Category Archives: legal news

Sen. Collins: Kavanaugh says Roe v. Wade is ‘settled law’

It might be that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has won over a key Senate Republican vote as he seeks to be confirmed for a spot on the nation’s highest court.

If Sen. Susan Collins of Maine is right, and Kavanaugh believes a landmark court ruling on abortion is “settled law,” he has gone a long way toward winning the support of many skeptics across the country.

Collins and Kavanugh met and the senator — a noted GOP moderate lawmaker — said the following to reporters: “We talked about whether he considered Roe (v. Wade) to be settled law. And he said that he agreed with what Justice [John] Roberts said at his nomination hearing, at which he said that it was settled law.”

Those of us who believe in a woman’s right to choose to end a pregnancy consider this an important hurdle that Kavanaugh has to clear if he is to be confirmed to a seat vacated by the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy.

I do not believe Sen. Collins is prone to shoot of her mouth without thinking, which gives me hope that her two-hour closed-door meeting with Judge Kavanaugh produced the kind of dialogue she has mentioned. Collins has declared Roe v. Wade to be the benchmark on which she would decide whether to confirm his nomination to the court.

There are many other hurdles, though, to clear. Such as the one about whether the president of the United States can be charged with crimes, or whether he can be compelled to testify before a judicial body. He once thought it was OK to compel a president to testify; then he seemed to have changed his mind.

That will be explored in detail, I presume, when the Senate Judiciary Committee considers Donald Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court.

However, if Sen. Collins is correct and Brett Kavanaugh doesn’t want the high court to mess with Roe v. Wade, then he well might have won an important skirmish in the battle royale that is shaping up in his confirmation to the Supreme Court.

POTUS seeks to taint a criminal proceeding

Imagine the President’s former campaign chairman is on trial for various felonies. Imagine the jury is in middle of deliberations. Imagine the President publicly calls the case unfair & praises the defendant There was a time when that kind of thing was considered inappropriate

— Jake Tapper, CNN news anchor

Jake Tapper’s tweet — posted above — actually understates how one should consider a president who seeks to prejudice a jury that is considering whether to convict or acquit someone of a major felony.

It is far worse than “inappropriate” for a president to rail against a trial involving a former top campaign official. I would call it something more akin to reprehensible, contemptible, disgraceful.

Yet this president sees nothing at all wrong with saying that a trial involving his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, is “unfair” and that the court is trying to railroad him. He tells us that Manafort is an upstanding individual and a “good man.”

Manafort’s fate now is in the jury’s hands. He was indicted and brought to trial on charges involving tax evasion and money laundering. He faces a possible life term in prison. Manafort’s indictment was brought by the grand jury that received a complaint from special counsel Robert Mueller.

The prosecution presented witnesses. Manafort’s defense team was allowed to cross examine them, which did with vigor.

Normal presidential protocol would dictate that a president keeps his trap shut on a criminal proceeding. This one now is headed for a verdict. Yet Donald Trump keeps yapping, he keeps seeking to influence the outcome from the peanut gallery.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. Maybe we shouldn’t be appalled. I mean, this kind of ignorant approach to what I would call a form of jury tampering is part and parcel of Trump’s utter lack of understanding of presidential protocol, let alone of judicial conduct.

This individual, the president, is completely out of control.

Happy Trails, Part 120: Lawyers sing universal song

WHEAT RIDGE, Colo. — Our retirement journey brought us to this suburban Denver community, and an RV park where we’ve spent the past couple of nights.

We watch TV on our trips across the country. We scan in available channels and then, lo and behold, we get treated to an endless barrage of ads from personal injury lawyers looking for more clients to represent.

They all say the same thing: Hire me and I’ll get you lots of money. They talk about so-and-so getting hurt in a car wreck; he or she suffered a serious injury; the lawyer fought the client and raked in a six-figure amount.

I kind of hoping we had left that kind of incessant advertising when we started this trip. Silly me. It ain’t going to happen.

We’ll head for Casper, Wyo., next. We’ll get set up. We’ll scan in the channels there. No doubt we’ll hear that Casper has a “Strong Arm” lawyer who’ll say the same thing the Amarillo, Dallas/Fort Worth and Denver “Strong Arm(s)” have said as well.

