Category Archives: legal news

Prepare for ‘firsts’ posts

Spoiler alert: Your friendly blogger — that’s me — is likely to subject readers to a series of blog posts commemorating a series of “firsts” that my family and I will endure during the coming year.

My precious bride, Kathy Anne, passed away in February. I have spoken already on this blog about the “firsts” that will arrive during the course of the year.

Mothers’ Day came and went and I didn’t post anything specific about that. But there will be more of them to come. First Fourth of July (which KA loved to celebrate), first Fathers’ Day (which she honored my role in becoming a dad), first wedding anniversary, first Thanksgiving, first Christmas (when she became the equivalent of the Looney Tunes Tasmanian Devil decorating for the holiday).

I am just advising you of what’s to come. I have to make note of these events. It’s part of my journey out of the darkness. Be patient. I hope you glean something constructive and affirming from them.

AG Paxton is getting some serious heat … finally!

Well now, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton — who’s been under felony indictment nearly for as long as he has been in office — is facing even more trouble.

This time it’s coming from his fellow Republicans who serve in the Legislature.

Can it be that finally the AG is going to get his long- and well-deserved comeuppance? You may count me as one Texas resident who wants to see it happen to the former legislator who has disgraced the office he has occupied since 2015.

The Hill newspaper reports:

On Wednesday, four former state prosecutors commissioned by the state House publicly unveiled the results of their sweeping investigation into years of alleged misconduct by Paxton.

Headlining those allegations: charges that the attorney general took bribes from an Austin real estate developer, then fired four deputies for reporting it to law enforcement — and then leaving taxpayers on the hook for a $3.3 million settlement with the whistleblowers. 

Paxton is also accused of seeking a sweetheart job for a woman he was having an affair with and who had worked in his wife’s office. 

The House General Investigations Committee, which recommended the ouster of former state Rep. Bryan Slaton of Royse City, is now looking into Paxton’s conduct. The allegations against Paxton “curl my mustache,” said Committee Chairman Andrew Murr, R-Junction.

Paxton has managed to avoid a trial since a Collin County grand jury indicted him for securities fraud. That he has been re-elected twice as the state’s chief law enforcement official has been enough to make me question the wisdom of Texas voters. But he has and I accept the voters’ verdict, even if I disagree with it.

Still, the guy needs to go.

I have been alarmed at the notion of Paxton rising to call for the resignation of House Speaker Dade Phelan after a video emerged showing Phelan slurring his words at the end of a long day at the podium in the House chamber.

That such a call would come from an indicted public official is laughable on its face … except that I ain’t laughing.

Battle rages in Texas between AG Paxton and GOP-controlled House | The Hill

So, what can come from the House committee’s probe of the AG? Let’s say it out loud: He could be impeached and then put on trial in the Texas Senate.

I can’t stop shaking my head.

Not a ‘liberal’ vendetta

As I listen to congressional Republicans launch their counterattack in defense of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, I am struck by what I am not hearing from them.

I am not hearing GOP lawmakers actually defending Justice Thomas’s receiving of lavish gifts from a Texas billionaire. They aren’t justifying the fact that Thomas has refused to report those gifts to the court.

No. Instead they are questioning the motives of those who are reporting these hideous ethical lapses on the part of Justice Thomas. Sen. Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican, said liberals “hate” Justice Thomas and “will do anything” to undermine him.

Others have echoed the Cruz Missile. The likes of Sen. Josh “Clenched Fist” Hawley, Sen. Lindsey Graham and Sen. Mike Lee all have singled out the so-called “liberal media” for launching what they call a vendetta against the conservative justice.

Thomas has taken vacations aboard Harlan Crow’s luxurious yacht; he has allowed Crow to purchase his mother’s house and let her live in it rent free; he has paid for a grandnephew’s tuition at a high-end private school.

Think about this: What we have is a Supreme Court justice who is on the take.

C’mon, guys! This isn’t a “liberal media” campaign. It is the result of gumshoe reporting that has revealed the sad and maddening lack of ethical standards for the nine men and women who sit on the nation’s highest judicial panel.

Thomas’s ethics getting stickier

Is there no end in sight for the ways that Clarence Thomas can disgrace himself, the high office he occupies and the judicial system over which he presides?

The U.S. Supreme Court associate justice — the longest-tenured member of the nation’s highest court — is now reportedly the recipient of yet another lavish gift from a Texas billionaire who, that’s right, has business before the court.

Dallas financier Harlan Crow has been paying the tuition to a high-priced private school for Justice Thomas’s grandnephew, who he has raised as his son.

Oh, my. The hits just keep coming. Crow has treated Justice and Mrs. Thomas to trips on his private aircraft and yacht in exotic locations around the world. He has purchased a home for Thomas’s mother and allowed her to live in it rent free. Now we hear about the tuition payments for Thomas’s grandnephew.

