Category: Courts

New York Court Orders Mother To Remove Confederate Flag Decoration or Risk Losing Custody of Her Daughter

There is an interesting First Amendment case brewing in New York after an appellate ruled that a mother identified as Christie could lose custody of her daughter unless she removes a rock with a small confederate flag image on it in the driveway. The child is of mixed races and the court has deemed the display as inimical to the best interests of the child.  The family court judge did not make such a determination and the ruling raises a very serious free speech concern over conditioning a right to custody on the curtailment of political speech. As will come as no surprise to regulars on this blog, I view the order as an unconstitutional infringement of the First Amendment.

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Juror 52: Does Chauvin Have A New Challenge Over Juror Brandon Mitchell?

The conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was undermined this week after the previously anonymous Juror #52 went public with interviews to discuss his experience on the jury and support the movement to curtail police abuse. The problem was not the public disclosure of his identity (which jurors can elect to do) but what his self-identification triggered on the Internet. A picture soon emerged showing Brandon Mitchell wearing a Black Lives Matter T-shirt with a reference to the death of George Floyd. The image was raised as contradicting his answers in voir dire and raising an appellate question as to juror bias that could be used to challenge the conviction. Continue reading “Juror 52: Does Chauvin Have A New Challenge Over Juror Brandon Mitchell?”

Suspect Who Dragged NYPD Officer Was Previously Released Pending Trial For Attempted Murder

The recently released video of a NYPD officer being dragged by a fleeing suspect took an even more controversial turn when it was disclosed that the suspect was out on bond despite being charged with attempted murder. Takim Newson’s earlier release by a judge is baffling given the alleged crime and Newson’s prior criminal record. Continue reading “Suspect Who Dragged NYPD Officer Was Previously Released Pending Trial For Attempted Murder”

Pelosi Refuses To Criticize Waters Despite Court Denouncing Her Remarks For Undermining The Chauvin Trial

The fallout over the comments of Rep. Maxine Waters (D., Cal.)  continued as Democrats were asked to condemn her call for protesters to stay in the streets and get more confrontational. I recently wrote a column on how Waters had become the best possible witness for Donald Trump in her own lawsuit against him. Waters was denounced by Judge Peter Cahill for undermining not just any conviction in the trial of Derek Chauvin but the court itself in seeking to carry out its constitutional function. It would seem a simple matter for responsible people to condemn Waters’ inflammatory remarks but Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Cal.) defended her and refused to criticize the comments.  Earlier this year, Pelosi condemned Trump for criminal incitement and pushed through his impeachment for using similar words on Jan. 6th.  Waters was also defended on CNN where media figures supported her call for protesters to stay in the streets and get “more confrontational.” Continue reading “Pelosi Refuses To Criticize Waters Despite Court Denouncing Her Remarks For Undermining The Chauvin Trial”

Sixth Circuit Upholds Ohio Law Banning Aborting Babies With Down Syndrome

The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit this week upheld an Ohio law that bans doctors from performing abortions when they know the reason a woman is seeking an abortion is that her baby has Down syndrome. It is a major win for pro-life advocates but could face an appeal to the Supreme Court.

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Two Capitol Police Officers Sue Trump Over Capitol Riot

recently wrote about the lawsuit by Rep. Eric Swalwell against former President Donald Trump as a serious miscalculation that could result in a legal vindication for Trump either on the trial or appellate levels. In my view, the lawsuit contravenes free speech as well as controlling case law from the Supreme Court. Now two Capitol Police officers injured during the riot, James Blassingame and Sidney Hemby, have sued on similar grounds with many of the same inherent flaws. The 40-page lawsuit was written by D.C. attorney Patrick Malone, who previously filed ethics complaints against lawyers representing the Trump campaign or the Republican party.  Trump lawyers many view this lawsuit as a greater opportunity than a liability for their client.

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North Carolina Supreme Court Upholds Judicially Mandated Speech And Censorship On Blog

An opinion out of North Carolina is raising very serious concern over free speech this week.  The North Carolina Court of Appeals upheld the actions of William Coward, a Macon County judge, who not only convicted a blogger of the crime of recording a court hearing, but went further to force  Davin Eldridge to write and post a lengthy essay about respect — and then delete any negative comments from those objecting to the judicially-coerced speech.  The opinion in my view is an outrageous overreach of judicial authority and an attack on free speech. Yet the North Carolina Supreme Court has now upheld the sentence without any opinion.

