Category Archives: legal news

Is there a trial in my future?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

A longtime dream of mine took a baby step toward coming true today when I fetched the mail from the mailbox.

It contained a jury summons from the Collin County Courthouse.

The dream involves serving on a trial jury. I long have wanted to perform that particular act of citizenship.

I came of age in my native Oregon. I never got a summons, not from Multnomah County or from Clackamas County, where we lived until we moved to Texas in 1984.

I would get a summons from Jefferson County on occasion, but then would be dismissed. We moved eventually to Randall County in the Texas Panhandle in 1995, where I would occasionally receive a jury summons. One time — just once! — I had to report for duty, where I joined other potential jurors waiting to be selected. Then out came District Judge David Gleason to tell us that our services wouldn’t be needed. Every other summons I got from Randall County would result in my being informed that everyone had settled so I didn’t have to report.

We have migrated to Princeton, in Collin County. The summons arrived today. To be honest, this summons doesn’t tell me if I might be called to serve on a district court jury, a court at law jury or a justice of the peace court jury. Does that mean my chances of being called might pan out? I hope it does.

I know you might think I am a bit loony in the noggin, but I want to serve on a jury. I am aware of those who seek exemptions, citing their work or their age or their physical infirmity. The only thing I can claim is my age, given that I am well north of 65 years of age now. I am not going to evade jury duty.

I know the pay ain’t great. It used to be $6 daily. They’ve kicked it up a bit. That doesn’t matter to me in the least.

Don’t mistake me as some sort of do-gooder, although I have been distressed to read over the years about Texas courts struggling to find eligible residents willing to serve on juries. I have long been curious about how jurors interact with each other and with officers of the court.

I hope I get the chance to find out.

Content of character: does it still count?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Make no mistake that I likely would feel differently were I of African-American or Latino or Asian descent. I am none of those.

Having laid that predicate down, I want to engage in the discussion over who President-elect Biden should select as the nation’s next attorney general.

I practically jumped out of my shoes the other day when I heard an African-American commentator, Jonathan Capehart, say out loud that the three individuals Biden is believed to be considering as AG are too white for his taste. Capehart wants more “diversity” among the finalists.

Hmm. Let’s examine this briefly. The three people Biden reportedly is pondering are U.S. District Judge Merrick Garland, former deputy U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates and U.S. Sen. Doug Jones. They all possess exemplary legal credentials. They also all have committed through their careers to advancing the cause of civil rights.

Their only “shortcoming” is that they aren’t people of color.

President-elect Biden has kept his pledge to nominate executive branch team members who reflect the nation. Has loaded the Cabinet with and top-level staffers with African-Americans, Latinos, Asian-Americans, women; my goodness, he even has selected an openly gay man to serve in the Cabinet.

President Obama nominated Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, only to have his nomination blocked in 2016 by Senate Republicans who wanted to wait for the presidential election outcome that year. Garland has been a champion for minority rights, for gay rights and has staked out a center-left course while serving on the federal bench.

Sally Yates has demonstrated her own commitment to fair and impartial justice as a deputy AG, striving to be sensitive to minority Americans’ concerns over whether the justice system was loaded against them.

Doug Jones, who lost his bid for re-election to the Senate from Alabama in 2020, served as a federal prosecutor and obtained the conviction of the Klansmen who blew up the Birmingham, Ala., church in 1963 that killed four precious African-American girls; it was one of the most notorious hate crimes of the 20th century. He, too, has earned his spurs in fighting for minority rights.

Is it essential that the next AG be a person of color? No. It isn’t. It is essential that the next attorney general refrain from engaging in partisan politics and administer justice dispassionately and in accordance with the law.

I want to remind everyone of what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial that day in 1963. He spoke of his “dream” that one day black Americans can be judged by “content of their character” rather than “the color of their skin.”

Shouldn’t that noble goal apply to any American?

Pardons cross the line

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Presidential pardons remain the exclusive domain of the individual in power at the top of the U.S. political chain of command. Presidents grant them with literally no checks on their propriety.

Their impropriety often crosses party lines, with presidents of both parties abusing the power laid out in the U.S. Constitution.

However, the busload of pardons handed out by Donald J. Trump all have a peculiar and frightening look of familiarity to them. He has delivered pardons and commutations to people who (a) are friends and political allies and (b) who have committed heinous acts in defense of policies that he favors.

