Category Archives: legal news

Judges seek permission to violate their oaths of office

Two Texas judges, Brian K. Umphress in Jack County and Diane Hensley in McLennan County, are suing the state because their religious faith compels them to refuse to perform same-sex marriages.

Hmm. OK. Let me pose this question: What part of the oath of office you took that says you shall obey all the laws of the state and be faithful to the U.S. Constitution don’t you understand? 

These individuals both swore to uphold the secular laws of the counties they were elected to govern. The oath demands that they are faithful to those laws. It makes no mention of their religious beliefs or gives them any room to say, “Well, I’ll obey only those laws that do not conflict with my faith.”

This is nonsense.

Both of these judges are empowered by the Texas Constitution to perform marriage ceremonies. The Constitution, though, does not require them to perform every single service that shows up on their agenda.

These individuals have sued the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct, which has sanctioned them for refusing to perform the duties to which they swore their oath. The Dallas Morning News reports, by the way, that even though Umphress presides over the Jack County Commissioners Court, he is not a “law judge.”

Justice of the Peace Hensley also is empowered to perform marriages. She has refused for the same reason that Umphress cites. I should tell her the same thing: Such empowerment is not a requirement.

Both of these folks can hand those duties off to other duly empowered county officials if they cannot in good faith perform that duty.

I also need to remind them both — although they know it already — that the U.S. Supreme Court, citing its belief in the equal protection clause in the U.S. Constitution, has declared gay marriage to be legal in all 50 states. 

If the laws of the land do not comport with these judges’ religious beliefs, then they shouldn’t be serving in their respective public offices.

Being the first female for an office isn’t a ‘selfish’ motive

A Houston appellate court judge running for a seat on the Texas Supreme Court has come up with one of the more, um, creative epithets to hurl at a primary opponent.

Jerry Zimmerer is running in the Democratic primary for the SCOTEX chief justice spot. His opponent, Amy Clark Meachum, wants to become the first woman ever elected to the chief justice on the state’s highest civil appellate court.

Zimmerer calls Meachum “selfish” because she wants to the first female. Yep, that’s what he says. It’s selfish of her to break through a barrier that has lasted too long as it is.

He says he wants the “best candidate to win.” Hey, so does Meachum. She believes she’s the better candidate for the office. She believes she’s better than Zimmerer … and not because she’s a woman and he’s a man.

They both are judges. Meachum was elected to the trial court in Travis County in 2011; Zimmerer was elected in Harris County in 2018.

So, let them fight it out over who is better qualified.

The idea that one of them wants to be the first woman ever elected to an all-male political stronghold is no reason to vote against her.

I am now leaning toward Amy Clark Meachum when the time comes to cast a vote.

So there …

RINO in chief is angering real Republicans … finally?

Donald John Trump is the quintessential Republican In Name Only.

Of that there ought to be little discussion. He is the RINO in chief of the party under whose banner he ran for president in 2016.

Now some of the actual Republicans within the GOP are urging the current president to leave his mitts off of William Barr’s Department of Justice apparatus.

Is the RINO in chief going to listen? Will he cease denigrating the Justice Department professional prosecutors? Will he let the AG do his job, which is to serve as the nation’s top law enforcement official — contrary to what Trump has said, declaring himself to be the nation’s top cop. No. He won’t do any of it. Not ever.

One of those actual Republicans, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, said this: “The president does have a tendency to lash out and I think in this case he would be well advised to try to temper that.”

No kidding, senator? Cornyn has just “advised” him to do what he suggests.

As for Barr, he has disappointed me terribly. I had high hope that he’d take his post as AG and restore its integrity, which had been sullied by the incessant berating of former AG Jeff Sessions by the RINO in chief. After all, he had served as attorney general near the end of President Bush 41’s term in office. He brought experience running the DOJ the right way.

It hasn’t happened. The RINO in chief is worsening the Barr era at Justice by tweeting constantly about pending criminal cases. Barr reportedly is threatening to quit; other media reports say he isn’t going anywhere.

Meanwhile, the DOJ career prosecutors and their legal staffs are being whipsawed and buggy-whipped by the turmoil.

I am wondering at this moment: How in the world does the attorney general actually stomach all this tempest if he is serious about the expression of angst over Trump’s Twitter tirades?

Trump is correct: It is ‘legal’ for him to interfere with DOJ … but it’s not right!

Here’s a flash for you: Donald John Trump happens to be correct in saying that his meddling in U.S. Department of Justice criminal matters is “legal.”

It doesn’t make it right. However, what Trump is doing with his meddlesome tweets about DOJ cases and his undermining of the attorney general’s authority on certain matters doesn’t break any laws.

