Category Archives: legal news

SCOTUS takes tiny step

The U.S. Supreme Court is 234 years of age and only until this week it has operated without a single standard for the way its justices should conduct themselves.

The court finally has adopted a sort of guideline for the things its justices can do, but it falls far short of anything worth a damn or any measure that could help restore public confidence in our nation’s highest court.

Two justices have been in the news of late. Clarence Thomas — the court’s senior member in terms of service — has received lavish gifts from a Dallas billionaire while also ruling on cases involving the Harlan Crow’s business interests. The gifts include vacations for Thomas and his wife, tuition paid for his grandson, and a mortgage paid for a home occupied by Thomas’s mother.

Samuel Alito took a fishing trip at the expense of a hedge fund manager and then failed to recuse himself in a case involving the fund.

Oh, we also have the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg taking a trip to Israel paid for by someone with a case pending before the court.

This is utter nonsense. It’s pure crap. It compromises the court’s integrity, its fairness, its objectivity, its ability to rule on the merits of a case exclusively without being influenced by outside pressure.

I have been yammering all along that Clarence Thomas should resign from the court, but that call involves the numerous instances of conflict of interest that seem to fly over the justice’s head; the others involve his wife’s involvement in the Big Lie and the assault by MAGA morons on 1/6 seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

The very first rule of ethics should be for justices to avoid any possible conflict of interest by being involved in any fashion with litigants appearing before them. The Supreme Court has stated it now in writing.

What’s missing, though, is any meaningful enforcement of the rules. The court has laid out nothing that prescribes a punishment for justices who are caught violating these rules.

That absolutely must be the next step.

Indictments put lie to the obvious

Let us now quash, squash and put the kibosh on any notion that the Justice Department is a tool of the Democratic Party and that it is “weaponized” to target only conservative Republicans.

U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez and his wife, Nadine, have just been indicted on allegations that they took bribes. The DOJ evidence? Agents found gold bars and cash totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars in a search of the couple’s home in New Jersey.

This is a big deal, man. Democrats are calling for Menendez to resign. The flames of the political wildfire are accelerating rapidly.

Back to the original point …

Republicans have been pillorying the DOJ because of its investigations into Republicans, namely Donald Trump. GOP and MAGA morons in particular have accused the Justice Department and Attorney General Merrick Garland of having it in for the GOP. Garland has said all along that “no one is above the law.” That means Democrats, too.

The indictment of the Menendezes won’t silence the MAGA chorus. I wish it would.

As for the indictment itself, it looks real bad for the 69-year-old senator.

Politico reports the feds well might have the goods on the senator and his wife. Politico reported: While defendants sometimes claim they were unaware of items found in their homes or cars, the indictment suggests that would be a tough sell for the senator. Cash-filled “envelopes were found inside jackets bearing Menendez’s name and hanging in his closet,” prosecutors say. Some of the envelopes contained DNA or fingerprints from one of the men alleged to have bribed Menendez or his driver, the indictment alleges.

Cash, gold and a luxury car: The eye-popping allegations against Bob Menendez – POLITICO

Menendez did step down as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Good move, given that so many of the allegations deal with foreign governments.

Should he resign his Senate seat? It looks real bad.

Lt. Gov. deserves props

Dan Patrick deserves a good word from this blogger today … for the way he is conducting the trial of his fellow Republican, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

Patrick, of course, is the GOP Texas lieutenant governor who at the moment is presiding over Paxton’s impeachment trial. Patrick pledged to be impartial and non-biased when the Senate received the overwhelming impeachment articles from the Texas House.

I had harbored private doubts that Patrick could be faithful to his pledge. I was mistaken.

So very often in high-profile judicial or, in this case, quasi-judicial proceedings, the presiding judge seems to hog the spotlight. Example given? Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Lance Ito, who presided over the so-called “trial of the century” in 1995 in the case of OJ Simpson and whether he killed his former wife and her friend.

Ito let the lawyers go on and on, ad nauseum, refusing to constrain them, which he could have done as the presiding judge.

Dan Patrick has been hardly mentioned in this first week of the Paxton trial. Which is a good thing. He has let the lawyers for Paxton and the House have the floor and has administered the proceedings efficiently and without bias.

Why was I concerned about Patrick? Hey, he’s a politician … and a gregarious one at that!

Whether this impeachment trial results in a conviction or an acquittal shouldn’t hinge on Patrick’s conduct as the presiding officer. That doesn’t appear to be the case and for that I, as a keenly interested Texas resident, am grateful.