I want to offer a bouquet of sorts to Justice Thomas, who has helped raise the young man. That’s a noble act and I don’t want to let that go unnoticed. However, such nobility should not be the stuff of potential graft from a rich pal … who befriended the justice only after he joined the Supreme Court in 1991.

What a coincidence, yes?

As we have noted here already, the nation’s highest court demands the courts lower on the judicial pecking order follow strict ethical guidelines. Yet it has none for its own nine members.

Are we left, then, to believe the Supreme Court is self-policing, that its justices are adhering to the letter and the spirit of ethical standards? I guess so … except that they aren’t doing anything of the sort.

What we have instead is a Supreme Court once held in high esteem by the public denigrating itself because some of its members — not just Justice Thomas — are flouting the standards they demand of others within the federal judiciary.

It is hypocritical in the extreme.

SCOTUS: above the law?

The irony is so rich you can slice and dice it, given the U.S. Supreme Court’s insistence that lower courts abide by strict ethics rules … but operates on its own without any such restriction.

We have three justices on the nation’s highest court who now have some serious — and possibly egregious — ethics troubles hanging over them.

They start with the chief justice, John Roberts and include Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch. The Senate Judiciary Committee had invited Chief Justice Roberts to visit with the panel about those questions, but Roberts declined, citing judicial independence.


Roberts’s wife is a headhunter for law firms, earning millions of dollars annually. The firms for which she works routinely have business before her husband’s court. Conflict of interest? Looks like it to me.

Justice Gorsuch sold some property to a lawyer with another mega firm, which also does business with the court. More conflict? Umm, yep!

Justice Thomas has demonstrated a nearly legendary lapse of judgment. His wife is part of the Big Lie crowd, believing the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump; a Texas gazillionaire has lavished gifts on the Thomases and the justice has failed to report them; the rich Texan also has purchased the justice’s mother’s home and allows her to live there rent free. What do you think about that? Yeah … conflict of interest.

But the court has no rules governing this conduct. There are no restrictions or reporting requirements demanded of the men and women who serve on the court.

These men all have one thing else in common: they are Republican-nominated justices.

Why mention the partisan label? Well, consider something else. Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris’s husband, Doug Emhoff, was a partner in an international law firm. By the time VP Harris was sworn into office, Emhoff quit his job, surrendering millions of dollars in income. Why? Because there might be a hint of conflict. He chose the right path and is now teaching law at Georgetown University, earning a handsome salary, but which is significantly less than he would have earned had he stayed employed by the mega firm.

No one can fire any of the justices, or the vice president. The only way to remove them from office is to impeach them and then convict them in a congressional trial. The three men mentioned here have ignored any pretense of ethical conduct; the vice president and her husband have chosen a more correct option.

There must be an accounting for the individuals who serve on the nation’s highest court. For the chief justice to resist any calls for ethics reform is to betray the high office he occupies.

Just quit, Justice Thomas!

Your humble blogger — that’s me! — has used this forum to call for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to resign because of what I believe is a conflict of interest involving his wife’s involvement with The Big Lie movement and the 2020 presidential election.

I now want to offer a brief explanation as to why it wouldn’t make a damn bit of difference on the high court.

The Supreme Court now comprises a 6 to 3 conservative majority. Thomas is one of the six; the others are Chief Justice John Roberts and associate justices Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch.

If Thomas left the court, it would still have a conservative majority, given that President Biden is likely to find a more, um, liberal judge to confirm to the court.

So, what’s the big deal? Justice Thomas no longer is able to serve on the court when his wife is actively involved in a matter involving the 2020 election, which keeps coming before the court on various rulings … which Thomas glaringly deviates from the majority by dissenting in favor of the 45th POTUS.

Then comes the news about Justice Thomas taking those lavish gifts from a billionaire Texan and refusing to report them, as he should have done. Good grief! Oh, and then the billionaire ends up buying a house for Thomas’s mother … and lets her live there rent-free!

Just resign, Justice Thomas.

Special counsel closes in

I am not a lawyer … and I don’t even play one on TV, but I have a hunch about a legal proceeding that I want to share.

It is that former Vice President Mike Pence’s testimony this week before a grand jury examining the 1/6 insurrection well might be the beginning of the end of Donald Trump’s idiotic quest for the presidency in 2024.

Special counsel Jack Smith summoned Pence to testify before the panel; Pence initially fought it, then he and the Pence-Trump legal team were told that the ex-VP had to testify.

Today, he did. Prosecutors sworn him to tell the truth and they then worked him over behind closed doors.

They likely asked Pence: What did Trump say to you in advance of the 1/6 assault on the government and what did you say to him?

I suppose it is possible that Pence could invoke the Fifth Amendment, which protects him against self-incrimination. Except that he isn’t the subject of the probe; Pence is a low-risk witness, given that on that terrible day he stood his ground and stood on the Constitution, which required him to do his duty that day, which was to preside over congressional certification of the Electoral College results from the 2020 presidential election.

Oh, yes, that’s the election that Joe Biden won over Donald Trump. 