So, this president now freed of the threat of impeachment — at least for now — has embarked on a new campaign of heightened abuses of the office he still occupies.

Trump fired off a Twitter message that disparaged a sentence recommendation for his old pal Roger Stone, whom a jury convicted of multiple felonies. Attorney General William Barr then responded by reducing the recommendations. The line prosecutors who authored the initial request quit in protest.

Barr then told ABC News that Trump should stop tweeting about these matters, saying it makes it “impossible” for him to do his job.

Trump has kept tweeting messages. Barr is thought to be angry about it. Trump then said what he’s doing is “legal.” Yes. It is legal.

It is wrong, nonetheless. It is wrong for Trump to throw his weight around in this blatant manner. It is wrong to interfere with the attorney general’s duties. It is wrong to meddle in the nuts and bolts of sentencing, which is handled in this case by a federal judge … who also has drawn brickbats hurled at her by the president. Whatever happened to the “independent” federal judiciary? Trump is undermining that independence, too!

Ladies and gentlemen, we are witnessing in real time a president who is seeking to reconfigure the relationship between his office and the rule of law.

I am frightened at what we are seeing.

Ex-deputy FBI director speaks for millions of us about ‘maniacal rage’

The U.S. Justice Department has declared it will not pursue criminal charges against an embattled former deputy FBI director who’s been one of Donald John Trump’s key targets for the past couple of years.

Andrew McCabe, though, says doesn’t believe he ever will be “free” of Trump’s “maniacal rage.” He will live forever, McCabe said, with Trump seething over imagined transgressions that POTUS says were committed by the lifetime public servant.

McCabe speaks for many millions of Americans who fear the same thing. Long after Trump is gone from the White House, I am one American who dreads the prospect of a former president continuing his assault on our emotions through social media.

Trump and then-attorney general Jeff Sessions fired McCabe on allegations that he hadn’t been forthcoming in interviews with DOJ officials. Trump then fired Sessions and has kept up the drumbeat of innuendo against McCabe and his wife ever since.

McCabe was set to retire from the FBI with full benefits before Sessions and Trump canned him. McCabe said he has lived in a nightmare ever since.

I am glad to know that DOJ investigators have determined there will be no criminal charges brought against the former deputy FBI director. I also am glad he has been relieved of such a threat of criminal prosecution.

What I wish now for McCabe, his wife and the rest of us is for Donald Trump to go away quietly after the November 2020 election. I know that’s not going to happen. He’ll either win re-election, in which case we’ll never hear the end of it from him … or he’ll lose his re-election bid and we still never hear the end of it. 

Many of your fellow Americans feel your pain, Mr. Deputy FBI Director.

How much more is there to Barr’s dispute with POTUS?

Oh, how I want to believe Attorney General William Barr’s declaration that Donald Trump’s tweeting about pending criminal justice matters makes it “impossible” for the AG to do his job.

It’s just that whenever anything emerges with Donald Trump’s fingerprints on it, one must look for the rest of the story.

Barr told ABC News that he wants the president to stop tweeting about pending cases. He said the president is interfering with Justice Department officials doing their job.

Barr also said that his decision to recommend a lighter sentence for Trump pal Roger Stone than the one that prosecutors had sought had nothing to do with Trump’s tweet that called the prosecutors’ recommendation a “miscarriage of justice.”

However, I am left to wonder whether that is the whole truth. He could make that declaration without acknowledging any sort of pre-arranged agreement with Trump … correct?

I want to get back to the key point, which is that if Trump is going to continue to tweet and commend openly about matters that require discretion, that Barr’s job will remain an impossibility.

What does the AG do? He should just quit. Walk away. Go back to private practice. Leave the chaos and confusion to the next sucker who is willing to take the thankless job of reporting to the current president of the United States.

I had hoped that William Barr would be the grownup in a Cabinet full of sycophants and toadies. He has proven me wrong. Barr could restore some of that hope simply by quitting.

Read my lips, Mr. POTUS; here is what your pal Roger Stone did

What are you talking about, Mr. President?

You went off on that White House rant about Roger Stone being humiliated, ruined, framed by “corrupt” Justice Department prosecutors. I’ll get right to the point, Mr. President.

You, sir, are full of sh**.

Your railing against the sentencing recommendation of seven to nine years is based on clear-cut charges that the jury convicted Stone of committing. Yet you said “no one knows” what the charges are. Really?

The jury convicted your pal of lying to Congress — under oath; of witness tampering; of witness intimidation. It’s on the record, Mr. President. If you took the time to read anything, you would know it.

Aw, but what the heck. That wouldn’t stop you, as near as I can tell, from blathering idiocy, which is what you did in the presence of the Ecuadoran president.

