Sept. 24, 2020

Tali Farhadian Weinstein on Bava Metzia 30b – “The Imperative of Justice: Going Inside the Law” - S1E58


Prosecutor, professor, and proven criminal justice reformer, Tali Farhadian Weinstein, is Mark’s guest on the podcast today. Tali came to America as a refugee in 1979, having fled the violence and ant-Semitism of revolutionary Iran, and went on to earn degrees from Yale College, Oxford University where she was a Rhodes Scholar, and Yale Law School. She has served as a Law Clerk for Judge Merrick B. Garland at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, at the U.S. Supreme Court for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, and most recently as the General Counsel of the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office. She has taught immigration law and policy at Columbia Law School, is currently Adjunct Professor of Law and Adjunct Professor of Clinical Law at NYU Law School, and is also running for the position of Manhattan District Attorney, for which she has the full support of the Rabbi’s Husband. Tali has chosen the Talmudic text, Bava Metzia 30b, to discuss with Mark today.

Tali begins by sharing her summary of the selected text, the meaning it holds for her, and the rhythm and surprise that she finds within it. Together, she and Mark analyze the notion of going beyond or inside the letter of the law, as well as their differing readings of the text. This leads them to explore the learning and use of prosecutorial discretion, the lessons to be learned through visiting jails and prisons, and the human capacity for change. Tali draws their conversation to a close by recounting the lessons she has learned about mankind, and how they relate directly back to today’s selected text. Tali’s vast experience as a prosecutor and a professor combine strikingly here today as she shares her remarkable insights while drawing out both the questions and lessons inherent to this ‘awesome rabbinic passage’, and their very real and highly impactful application in our world today.

Quotes:

“They upheld the law rather than doing this thing of going beyond it or inside of it.”

“The passage you chose says we’re following Torah laws, therefore the worst thing happened.”

“This is my life’s work…to practice law enforcement in a way that is fair and just which is what I think this Talmudic text is trying to nudge us toward understanding.”

“Maybe what it means to go inside or beyond the letter of the law is to bring the learning from those acts of meeting people at their most vulnerable into law enforcement. And maybe that’s the source of knowing…when to pursue, when not to pursue - how to indict a case not just based on the facts but on your sense of justice.”

“There’s no way that even the author of the Torah, which is the greatest book ever written beyond compare, could anticipate every circumstance where law would have to be applied.”

“In the best interpretation of your tradition, develop your character…and in so doing, you will learn when and how to exercise prosecutorial discretion, among many other things.”

“I’m making a point about what happens in these acts, and in these human encounters of the kind that our text is urging us to make before we get into the business of law enforcement.”

“There’s a whole other way of learning that is demanded of us.”

“Study leads to action.”

“None of us should be defined by the very worst thing that we’ve done, or the very worst thing that we’ve experienced.”

“I’ve learned about people’s capacity for change and for complexity, and I believe in that very much.”

“New York needs you and wants you.”

Bava Metzia 30b - https://www.sefaria.org/Bava_Metzia.30b?lang=bi

Links:

The Rabbi’s Husband homepage: http://therabbishusband.com/

Mark’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/markgerson?lang=en

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