Category Archives: legal news

Trump bashes Sessions … who bashes right back!

I love watching this Twitter tango taking place between Donald John Trump and the former attorney general who Trump selected, Jeff Sessions.

I can’t believe I am saying this, but I actually am in Sessions’ corner as he fights back against the idiocy that comes from Trump.

Sessions is running in the Republican primary in Alabama for the U.S. Senate. Sessions was a senator from ‘Bama before Trump selected him to be AG.

Sessions was a big man in the Trump presidential campaign. He had connections with, um, Russians who then attacked our electoral system in 2016. Then came questions about whether the Trump team “colluded” with the Russians. There was no way Sessions could investigate his own role in connection with those allegations, so he backed away. The Justice Department appointed Robert Mueller to lead the probe … and that ticked Trump off royally.

Trump has been accusing Sessions of destroying people’s lives by recusing himself and allowing Mueller to conduct the probe. Sessions, though, responded that Trump should be “grateful” he followed the law.

Trump is having none of it.

Still, Sessions is on the right side of this dispute. He did what DOJ policy required of him. He followed the law!

Of course, following the law is a sign of betrayal according to Donald Trump, who has only a passing interest in doing the right thing.

Don’t misunderstand me on this point: Jeff Sessions is not my preferred pick to sit in the U.S. Senate; I didn’t support his selection as AG. However, he took the correct course in recusing himself from the Russia collusion investigation. For him to be pilloried by Donald Trump because he “followed the law” is reprehensible on its face.

Thus, I am glad to see Sessions fighting back.

She’s no hero; she is a lawbreaker

Shelley Luther is being hailed as a heroic figure, someone who is standing up to what many contend is a form of governmental tyranny.

I consider her to be a lawbreaker, someone who flouted a legally mandated directive to keep her business closed to save lives against a killer virus that has swept across the world in the coronavirus pandemic.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered salons closed. Luther’s business, Salon La Mode in Dallas, remained opened. She was doing customers’ nails and performing other cosmetic procedures even though she was putting herself and, more importantly, her customers at risk of catching COVID-19.

As the Texas Tribune reported: Luther knew she was operating in blatant defiance of emergency orders from the state and county. She had already torn up a cease-and-desist letter from local authorities, winning loud cheers onstage at an Open Texas rally in Frisco.

Ridiculous.

Here’s my favorite part. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Houston decided to get his hair cut at Luther’s salon … in Dallas. The Cruz Missile, who backs Donald Trump’s rush to return reopen the economy that has collapsed in the wake of the pandemic, thought he’d score some cheap political points by standing with Shelley Luther.

Cruz should be ashamed of himself, except that he isn’t.

As for Luther, she had been sent to jail for violating the stay-closed order. Top Texas Republicans sought to work for her release. So she got sprung from the hoosegow. She came out to a hero’s welcome.

Now this business owner is being hailed as a sort of cultural icon because she’s standing her ground against what she believes is government overreach.

She is standing instead for the fruitcakes who have stormed the Michigan state capitol building brandishing assault rifles and waving swastikas and Confederate battle flags; she is standing for other protesters around the nation who flock to beaches and ignore social distancing recommendations.

It’s people like Shelley Luther who make enforcing mandates aimed at protecting our health — and even our lives — more difficult than they need be.

Partisan bickering could cost more lives

Oh, my goodness. The partisan bickering is filtering from Austin to county courthouses throughout Texas.

Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is issuing warnings to Democratic mayors and county judges to back off their local coronavirus pandemic mandates because, Paxton says, they do not conform with what Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has declared.

This is rich, man.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, one of those Democrats, has emerged as a champion in my eyes as he seeks to battle the viral infection outbreak in North Texas. Oh, I need to mention that my wife, one of our sons and his family and I reside in next-door Collin County.

Jenkins has ordered that everyone “shall” wear masks when they do business; Abbott’s order doesn’t require the wearing of masks. Thus, Paxton said that Jenkins and other get-tough local officials are overstepping their authority.

C’mon, Mr. AG. The judge is seeking to save Texans’ lives!