Pence has told TV interviewers that Trump’s remarks that day were “reckless” and that they put “everyone in the Capitol that day” in dire danger. Indeed, traitors who stormed the Capitol threatened to assassinate Pence and then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

What did Trump do to stop it? Not a damn thing!

That’s the kind of testimony that the former vice president of the United States can deliver to the special counsel and the grand jury that will determine whether to indict the former president of the United States.

My non-lawyerly gut tells me the special counsel’s hammer is about to hit home … as it must.

Move over, Clarence Thomas …

Now we hear that Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch might be in a bit of a jam over ethical conduct.

What the … ?

First it was Justice Clarence Thomas, whose wife Ginni, got caught up in The Big Lie nonsense over the 2020 presidential election. She attended the rally in which Donald Trump urged the angry crowd to march on the Capitol and “take back” our country. It didn’t work out well. Then the justice cast the lone vote against a decision requiring the ex-POTUS to turn over documents to the National Archives. A connection? Hmm … looks like it to me.

Then came the Harlan Crow matter, with the Dallas zillionaire lavishing gifts on the Thomases, which the justice didn’t report.

Now comes Justice Gorsuch, who reportedly sold a $2 million piece of property to an executive with a mega-legal firm that does business with the court.

It all calls to question the lax ethical standards intended to govern the behavior of the nine men and women who serve on the nation’s highest court.

There needs to be an ethical standard for the nation’s highest court. Chief Justice John Roberts so far has refused to act. The Senate, which must confirm nominees to the federal bench, can do the right thing, if it can muster up the will. So far it has refused.

I daresay the nation’s founders are likely spinning in their graves over the politicization of the SCOTUS. They sought to remove the judiciary from the political arena. Their experiment has failed, sad to say.

The high court demands lower courts adhere to ethical standards. Yet it doesn’t have any such standards for its own justices to follow.

It’s a shameful (or shameless) dereliction of duty.

Electoral consequences are, um, lasting

As if anyone needs reminding of the consequences of electing certain individuals to public office …

Still, I am going to offer this brief reminder.

Donald Trump, in just a single term as president, was able to get three individuals seated on the U.S. Supreme Court; the court now comprises what they call a conservative “supermajority.” The justices who sit on the court are likely to outlive their political benefactor by many years.

Lower courts, too, will bear the impact of the recent POTUS’s appointment powers. Witness the decision handed down in Amarillo by Matthew Kacsmaryk , a U.S. district judge who tossed out the abortion pill based seemingly on his own personal opposition to abortion. Trump nominated this individual to the district court bench, and the Senate confirmed him. Still, elections have consequences, yes?

This is the kind of decision voters need to ponder when they prepare to cast their ballots, either for governor or president.

Trump is just the latest in a long line of politicians with appointment power who — in my view — abused that power by appointing men and women who provide the correct answers to what they call “litmus test” questions. Trump vowed to appoint anti-abortion judges and he made good on that pledge.

Thus, we see the most indelible effect of the consequence of any presidential election.

What is so maddening about the federal judicial appointment process is how political it has become, which to my viewing is counter to what the founders envisioned when they granted federal judges lifetime seats on the bench. Their effort was to de-politicize the federal judiciary; instead, it appears to have become more politicized today than ever in our nation’s history.

But then again, when we realize the consequences we face when certain politicians get elected president, this is what we get.

Judicial activism anyone?

RICHFIELD, Utah — A federal judge in Amarillo, Texas, has offered yet another example of how the MAGA cult of the Repubican Party has turned traditional GOP orthodoxy on its ear.

The standard GOP mantra used to be that the party hated activist judges, that they shouldn’t “legislate from the bench.”

Well, welcome to the new world of GOP judicial activism.

It reared its repulsive puss in the form of U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, who ruled this past week that the abortion drug mifepristone shouldn’t be used to terminate a pregnancy. He suspended its use, which the Food and Drug Administration approved more than 20 years ago, and which women for decades have relied on to end health-endangering pregnancies.

I write this blog while sitting in a community that likely endorses the judge’s activist stance. No worries. I’ll be gone in the morning.

To suggest that the judge has launched a legislative battle from the bench is to be guilty of grotesque understatement.

The judge is a Donald Trump appointee. He succeeded an iconic figure in Texas Panhandle judicial circles, the late Judge Mary Lou Robinson, who likely never — not in a million years — would have tossed out judicial precedent in the manner exhibited by her successor.

Kacsmaryk has done the dirty work of the GOP members of the MAGA cult in Congress. Never mind that most Republicans oppose the judge’s decision, along with a significant majority of all Americans, who want to protect a woman’s reproductive rights.

The Justice Department has filed an appeal with the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and is preparing to take the matter to the top of the judicial food chain, the U.S. Supreme Court.

As for Judge Kacsmaryk, he has tossed aside GOP political precedent by invoking the most judicially activist position possible in wiping out women’s rights.

I am fairly confident that the women, along with many milliions of other Americans, are going to have their say when the 2024 election rolls around.