There’s no escape! None! Help me!

A political ad for a SCOTUS nominee?

I thought I might have been the only American who found this strange. I was wrong.

A friend of mine posted a pithy question on Facebook that asks: Who the hell runs an ad backing a Supreme Court nominee?
What is he, soap? Fast food?

Maybe you’ve seen the political ad. A young law clerk who describes herself as a Democrat sings the praises of Brett Kavanaugh, who’s been nominated for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court; if he’s approved — and he will be — Kavanaugh will fill the spot held since 1988 by Justice Anthony Kennedy.

But my friend is correct. The ad touting Kavanaugh as if he’s a partisan politician seems to cheapen the entire endeavor of senatorial confirmation.

Very strange. In my humble view.

Troubles dog lawmaker and … Trump

Chris Collins isn’t exactly your run-of-the-mill back-bench member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

He’s a Republican from upstate New York. He now is in a good bit of legal trouble, taken been into custody by the FBI on an insider trading charge. He has pleaded not guilty. Yes, Rep. Collins is entitled to mount a vigorous defense.

However, he also is known for something else: Collins was the first member of Congress to endorse Donald J. Trump’s candidacy for the presidency of the United States.

Right there is what makes this case a good bit larger than it otherwise might be.

Collins has been accused of calling members of his family to deliver some insider information on the purchase of drug-company stocks. It’s a serious charge to be sure. Rep. Collins also allegedly was brazen and blatant in his flouting of the law. He allegedly boasted about it.

Then we have the political backdrop of the upcoming midterm election. Democrats think they have momentum on their side in their attempt to flip Congress back to Democratic control.

This burgeoning difficulty regarding Rep. Collins, the pledge to “drain the swamp” and the assertions that this guy thinks he’s above the law doesn’t bode well for Republicans.

Then we have the president …

Alienation of affection? For real?

Some states have archaic laws on the books, such as one that has produced an eye-popping court settlement that has my head spinning.

North Carolina is one of a few states that has a law called “alienation of affection” on the books. This story was reported this morning.

It goes like this: A married began having an affair with a man. Her estranged husband was so outraged that he filed a lawsuit under the alienation of affection statute.

Then the married man, the guy his wife jilted, won a settlement totaling nearly $9 million.

North Carolina is one of just six states that have such a law. I believe the law needs to go. It needs to be scuttled along with other statutes, such as, say, states’ anti-sodomy laws that essentially prohibit gay men from having intimate relations in the privacy of their own bedroom.

What the alienation of affection law implies is that wives are the “property” of their husbands, that they are unable to make decisions on their own. I wasn’t aware, for example, that marital infidelity was against the law. Men and women commit these acts damn near every hour of every day.

Am I condoning it? Of course not.

However, I do not condone the state intruding in the private business of married couples who grappling with life-changing decisions and actions.

When I heard that only six U.S. states have such a law on the books, I feared Texas was one of them. It isn’t.

Perhaps the U.S. Supreme Court might eventually get to decide this matter on appeal, which the wife’s paramour in the North Carolina case has vowed to pursue.

Did they arrest the wrong guy? Oh, probably not

The man accused of five counts of capital murder and an assortment of other felonies today pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

Let’s see: The Annapolis Capital Gazette became a killing ground when a gunman opened fire in the newsroom. Four of the victims were journalists, the fifth was a sales assistant.

The shooter was captured by Maryland police within about an hour of the tragic incident. He refused to cooperate with law enforcement.

I get that the U.S. Constitution gives everyone the right to a legal defense. I get that citizenship protects criminal defendants from kangaroo courts, or from prejudgments.

However, I feel compelled to ask: Did the cops nab the wrong guy immediately after the shooting? I doubt it. Strongly!

As The Hill reported: Emily Morse, a spokeswoman for the prosecution, told Reuters that Ramos was identified through facial recognition technology. However, she disputed previous news reports that said Ramos had damaged his fingers to avoid identification through fingerprinting.

This guy’s defense will be an interesting spectacle to watch.