It’s all part of what looks like a deepening and widening of the partisan divide in Washington as Democrats and Republicans squabble over how to fight this pandemic. This won’t surprise you, but I do believe Democrats are on the correct side in that D.C. fight, with Donald Trump continuing to muddle his messages and continuing to pick fights with Democratic governors needlessly.

It’s now happening in Austin, where Republican state officials are haggling with Democratic local officials over which of them is taking the correct course. GOP officials want to reopen the economy more rapidly than their Democratic colleagues. Why are Democrats dragging their feet? Let’s see. Oh, they fear that a too-rapid reopening puts Texans’ lives in danger!

Hey, that concern is good enough for me.

So, with that, allow me this rejoinder: Mr. Texas Attorney General … back off!

Barr joins the cabal of disagrace

I had harbored some hope that William Barr would bring some integrity to the Donald Trump administration when he accepted the president’s nomination to lead the Department of Justice.

After all, he had served as attorney general in the early 1990s near the end of President George H.W. Bush’s term in office. He served then with honor and dignity.

I was terribly and tragically wrong. The attorney general’s latest recommendation that former national security adviser Michael Flynn avoid prosecution for lying to the FBI and to Vice President Mike Pence about the Russia attack on our electoral system in 2016.

Flynn has pleaded guilty twice to committing perjury. Now we hear Barr suggest that his lying wasn’t “material” to the investigation into whether Russia interfered in our election.

Here, though, comes a stunner: Nearly 2,000 former DOJ staffers have demanded Barr’s resignation. It reminds me of something a former editor of mine used to say: If someone calls you an ass, blow it off; if others call you an ass, then you need to shop for a saddle.

So now the AG has a couple thousand former DOJ lawyers and others calling him an ass.

As NBC News reports: The letter urges the judge who is in charge of the Flynn case, Emmet Sullivan, to “take a long, hard look at the government’s explanation and the evidence.” Barr is using the Justice Department to further President Donald Trump’s personal and political interests, it says, and “has undermined any claim to the deference that courts usually apply to the department’s decisions about whether or not to prosecute a case.”

The good news is that the judge to whom Flynn entered the guilty pleas must sign off on Barr’s request. Judge Sullivan is known to be an independent thinker, which of course gets to the beauty of the federal judicial system; these judges are appointed for life and, thus, are ostensibly removed from partisan considerations.

As for Barr, the letter signed by those thousands of DOJ staffers asks Congress to censure the AG. Just think, too, that many of those who signed the letter worked in Justice Departments under Democratic and Republican administrations.

Lastly, take a good look at the picture attached to this blog post. Barr is standing in front of a bust of the man after whom the Justice Department building is named: Robert F. Kennedy, the AG from 1961 to 1964. I can say with absolute certainty that RFK would be aghast and appalled at where William Barr has taken the Department of Justice.

This indictment is, um, huge!

I am trying to catch my breath after hearing some shattering news out of the Texas Panhandle.

I need to be very careful with what I say with this blog post.

A Randall County grand jury has indicted Sheriff Joel Richardson on a charge of “misuse of his position.” He faces prosecution on a second-degree felony. I saw this news and, to be honest, it took my breath away. I am utterly floored.

Nothing I have read offers any specifics about what the grand jury has determined to be worthy of prosecution. Thus, I cannot comment on the allegation.

I do want to make a couple of points, one about the sheriff and another about the process.

First, I long have considered Joel Richardson to be one of the finest law enforcement officials I’ve ever known. I got to know Richardson while I worked as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News. He always has been a stand-up cop, a fine leader of men and women and is highly respected among his law enforcement peers. Richardson is not running for re-election this year.

Second, I served on a Randall County grand jury years ago. We would meet regularly and hear complaints brought to us by the district attorney’s office. None of the complaints we heard rose to anything approaching the level of what the current grand jury has delivered regarding Joel Richardson.

I can say this without hesitation: Grand juries do not indict people with Joel Richardson’s community standing without considering seriously the complaint that has been brought forward. I am not passing judgment on Richardson. I am saying that grand jurors take their responsibility seriously.

I want to believe in the sheriff.

Now, though, I need to catch my breath.

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.