Tag Archives: federal judiciary

Televise the trials!

Donald John Trump is not your every-day criminal defendant, given that for four years he occupied the presidency of the United States.

Therefore, it is imperative that the federal judiciary do something far out of the ordinary. It needs to televise the federal trials that will determine whether Donald Trump is guilty of the crimes for which he is being charged.

Trump has four trials pending. Two of them are in state courts. New York and Georgia grand juries have indicted him for committing crimes against the nation he once took an oath to protect.

I want to focus on the two federal indictments. One of them came from a grand jury in Florida; that’s the classified documents case in which Trump pilfered documents from the White House and stashed ’em in his glitzy estate. The other came from a D.C. grand jury; that is the matter involving the 1/6 assault on our government.

You see, this is critical inasmuch as Trump was once elected to the presidency. He took an oath to protect the government against all enemies. Then he shunned that oath when the 2020 election didn’t turn out the way he wanted; he lost that contest to Joe Biden.

Americans who were governed by this fraud have a right to witness how these trials play out. Will they produce sideshows, melodrama and game-playing? Yes, they might … but that isn’t necessarily pre-ordained.

I recall meeting with Tom Phillips, who in the 1990s was chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court. The OJ Simpson trial was underway and Phillips said that the judge in that trial, California Superior Court Judge Lance Ito, had plenty of authority to rein in the lawyers. He could have set time limits on the presentations. He could have demanded decorum and dignity in the courtroom.

Phillips said trial judges have immense power to run these trials in orderly and concise fashions.

It’s that knowledge that gives me hope that if the federal judiciary turns on the TV cameras in the courtroom that they will expose the public to a ringside view of how one of our three branches of government does the job prescribed in the US Constitution.

Judge is in charge … period!

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan today told the entire world just who is in charge of Donald J. Trump’s life.

For starters, it is not Donald J. Trump. That role now falls on a jurist who was selected randomly to preside over a trial involving charges that the former POTUS conspired to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Chutkan reportedly doesn’t suffer fools at all, let alone lightly. She delivered a ruling today that is both fair and it tells the criminal defendant, Trump, that he needs to cease hiding behind a “free speech” argument in his defense. He is free to say the 2020 election was rigged, she said, but he is not free to issue veiled threats against the prosecutors, jurors or the judge.

Chutkan told Trump that free speech is not “absolute” and that criminal defendants — such as Trump — have limits on statements they can make.

Thus, we have just received a sterling civic lesson on how an individual who prides himself on being “in charge” of all he sees, who once boasted that “I, alone” can fix the nation’s ailments, is now beholden to a federal judge.

Therein lies the wisdom of the founders who created a federal judiciary that has the authority to keep anyone — even a former president — on a short rhetorical leash.


SCOTUS strikes blow for restraint

The U.S. Supreme Court, the panel with that conservative supermajority, has done what many of us didn’t expect from it.

The court stemmed a judicial rampage launched by a lower court judge in Amarillo, who ruled that a tried-and-proven pill used by women to end pregnancies no longer is suitable.

The SCOTUS allowed the use of the pill approved 20-plus years ago by the Food and Drug Administration for several more weeks while appeals play out.

Two justices voted in the minority: Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. There might have been more, but only those two let their dissents be known.

The federal judge, Matthew Kacsmaryk, tossed judicial restraint out the window with his ruling against the drug. It is an ironic ruling, given conservative judges’ inherent dislike for what they call “judicial activism.”

The case now will go to the Fifth U.S. Circuit of Appeals, considered the most conservative appellate court in the federal system. I am going to hold out a glimmer of hope that the Fifth Circuit will follow the lead established by the Supreme Court and keep the drug in use.

Matthew Kacsmaryk, meanwhile, has breathed life into the upcoming political battle that well could determine whether Republicans maintain control of Congress in 2024 … and whether they can reclaim the White House as well.

Public opinion is not on the GOP’s side in this brewing battle for reproductive rights.


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.


Judiciary wins in midterm

Among the many winners who are basking in the glory of the 2022 midterm election result must be those who work within the federal judiciary.

Had the Republicans been able to seize control of the U.S. Senate, GOP leader Mitch McConnell had all but guaranteed that President Biden would have to endure a massive legislative blockade of all his judicial nominees.

Democrats will be in control of the Senate for at least the next two years. That means Biden will be able to fill the 50-some judicial vacancies that have stayed vacant.

Should a vacancy occur on the Supreme Court, the president will be able to nominate someone, who then will be subjected to the senatorial scrutiny required of all such nominees. Remember what McConnell did to President Obama when a vacancy occurred in early 2016 upon the sudden death of Justice Antonin Scalia, He played a crass game of partisan politics and blocked the man Obama wanted to sit on the court — Merrick Garland — from ever getting a hearing.

That kind of chicanery won’t happen now that Democrats have secured at least 50 seats in the Senate.

Yes, the judiciary emerges as one of the winners of the midterm election.


I told you so … ?

As a general rule I am not one to gloat or to say “I told you so” when it regards political predictions, given that my record on that score is so abysmal.

However, I believe I might have earned the right to say “I told you so” as it pertains to whether Donald J. Trump is going to run for president of the United States in 2024.

I have expressed profound doubt that Trump would be able to mount any sort of credible campaign for POTUS. The federal judiciary, I am delighted to affirm, seems to be giving my assertions a good bit of weight.

A three-judge panel — with two judges having been nominated by Donald Trump — has essentially tossed into the crapper a ruling by another Trump judicial appointee any thought that the ex-POTUS could derail the FBI seizure of classified documents from Trump’s glitzy mansion in Florida.

Trump now is facing the prospect of having to withstand the full weight of the Justice Department probe into whether he violated the law by taking documents from the White House and “hiding” them in desk drawers in his Mar-a-Lago estate.

