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October 26, 2021

 

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Czech Bar Association reprimands attorney for approving of "joke" calling for the gassing of non-white first-graders, he appeals

26.9.2021 8:38
Czech attorney Michael Mann and the 2017 first-grade class at a school in Teplice against which death threats in the form of a
Czech attorney Michael Mann and the 2017 first-grade class at a school in Teplice against which death threats in the form of a "joke" were made because of their non-white appearance by a social media user whom Mann represented; the author of the death threats was eventually convicted. (Collage: Romea.cz)

The Czech Bar Association (Česká advokátní komora - ČAK) has officially reprimanded the attorney Michael Mann for remarks he made verbally and in writing in association with the scandal of hateful social media comments posted in response to a first-grade class photograph from a primary school in Teplice. Iva Chaloupková, the ČAK spokesperson, revealed the decision in response to a request from the Czech News Agency (ČTK) for information about the disciplinary proceeding brought against Mann.

The decision has yet to take effect because Mann has appealed. He had been retained to defend the person who, in 2017, posted the "joke" in the comments section beneath the photograph of pupils in the first grade of the primary school on Plynárenská, or "Gasworks", Street in Teplice, most of whom are of Arab or Romani origin and do not look "white".

The social media user posted the following comment:  "It's a good thing they're from the Gasworks school. The solution is right there. Don't say it didn't occur to you!!!"

In an interview for news server iRozhlas.cz, Mann claimed to have laughed himself at his client's comment and later expressed his personal views on the matter through his own social media profile. "This is classic black humor," he said. 

"As I said in my closing argument, it's a joke about Jews - it is based on double entendre and on historical knowledge," Mann told iRozhlas.cz. "All black humor is based in some kind of brutality."

"Before I agreed to represent my client and saw his comment on the Internet, I laughed at it myself," Mann said in the interview. When asked by ČTK about the disciplinary committee decision to reprimand him, Mann said he disagreed with it and that "I naturally appealed on the spot."

"I'm supposed to be defending my client, right?" the attorney argued. However, the ČAK is not reprimanding him for defending his client, but for his own personal views on the matter, which he shared with the media. 

"The ČAK disciplinary senate has found that the attorney, in appearances in the media and in public, was not presenting his client's attitude toward the joke, but his own personal attitude toward the joke, and the joke is reprehensible, irrespective of whether it was 'just' meant as black humor or not. He has crossed the line by making a public statement to the effect that remarks implying the gassing to death of children, an analogy to the horrors of the Second World War, seem funny to him - the conduct of a member of the bar must be sober, factual and dignified, according to the disciplinary senate," the ČAK spokesperson said.

The investigation into Mann's remarks was initiated by the ČAK secretary. The Board of Comptrollers of the bar association found the motion justified.

The chair of that board launched a disciplinary proceedings against Mann in January for serious violation of the duties of an attorney. A reprimand is the mildest disciplinary measure that the disciplinary senate could have handed down against Mann, as the Attorney Act also allows for the levying of a fine, temporary suspension, or disbarment. 

Mann's client was ultimately convicted last year of having made the hateful comment and given a 16-month suspended sentence that he is now serving. This spring, Mann was nominated by the Rugby Spirit Brno association and then shortlisted as a potential candidate for the board of public broadcaster Czech Television, which is appointed by the lower house; he is not currently listed as a board member on the public broadcaster's website. 

In March, during a public hearing in the lower house, Mann discussed his previous remarks about the photograph, his client's social media post and his personal reaction to that post. "I am presenting a certain important current of opinion in the culture here that I believe is the most widespread in the Czech Republic," he told lawmakers.

"That would be the current of opinion of the laughing beasts," Mann told the lower house; the phrase is a reference to what the Nazi Reichsprotektor Reinhard Heydrich is said to have called the Czechs. The attorney then said he laughs the most at what he called the "hypocrisy" of those who condemn him for having confessed to laughing at his client's "joke".

ČTK, ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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advokát, Děti, Racism, Teplice



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