATAA), battle the Massachusetts Board of Education over whether the removal of “contra genocide” materials from a curriculum guide amounted to a violation of free speech.

Silverglate learned last week that the Supreme Court had declined to hear the case.

The legal battle began after the ATAA, two school teachers and a student took issue with “The Massachusetts Guide to Choosing and Using Curricular Materials on Genocide and Human Rights Issues,” which had at one point included “contra genocide” material on the Armenian Genocide until it was removed by the State Legislature.

“There would be no lawsuit if initially the school authorities had decided to include only one side of the controversy,” Silverglate said.

The case was initially dismissed in June 2009, three years after a judge first heard the motion. A three- judge panel upheld the motion last August.

In the opinion that upheld the dismissal, former Supreme Court Justice David Souter, now serving at the First Circuit Court of Appeals, noted Silverglate’s contention that the guide amounted to a “virtual school library” and that it was an element of the overall curriculum had differing ramifications for his argument, since the latter is allowed to be controlled by politics.

“The revisions to the Guide after its submission to legislative officials, even if made in response to political pressure, did not implicate the First Amendment,” Souter wrote.

Marc Mamigonian, director of academic affairs at NAASR, said the eventual outcome for this case was expected, but that the door is still open for similar challenges.

“In my opinion, the US Supreme Court’s denial of writ of certiorari following two strong rejections by lower courts shows that the case was as lacking in legal merit as the Genocide denial it supported lacks scholarly merit,” Mamigonian said. “However, one must not think this is the last that will be heard from those who try to legitimize Genocide denial.”

Armenian Assembly of America Executive Director Bryan Ardouny, sent a written statement. “The United States Supreme Court decision upholding the United States Court of Appeals decision in the Griswold case comes upon the heels of the Movsesian decision in California’s Ninth Circuit and another victory for ensuring that the truth prevails. The Assembly worked with the Armenian Bar Association (ABA) in the ABA’s amicus brief with respect to the Movsesian case. The court in Movsesian concluded that there is no express federal policy forbidding states to use the term Armenian ‘Genocide.’”

He continued, “These cases taken together demonstrate the Turkish lobby’s unsuccessful campaign to utilize the American court system to impose Turkey’s restrictive laws abridging freedom of speech. The exportation of Article 301 of the Turkish penal code, which criminalizes discussion of the Armenian Genocide has no place in America.”

Silverglate, of course, disagreed. “The Supreme Court is going to have to deal someday with the fundamental problem that we saw in this case. What school authorities make the decision to include has to be protected from political interference.”