Procedure calls for presidents to run pardon  requests through a series of examinations by the Justice Department. They usually include those who have behaved well under federal custody or who have expressed some level of remorse for whatever deed they did. I am unaware so far of any expression of remorse from the likes of Roger Stone, Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, George Papadopoulos or the four Blackwater contractors convicted of killing innocent civilians in Iraq.

Oh, no. They’ve been handed a free get-out-of-jail card by Donald Trump for reasons that have nothing to do with what they are accused — or convicted! — of doing.

Understand, too, that presidents are not bound by law to follow the procedure laid out. They can do whatever the hell they want and that is what Donald Trump has done so far.

This is the kind of exit we all should have expected from Donald Trump as he prepares to leave the White House for the final time; indeed, he might have done so already, having jetted off to Florida to spend the holiday with his family … at least that’s my hope.

This is an astonishing end to an astonishing term as president for Donald Trump. It ain’t normal. If only we had the last of it … if only.

Trump butchers rule of law

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Call me surprised, but not that Donald Trump would enact a scorched-Earth policy on his way out the door of the White House.

I am surprised at the brazenness of it all. Do I fear permanent damage to our democratic form of government. Not just yet, but the A**hole in Chief isn’t done yet.

The pardons he issued this week apparently portend more to come. Of all the pardons and commutations he has delivered, the set of them that gives me chills and fills me with the most rage involves the four convicted killers who worked as defense contractors in Iraq. Trump’s action on their behalf should give all of us serious cause for fear.

These individuals were convicted after a meticulous and thorough prosecution conducted by the Justice Department into reports that they opened fire on innocent civilians in Iraq. Their victims included women and children.

They are killers. They were serving time in federal prison. No longer. They now are free from their much-deserved bondage because the Crook in Chief doesn’t respect the rule of law. He has acted with utter ignorance of the pardon and commutation process and the protocol that served Justice Department officials well since the beginning of our republic.

How in the name of human decency can this man, Trump, live with himself. Oh, I forgot! He is shameless. Trump has no sense of what is just and fair.

I suppose no one should be shocked at what Trump has done on his way out of office. Some of us — such as me — noted long ago that this loon’s pre-politics background was geared toward one goal: self-enrichment. Public service remains to this very day a foreign concept to this individual. The pardons he dished out this week illustrate that cold and hard reality in stark and frightening terms.

I am going to make this point while realizing I likely am spitting into the wind. It is that Republicans in Congress — in the Senate and the House — need to stand up against the guy who lost a presidential election. He is about to leave office. Donald Trump must not be allowed to continue trashing the rule of law.

To think, too, that this was the moron who campaigned for re-election as a “law and order president.”

This individual is a disgrace.

Is the Texas AG seeking a pardon?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Reports are buzzing with the White House receiving a “flood” of requests from around the country regarding potential pardons from Donald Trump as he prepares to leave the White House.

So here’s the question: Has one of the requests come from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, the Republican ally of Trump who sought to nullify millions of votes cast in four states that went to President-elect Joe Biden?

Hey, it’s a fair question. Paxton is being investigated by the FBI on accusations that the AG has committed crimes while abusing the power of his office. Trump has the authority to pardon Paxton pre-emptively, which makes many of us wonder whether the lawsuit filed was intended to prove Paxton’s loyalty to Trump. Thus, he would be a candidate for a presidential pardon.

The U.S. Supreme Court tossed the lawsuit into the crapper, but the Texas AG is still out there … perhaps hoping for a final big favor from his hero Donald Trump.

Barr breaks with POTUS

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

U.S. Attorney General William Barr is about to step away from public life, but before he goes he is dealing Donald J. Trump a punch in the gut.

To which I say: It is about damn time!

Barr today declared — two days before he departs the Justice Department — that there is no need for a special counsel to investigate alleged election fraud; nor is there a need to investigate the dealings of Hunter Biden, the son of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.

The gut punch occurs because Trump believes there is a need for a special counsel to look at both matters. Barr, who has been criticized roundly — and with justification — for his fealty to the president, is putting the finishing touches on his Justice Department career by telling us the truth about this bogus special counsel demand.

One is that there is no widespread voter fraud of the type Trump has alleged. Two is that the Hunter Biden matter is being handled responsibly by U.S. prosecutors in Delaware.

As NBC News has reported: “I see no basis now for seizing machines by the federal government — wholesale seizure of machines by the federal government,” he said, adding that he stood by his statement there was no widespread fraud that would affect the outcome of the presidential election.

I expect the Twitter tirade from Donald Trump to be forthcoming.

Barr resignation: perfect metaphor

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

U.S. Attorney General William Barr’s resignation today splashed itself all over the news in a perfect metaphor for what the Donald Trump administration has become.

