CWRU welcomes Cleveland bishop for annual memorial lecture

Katharine Toledo, Staff Reporter

On Thursday, Feb. 7, Case Western Reserve University School of Law welcomed Cleveland Bishop Nelson Perez for the annual Judge Frank J. Battisti Memorial Lecture. Perez spoke on the topic of “Immigration and the Dignity of the Human Person.”

The annual lecture is named after Battisti, a federal judge for the district court of the circuit of Northern Ohio, and is presented by his former law clerks. Battisti, the child of Italian immigrants, was specifically known for his handling of controversial cases including the racial segregation of various public schools in Cleveland, the case of the eight members of the national guard who shot students protesting the Vietnam War in 1970 and the case of an Ohio autoworker accused of committing war crimes in Nazi Germany.

Perez was invited to speak at this year’s Battisti Lecture in honor of Battisti’s devotion to the Roman Catholic Church. In the words of Harlan Karp, an attorney and former law clerk of Battisti, “the late judge believed in human dignity and in morality.”

Karp said that “[Judge Battisti] couldn’t divorce his Catholic upbringing or views and just abandon them at the door. He was honest. We view things through the prism of our experiences. Just as he grew up in a union household and among Italian immigrants, the law and judging reflected his own life experiences.”

Perez’s lecture marks the 23rd year of the Battisti Lecture. The first lecture, which took place just a year after the death of Battisti in October of 1994, brought Judge Jack B. Weinstein, from the District Court of the Eastern District of New York, to CWRU. Other noteworthy guest lecturers from previous years include President Lee Bollinger of Columbia University, the late Professor Jean Bethke Elshtain of the University of Chicago and Fred Gray, a famous civil rights lawyer and the first African-American president of the Alabama State Bar.

This year Perez, who cleverly described himself as “made in Cuba, unpackaged in Miami,” shared his own family’s immigration story with the audience.

“Most immigrants are looking for something better or running away from something bad. It’s good to remember where you came from,” he said.

Perez reminded the audience that “we are all migrants, whether we understand it or not,” and ended with a plea for greater kindness towards immigrants both in Cleveland and from around the world.