FBI says ‘no insurrection’? Hmm …

I have been schooled by a critic of this blog who tells me the FBI can find no evidence of an “organized plot” to overturn the 2020 presidential election result.

This, for instance, comes from the Daily Beast: Over 570 alleged rioters have been arrested since the storming of the U.S. Capitol in January—but the FBI has reportedly found little evidence that the riot was an organized plot to overturn Donald Trump’s election defeat.

All righty. I will accept that. I must have been looking the other way when the FBI made that determination. I never have declared myself to be all-knowing all the time.

But … what does any of that do to the case leveled against Donald Trump? In my mind? Not much.

The grand jury that examined the 1/6 assault on our government did not cite “insurrection” as a specific charge against Trump. It speaks to obstruction of justice and other assorted crimes allegedly attributable to the ex-POTUS.

I am going to stand with the findings — as I have understood them — of special counsel Jack Smith’s team that Trump impeded efforts to quell the violence that day.

Again, from the Daily Beast: Reuters reports that the FBI has so far found scant evidence to suggest that the riot was centrally coordinated by far-right groups, the former president himself, or his close allies. 

OK, then. However, no one can deny the attack occurred. Nor can anyone deny that Trump delivered a speech that morning on the Ellipse that stirred a lot of individuals up. Many of them were video- and audio-recorded saying they were acting at Trump’s behest, which he delivered to them on the Ellipse. Is that a “centrally coordinated” event? Not in the strict sense of the terminology.

However, he could have stopped it. He could have issued a statement urging the mob to go home. He could have taken to Twitter to issue that call. He didn’t do anything of the sort. He watched it unfold from the White House.

And did nothing!

Am I a bit wiser now about the FBI’s view of what happened? Sure I am. I also remain convinced that Donald Trump needs to be held accountable for his role in what transpired on that horrible day.

Ex-POTUS faces legal steamroller

My ego is in check, meaning that I am willing to acknowledge I am wrong far more frequently than I am right.

There. I’ve laid down my predicate for being able to boast just a little on something I said a while ago … which is that Donald Trump’s legal difficulties well might overwhelm his continuing campaign to become president once again.

Trump is facing the real prospect of being declared ineligible to run for president based on a clause in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Section 3 of the 14th Amendment says that no one who engages in an insurrection or gives “aid and comfort” to those who do is ineligible to seek public office.

Legal scholars on all sides are coming to the same conclusion: The amendment is clear, that Trump did seek to overthrow the government and he damn sure gave aid and comfort to the job that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

The amendment makes no stipulation that says an insurrectionist must be convicted of a crime, only that the he or she participated in the act.

Boy howdy! Trump damn sure did participate.

The 14th Amendment was enacted just after the Civil War. Its aim was to prevent states from seceding and declaring war against the government.

To be clear, this matter is far from settled. There have been lawsuits filed and myriad court battles loom. This matter could up in the laps of the U.S. Supreme Court. I won’t pretend to predict how the SCOTUS would rule on this case. Its members include three Trump nominated justices, along with three other conservatives.

One final note. The calls for disqualification are coming from conservative lawyers and assorted legal scholars along with progressives. Maybe the right-wingers out here among the masses can beat some sense into the skulls of the six conservatives on the nation’s highest court.

Donald Trump, to be abundantly clear, is now engaged in the fight of his life.  I don’t know what y’all might think, but from my North Texas perch, he is looking more and more like a goner.

Paxton trial about to begin … bring it!

A source I have developed at a major Texas university told me this week — off the record — about what he thinks might happen when Ken Paxton stands trial in the Texas Senate for high crimes and misdemeanors he allegedly committed while serving as Texas attorney general.

My source said it’s a tough call, “but right now I’d say he gets acquitted.” He said the Senate’s partisan makeup, with 18 Republicans and 12 Democrats, likely could save Paxton from being kicked out of office if he is convicted of any of the crimes alleged against him.

“But that could change” once the trial begins,” my friend said.

The Texas House impeached Paxton in an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote; many House Republicans joined their Democratic colleagues in impeaching Paxton based on the unanimous recommendation of the House committee tasked with examining the myriad complaints against Paxton.

The panel ruled that Paxton took a bribe from a key campaign ally and abused the power of his office to conceal an extramarital affair.

The Senate trial begins Tuesday. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who presides over the Senate and the trial, imposed a sweeping gag order on senators, a decision I happen to endorse. The bar is set high for conviction, as the Senate needs a two-thirds vote to toss Paxton out of office.

The impeachment managers have brought in some heavy hitters to serve as legal counsel for the prosecution. Paxton’s legal team has asked that all but one of the 30-plus counts in the impeachment articles be dismissed.