Stone is a convicted felon. He deserves to spend time in prison. The sentencing recommendation was appropriate. And yet you interfered with sentencing policies. It looks to me as if you cowed the attorney general into reducing the sentencing recommendation.

As for the prosecutors who quit in protest, they showed considerable courage and commitment to the rule of law.

Unlike you and so many of your Republican allies in Congress.

Shameful.

Fox News judge turns up heat on impeachment and conviction

What in the name of newly discovered enlightenment has happened to Andrew Napolitano?

The Fox News criminal justice analyst — and a fellow long thought to be a shill for Fox’s right-wing propaganda machine — has become a leading critic of Donald John Trump and is saying things in public that I consider to be absolutely stunning.

That is, if you consider the source.

Napolitano, a former New Jersey Superior Court judge, has said that Republican senators who say that the current president of the United States should be acquitted of charges brought in his impeachment are unfit to sit as Senate trial jurors. Moreover, he has said that the House of Representatives was justified in impeaching Trump on grounds of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Holy moly, man! The guy is making my head spin!

According to Newsweek.com: “What is required for removal of the president?” the former judge asked. “A demonstration of presidential commission of high crimes and misdemeanors, of which in Trump’s case the evidence is ample and uncontradicted.”

Newsweek.com added about the abuse of power article that the House filed: “It leaves us with valid, lawful, constitutional arguments for Trump’s impeachment that he ought to take seriously,” Napolitano wrote, after explaining the legal basis for the president’s impeachment. “That is, unless he knows he will be acquitted because Republican senators have told him so. Whoever may have whispered that into his ear is unworthy of sitting as a juror and has violated the oath of impartial justice and fidelity to the Constitution and the law,” he argued.

Well, there you go.

Of course, the strong words of a judge once hailed in conservative circles as a judicial genius will go unheeded by the president’s protective phalanx that is sitting in judgment.

ERA is dead? ‘Not hardly’

I have been thinking about a recurring line in the western film “Big Jake,” starring the late John Wayne.

Whenever Jake would encounter someone from his past, the other guy would say, “I thought you were dead,” to which Jake would reply, “not hardly.”

So it is with the Equal Rights Amendment. I thought the ERA was dead. Well, as Big Jake would say, “not hardly.”

Virginia’s legislature this week became the 38th — and ostensibly final — state to ratify the ERA, which found its way out of Congress in 1971. It was thought to be a cinch for ratification. Except that opposition rose against it from conservative activists, led by the late Phyllis Schlafly. The ERA was written to provide “equal rights” to everyone regardless of their gender. I happen to endorse the ERA, which I did when I first heard of it way back when.

The Texas Legislature voted to ratify the ERA in 1972, which makes me happy. Five states have voted to rescind their ratification votes. The amendment needs 38 states to ratify it for it to become a part of the Constitution.

Now, does this mean the ERA becomes the 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution? Well, no.

Some groups suggest that time ran out, even though the Constitution does not specify any time limits for amendments that go to the states for ratification. They suggest that the ERA has not survived a sort of statute of limitations.

My own hope is that the current political climate, punctuated by the #MeToo movement and the growing intolerance of the way powerful men treat women, will breathe new life into the ERA.

The Equal Rights Amendment should have become part of the Constitution long ago. It’s not too late to do the right thing for more than half of our nation’s population.

SCOTUS chief to get his feet wet at the highest level imaginable

U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts is a serious man who takes his responsibility as seriously as is humanly possible. Of that I have not a single, solitary doubt.

However, I heard something tonight that made my jaw drop. It was that Chief Justice Roberts, who today took an oath to preside over a U.S. Senate trial of the Donald John Trump, has never tried a case in court.

Yep, this will be the first trial over which he will preside.

President Bush appointed Roberts to the D.C. Court of Appeals in 2003. An appellate court doesn’t hear witness testimony; it doesn’t rule on court objections. It hears lawyers argue their cases. Then the court decides which side wins the argument.

After that, Roberts got the nod in 2005 to become chief justice of the nation’s highest court. He does more of the same thing he did at the lower-court level.

Prior to the D.C. court appointment, Roberts worked in private practice, then went to work for the attorney general’s office during the time William French Smith was AG during the Reagan administration.

Trial court experience? None, man. Now he’s been dragged into the role of presiding judge in the U.S. Senate, where he will be charged with keeping order. He’ll get to rule on whether witnesses will be called, although the Senate can overturn whatever ruling he issues.

Still, it is mind-boggling to think that the chief justice’s first actual trial involves a case involving whether the president of the United States keeps his job.

I am certain the chief justice is up to the challenge that awaits him.

Wow!