It symbolizes the chaos and confusion many of us saw coming.

Barr’s letter doesn’t mention the word “resignation.” Indeed, it speaks so glowingly about Donald Trump it leaves many of us wondering whether Trump himself actually wrote it. Would it surprise you if it comes out that Trump penned a resignation letter from the AG? Me neither.

Barr will leave office on Dec. 23. So, the Justice Department won’t have a permanent AG for the final month of the Trump administration. Nor will it have a permanent defense secretary, given that Trump fired Mark Esper a few weeks ago.

Think of this: the nation’s top legal eagle and its defense boss are gone in the waning weeks of an administration that burned through countless Cabinet secretaries and chief advisers and aides.

Trump is staggering out of office, giving way to President-elect Biden’s team that is forming daily.

My head is spinning.

GOP favors ‘judicial activism’?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

There once was a time in this country when Republicans berated progressives/liberals for favoring what they referred to derisively  as “judicial activism.”

The GOP hated the notion of the courts rewriting laws, or “legislating from the bench.” Well, what in the name of juris prudence have we seen now in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court dismissal of a lawsuit brought to it by the Texas attorney general? We’re seeing and hearing Republicans blasting the court for, um, following the Constitution.

What the hell?

Texas AG Ken Paxton wanted the SCOTUS to order millions of votes cast in states that supported Joe Biden’s election as president tossed out. He was joined by 16 GOP state attorneys general; then we had more than 120 GOP members of Congress sign on to Paxton’s lunacy. They all wanted the high court to — yep, that’s right — take a judicially activist stance.

Up is now down. Right is wrong. Left is right and vice versa. Nothing makes sense. Not a damn thing!

This madness is being orchestrated by Donald Trump, the so-called Republican president who is masterminding this revolt against the democratic process. He lost an election and won’t accept the will of the American voters.

Traditional Republican politicians, if there are any of them left in public office, should be aghast, appalled and astounded at what has become of traditional Republican policy.

My thoughts exactly …

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

A member of my family, a highly educated man who lives in the Pacific Northwest, sent me an email today that asks: What the hell is going on down there?

I’m trying to figure it out.

He is referring to Ken Paxton, our state attorney general, who filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Supreme Court that sought to give Texas the right to tell other states how to run their elections. The four states in question, I hasten to add, all voted for President-elect Joe Biden. Paxton sought to order the states to toss out those Biden votes and then endorse Donald Trump for re-election.

The SCOTUS said “no can do.” Paxton doesn’t have the standing to make that demand, justices said.

I would have hoped the high court’s dismissal of Paxton’s idiocy would spell the end of Donald Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election. Silly me. It ain’t happening … at least not yet.

Meanwhile, Paxton vows to keep fighting. For what, I have no clue. The SCOTUS is at the very tippy-top of the judicial chain of command in this country.

Now the AG is turning Texas into a laughingstock. Who out there is laughing? I mean, really! It ain’t funny, folks. Some of us in Texas are embarrassed beyond measure at what our state’s top legal eagle is trying to do.

Consider that he’s already indicted for securities fraud and is awaiting trial in state court. Plus, the FBI has subpoenaed records from his office as part of a federal probe brought forward by seven assistant AGs who blew the whistle on what they allege is criminal behavior by Paxton.

How in the world this guy, Paxton, got elected as AG in the first place is beyond me, let alone re-elected four years later.

My dear family member, I am sad to admit, has asked me a question for which I have no good answer. I do not know what the hell is going on here. 

Lunacy continues

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Oh, my … it appears that political lunacy is a bottomless well.

There must be no end to it.

The U.S. Supreme Court has tossed aside a stupid lawsuit brought by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to overturn election results in four states. Donald Trump keeps yammering about rampant and widespread voter fraud. The court said he hasn’t made the case and that Paxton lacks the standing to challenge other states’ electoral process.

That’s the end of it, right? Not even.

Trump now is considering the appointment of a special counsel to examine the baseless allegations he has leveled. He also wants to look into Hunter Biden’s finances; yes, the son of the president-elect who defeated Trump this past month in the presidential election.

Lunacy, man. Lunacy!

Trump appears ready to take this fight all the way to Inauguration Day. Maybe even past it. Donald Trump might go for as long as he walks among us.

Yes, the nation elected a lunatic as its president in 2016. It decided it had enough of his idiocy and tossed him out in favor of President-elect Biden.

He ain’t going quietly. He is showing himself to be the lunatic many of us realized we were getting four years ago.