I am one Texan who wants the AG tossed out, if only to rid the state of the constant embarrassment this clown brings to the law enforcement office he oversees.

Are there enough Republicans in the Senate who will join their Democratic colleagues in making the same decision, that they are fed up with the conduct of an attorney general who brings shame to the high office he occupies?

Let us hope so.

GOP governor puts brakes on anti-DA bandwagon

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a dedicated Republican to be sure, has intervened in fine fashion against an effort by fellow Georgia Republicans to clip the wings of a district attorney who has engineered an indictment against Donald J. Trump.

Fulton County DA Fani Willis has become public enemy No. 1 in the eyes of Georgia Republicans who want her booted out of office. They are acting on a law that gives the state legislature the power to strike back against a prosecutor who is doing her job.

Not so fast, said Gov. Kemp, who today put the kibosh in any notion that the state constitution allows such punitive action against an elected district attorney.

Georgia’s General Assembly GOP caucus said it believes Willis has politicized the judicial process by indicting Trump on charges that he sought to defraud the federal government in an effort to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

What utter horsesh**!

Kemp said he will not allow the legislature to act on this specious notion. He said Willis has followed the law and the state constitution. Therefore, her decision to ask the grand jury to indict Trump will stand.

And the trial will proceed.

Trump won’t testify … ever!

All this chatter I keep hearing from TV news talking heads about the possibility of Donald Trump testifying in any of the criminal trials awaiting him makes me want to laugh out loud.

Let’s settle the issue once and for all: Donald Trump will not testify in any of these trials. Why not? Because he cannot tell the truth. Thus, he becomes a candidate for perjury.

Trump cannot tell the truth about his involvement with the Jan. 6 assault on our government. He cannot speak truthfully about how he squirreled away those classified documents from the White House. He cannot speak truthfully about the co-defendants who also have been indicted.

Imagine him putting his hand on a holy book and swearing to tell the “truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”

It won’t happen. No judge worth a damn is going to summon Trump to court and demand that he tell the truth.

Donald Trump cannot comply with a judge’s order.

A trial for the ages?

Let’s not pussyfoot around the obvious, which is that any of the four trials awaiting Donald J. Trump can be categorized as the “most significant legal proceeding in U.S. history.”

Every one of them will make history. They will become trials for the ages. They likely will be included in the first line of the obituary written for the individual who will stand trial.

Donald J. Trump is the first former president of the United States to be indicted for allegedly committing felony crimes against the government he swore an oath to defend and protect.

He is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty. My sense, though, is that state and federal prosecutors have done their jobs well enough to secure convictions perhaps on all the charges leveled against Trump. How many of them are there? Ninety-one!

Did any of us ever imagine seeing a former POTUS stand trial for seeking to overturn an election and obstructing the peaceful transfer of power after he lost that election? I damn sure never imagined it.

The trials that have been set constitute the most meaningful court proceedings this country ever has witnessed. We cannot possibly overstate what they will mean to the future of our democratic republic.

Date set, let justice rule

Mark down the date of March 4, 2024, which is what I intend to do.

That is the date set by U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan for the start of a trial to determine whether Donald J. Trump is guilty of trying to overturn the results of a free, fair and legal presidential election.

Judge Chutkan has declared her intention to proceed with a “speedy trial” for the former president of the United States. Interestingly, for a man who says he did “nothing wrong,” Trump has been trying to delay this proceeding until sometime in 2026.

That prompts me to wonder: If Donald Trump is as innocent of the serious felonies for which he has been indicted as he insists he is, why delay the trial?

OK, we’re a long way from the start of the trial. There will be lots of “discovery” to be made. Lots of motions to consider. Chutkan, though, appears set to proceed with a trial that will begin one day prior to the Super Tuesday Republican Party presidential primary election in which several states will decide whom to nominate for POTUS.

Even more remarkable has been the statements from Fulton County (Ga.) District Attorney Fani Willis, who says she is ready to go to trial as early as October … in 2023, just a couple of months from today.

A Fulton County grand jury indicted Trump for violating state law in seeking to overturn those election results. Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, one of the 19 defendants indicted by the panel, is seeking to move the state trial to federal court, claiming he was acting as an agent of the federal government when he was doing the then-president’s bidding. Good luck with that, chief.

To be honest, all this maneuvering in all four courts has me a bit befuddled. I just hope all the judges who are hearing these cases — in New York, Atlanta, in Florida and in DC — can keep everything straight.

However this all plays out, it is looking for all the world to me that Donald John Trump is a world of some serious hurt.