Furthermore, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals panel says the documents belong “to the people of the United States.” They aren’t Trump’s. They don’t even belong to the White House. They belong to you and me, man!

And then there’s the lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James that has the potential of wiping out Donald Trump and forcing three of his adult children to file bankruptcy. AG James alleges that Trump engaged in criminal falsification of his assets in order to obtain favorable business loans.

It is the by far largest lawsuit Donald Trump has ever faced … and, brother, he’s faced a bunch of ’em in his adult professional life!

All of this leads me to conclude — with a healthy dose of caution — that I see no way on Earth that Donald Trump can possibly seek the presidency ever again.


Yep, elections have consequences

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

The old saying about how “elections have consequences” is playing itself out on the U.S. Supreme Court.

President Biden’s immediate predecessor was able to nominate three justices to the nation’s highest court during his single term. This week, we saw the effect of those nominations present itself in real time with a ruling that makes it more difficult to stem the Republican tide that seeks to make voting more difficult for Americans.

The court ruled 6 to 3 — with conservative justices winning the fight — on a ruling out of Arizona that keeps in place strict voter requirements that critics suggest aim to make it harder for traditionally Democratic citizens to vote.

So the battle will be joined.

The ruling makes it harder for ethnic and racial minorities to challenge the Arizona law, which places many restrictions deemed critical to the political balance of power.

These appointments to the nation’s highest court have reignited calls to expand the court from its current nine justices to, oh, 13 or 15. That’s a bad idea and I do not support such a drastic move. President Biden isn’t warm to the notion, either. He pledged to appoint a blue-ribbon commission of conservative and liberal legal scholars to find a way to reform the federal judiciary.

However, electoral consequences have this way of presenting themselves when courts make these difficult decisions.

Justice Stephen Breyer, appointed to the court in 1994 after being nominated by President Clinton, might retire soon. Breyer is among the liberals on the court. A nomination by President Biden isn’t going to change the court’s ideological tilt should he get the chance.

These key court rulings do make it imperative that we understand the consequences of electing presidents. They are huge, especially when the court system swings too far in the wrong direction.

In my humble view, it has done so.

So much at stake … R.I.P., RBG

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

This blog post was supposed to be a commentary on the stakes facing us in the upcoming presidential election and the impact it will have on the federal judiciary.

Then came the sad news: Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died today of cancer at the age of 87. Folks, the stakes just got exponentially greater by a factor I cannot at this moment calculate.

But I’ll go on with what I had written. There will be much more to say about the immediate future of the Supreme Court.


Americans aren’t just voting for president of the United States. We also are casting our ballots to determine the course of constitutional interpretation by the powerful federal judiciary.

Donald Trump wants another four years to drag the nation’s highest court so far to the right as to make it unrecognizable from where it stands at this moment. He has boasted about possibly making two more appointments, to go along with the two men he picked during his current term. Now comes the news of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death and quite suddenly, the balance of the court becomes a gigantic factor.

Trump even has gone so far as to offer a list of 20 candidates for the Supreme Court that he would consider were he re-elected.

So help me we cannot let that happen.

Joe Biden has declared his intention to select an African-American woman to the nation’s top appellate court. He did vow to select a woman with whom he would run for office and has made good on that pledge.

Given what we know — or think we know — about Joe Biden’s own judicial temperament, I am hoping he would go for center-left selections to the Supreme Court.

Of course, all of this depends on Biden getting elected president in November.

In addition, we have this other key set of elections occurring. They involve the U.S. Senate, which at the moment has 53 Republicans — a scant majority — in control of the upper legislative chamber. Democrats have to flip four Senate seats to claim a majority.

This is big stuff, man. We already have seen how the GOP majority conducts itself with Supreme Court appointments. The miserable raw political move in stymying President Obama’s choice in 2016 of Merrick Garland to succeed the late Justice Antonin Scalia told me plenty about how dirty the GOP can get.

That said, Senate control ranks a very close second to White House control in this upcoming election. The legislative, executive and judicial branches of government are separate and have equal power under the Constitution. They are linked inextricably, though, through the power of our individual votes.

I am one American patriot who does not want to see this delicate government balance upended if we fail to act on the need for change in the White House and the Senate.

SCOTUS provides wonderful civics lesson

Dear readers of High Plains Blogger, I am happy to report to you that our U.S. Supreme Court has issued a ruling that sparkles on a number of fronts.

It ruled 7-2 that the president of the United States is not above the law. The ruling said that Donald Trump’s financial records are open to grand jury scrutiny in Manhattan, New York City, which is examining potential criminal conduct from the president.

The ruling demonstrated the value of having an “independent federal judiciary.” Two justices who joined the majority were nominated by Donald Trump. Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh sided with Justices Elana Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Chief Justice John Roberts in this seminal ruling

Why is that important? It’s because the federal judiciary has become the target of partisans who worry that the SCOTUS has tilted too far to the right, that it will bend to the will of a president who demands loyalty at all levels … even from members of the federal judiciary.

Federal judges get appointed for life. The founders intended for them to be free of political pressure. Today’s ruling suggests to me that the nation’s highest court is delivering on the founders’ promise.

It’s not clear whether the nation will see Trump’s tax returns prior to the November presidential election. That’s really not the point, as I have thought about the ruling over the past few hours. Trump will bob and weave for as long as he can to keep them out of public view.

The ruling, though, does establish a clear legal concept that presidents of the United States cannot invoke their incumbency as a shield against prosecutors.

I doubt it will prevent Donald Trump from trying every dodge he can find to keep those records out of public view.

Still, I am heartened to see the strength of an independent federal judiciary show itself in front of the nation.

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.