Trump and Cohen: one liar hired another liar?

You’ll need to follow me for just a moment on this one.

Michael Cohen once was Donald J. Trump’s trusted confidant. Trump spoke highly of his lawyer. He called him a good friend, a good lawyer, a dedicated professional.

Then the confidant goes through a change of heart. He says some things about Trump that the president has objected to vigorously. Now he’s a liar. He cannot be trusted.

And then comes the president’s current lawyer, Rudolf Giuliani, who this weekend described Cohen’s lying traits as “pathological.” He is a serial liar. He’s been lying for years, according to the former America’s Mayor.

But … wait!

Trump hired Cohen many years ago because he trusted him. What is Giuliani suggesting? Is he suggesting that Trump — a man with considerable “liar credentials” of his own — hire someone knowing he has this capacity for lying?

So, while Giuliani trashes Cohen’s motives and his credibility, is he also condemning the man who hired him in the first place?

Of course he isn’t. Giuliani has embarked on a credibility trashing campaign on behalf of his boss, Trump.

Which version of Michael Cohen are we expected to believe, the one who slathered all over Donald John Trump, or the one who is declaring his independence from someone he doesn’t trust as far as he can throw him?

Mary Lou Robinson Courthouse? Yes!

My hunch is that you can take this to the bank: Congress is going to attach a revered federal judge’s name on a courthouse in Amarillo, Texas.

I want to offer my heartiest applause from afar.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, both Republicans, have introduced legislation to rename the federal courthouse building in downtown Amarillo, the Marvin Jones Federal Building and Mary Lou Robinson United States Courthouse.

Yes, it’s a mouthful. However, Judge Robinson long ago deserved this honor.

The House of Representatives passed House Resolution 5772 by a voice vote this week. It’s headed to the Senate, where Sen. Cornyn is carrying this legislation.

I am honored to have made Judge Robinson’s acquaintance. She and I served in the Rotary Club of Amarillo together, which is where I got to know her.

She remains the gold standard for judicial candidates who seek elected office in the Texas Panhandle. I know that from my job as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News, a job I held for nearly 18 years. Almost to a person, whenever I would ask a candidate after whom they might model their judicial performance, they would mention Mary Lou Robinson. She set the bar high and judicial candidates for county or state district benches would declare their intention to emulate her.

As the Globe-News reported: “Judge Robinson is a legal pioneer who is universally respected and admired,” Thornberry said in an email. “She has always set high standards for herself and others, and our system of justice has benefited. Having the name of these two outstanding public servants on our federal building and courthouse will be a perpetual reminder of their high standards and outstanding contributions to our nation.”

If enacted, this would be the first federal courthouse named after a woman within a five-state area.

She served Potter County’s judicial system, as a court at law judge and as a state district judge; she gravitated to the 7th Court of Appeals. Then in 1977, she received a federal judicial appointment from President Carter.

The building that eventually will carry her name is now known as the Marvin Jones Federal Building and Courthouse.

With all due respect to the great Marvin Jones, he will have to move over to make room for a true judicial giant.

I am delighted to hear about this pending name change.

‘Rigged witch hunt’? C’mon, Mr. President!

Donald John Trump took a moment today from berating our allies in Europe to send a message out via Twitter.

He wrote: How can the Rigged Witch Hunt proceed when it was started, influenced and worked on, for an extended period of time, by former FBI Agent/Lover Peter Strzok? Read his hate filled and totally biased Emails and the answer is clear!

I believe I need to declare once again that Strzok works for a man, Robert Mueller, who was hailed universally when the Justice Department asked him in 2017 to serve as special counsel in the hunt for the truth behind the Russia meddling/collusion matter.

The president has been calling the “Russia thing” probe a “witch hunt.” Now it’s “rigged.”

Mueller is a man of impeccable integrity. He was identified that way when DOJ named him special counsel. His integrity is intact now, even as the investigation inches closer to its conclusion.

I hasten to add that Mueller’s team has been tight. Sound proof. Hermetically sealed. There hasn’t been a single leak from Mueller’s cadre of legal eagles.

The man is doing the job he has been asked to do.

Settle down, Mr. President.