The watchdog group Common Cause on filed a complaint on Monday with the Federal Election Commission and the Justice Department alleging that Donald Trump violated federal law with his secret payment of $130,000 to a porn star known as Stormy Daniels. Daniels gave a long interview to In Touch magazine detailing a yearlong affair with Trump but later accepted the money and signed a statement denying such a sexual relationship. Common Cause argues that the payment was “an unreported in-kind contribution to Donald J. Trump for President, Inc., and an unreported expenditure by the committee — because the funds were paid for the purpose of influencing the 2016 president general election — in violation of the campaign finance reporting requirements.”
There was an interesting article in the ABA Journal this week discussing how U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Wolford has responded to a New York State Bar Association report on women participating in court arguments at a lower rate than men. Wolford went public with how she has made it clear that, in a case where female associates were present, the court wanted to hear the argument from those attorneys as opposed to their male counterparts. The “suggestion” raises some obvious concerns over the use of gender or age in such decisions as well as the impact on a client’s choice of counsel.
The effort of Wolford to encourage the participation of female lawyers is commendable and the New York report identifies an area of obvious concern for the bar. However, the question is the role of the court in pushing for arguments from lawyers based on gender or age. How can a judge ideally pursue this well-meaning purpose and should there be limits?
The personal lawyer of President Donald Trump, Michael Cohen, reportedly threatened to sue a tabloid magazine if it published an interview with the former adult film star Stormy Daniels in 2011. Daniels told In Touch that she had an affair with Trump that started shortly after Melania Trump gave birth to her son Barron. The threat appeared to work and the story never ran. During the presidential campaign, Cohen used a fake name and shell company to give $130,000 to the porn star to deny any sexual relationship. The publication sets up an interesting legal question of whether Trump will sue as threatened and how this might play out under the standard set out in New York Times v. Sullivan. You have a porn star who does have two clearly opposing statements on the affairs as the main source for the article. However, a lawsuit would present risks that few lawyers would consider worth taking in a legal action.
There remains an intense debate over the legal and ethical implications of former FBI Director James Comey removing FBI memos and leaking the information to the press. Despite serious allegations of unethical conduct, Comey has been chosen to teach a course on “ethical leadership” at William and Mary in the Fall.
One of the elements to the recent tax bill that drew considerable opposition was the move to a neutral tax system that no longer allowed for the writing off of state taxes. However, there is a valid argument for such an approach since many citizens in low tax states do not benefit to the same degree. Indeed, those taxpayers have complained that they are effectively subsidizing taxpayers in states like New York and California even though they often make considerably less. I have come to support the approach for a different reason. It forces local politicians to bear the true costs of tax hikes since they can no longer dismiss objections by saying that their increases will simply be recovered as a deduction on federal taxes. Now, however, California legislators have pushed legislation to force businesses to give back half of their federal tax savings.
As the proud owner of a goldendoodle (Luna), I could not resist posting this story about two hero labradoodles named Adam and Eva. While St. Bernards get all of the rescue press, these two canine superheroes just saved an elderly woman from freezing to death in Michigan.