Near Unanimous Supreme Court Rules Against Georgia Gwinnett College In Free Speech Victory

If Georgia Gwinnett College wanted to foster greater unity in its use of “free speech zones,” it succeeded in prompting a near unanimous Supreme Court in ruling against it in favor of free speech this week. The Court voted 8-1 that two former students should be able to sue for nominal or symbolic damages to avoid mootness on their challenges.  Only Chief Justice John Roberts stood against the ability of the two former students to sue over the loss of free speech rights. Continue reading “Near Unanimous Supreme Court Rules Against Georgia Gwinnett College In Free Speech Victory”

Did The Democrats “Tank” The Second Trump Trial?

Below is my column in USA Today on the lack of a strategy by the House to secure conviction in the trial of former President Donald Trump. As I have previously noted, the House managers did an excellent job in their presentations and many of the videotapes rekindled the anger that most of us felt over the riot. They also reinforced the view of many (including myself) that former president Donald Trump bears responsibility in the tragedy that unfolded due to his reckless rhetoric. Yet, there was a glaring omission in the substance of the House arguments. The managers did not lay out what the standard should be in convicting a former president for incitement of an insurrection and only briefly touched on proving any “state of mind” needed for such a conviction. That is why I have referred to their case as more emotive than probative. It lacked direct evidence to support the claim that Trump wanted to incite an actual insurrection or rebellion against the United States, as alleged in the article of impeachment.  I do not believe that an acquittal was inevitable in this case, but it was all but assured by critical decisions made by the House in this impeachment. The unforced errors discussed below raise the question of whether the Democrats “tanked” the trial.

Here is the column:

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“The First Amendment Does Not Apply”: A Response To The Letter Of Scholars In Rejecting Trump Arguments Under The First Amendment

“The First Amendment does not apply in impeachment proceedings.”  If there is a single line that sums up the sense of legal impunity in the second Trump impeachment, it is that line from a letter sent by law professors to deny any basis for the former president to challenge his impeachment on free speech grounds. The scholars call any such arguments “legally frivolous” but only after misstating the argument and frankly employing a degree of circular logic. While I agree with aspects of the letter, I believe that the thrust of the letter misses the point of those of us who have raised free speech concerns.  Continue reading ““The First Amendment Does Not Apply”: A Response To The Letter Of Scholars In Rejecting Trump Arguments Under The First Amendment”

Federal Court Blocks Biden Executive Order On Deportations Under the Same Law Used Against Trump

During the Trump Administration, Democratic Attorneys General used the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) to delay Trump policies pending satisfaction of requirements for notice and comment periods. Even though President Barack Obama did not satisfy APA conditions in imposing original rules, the Supreme Court enforced such procedures to reverse prior orders.  During that litigation over the Trump executive orders, I repeatedly noted that the Democratic challengers in court were making arguments that would likely used against the next Democratic president in seeking to quickly undo Trump’s orders. That has now come to past. When Biden took power, he immediately did what Trump did in taking unilateral acton without APA notice.  District Court Judge Drew B. Tipton ordered this week that the directive from acting Homeland Security Secretary David Pekoske was not in apparent compliance with the same law.

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We Must Talk About Constitutional Issues In The Election Certification

Below is my column in the Hill on today’s challenge to the counting of electoral votes in Congress.  The challenge raises a long-standing debate over the authority of Congress in making such challenges.  What is clear in my view is that Vice President Michael Pence does not have the unilateral authority claimed by President Donald Trump to simply “send back” electoral votes for particular states. Nothing in the Constitution suggests such authority and the Electoral Count Act expressly contradicts such claimed authority. Indeed, such an act could bring an unprecedented challenge and judicial intervention in the certification of the presidential election.

What is odd is the President’s continued assurance to his supporters that this is a possible path to victory. Shortly after the election, I wrote that I thought the President was laying the foundations for a “Death Star” strategy but that it would not likely succeed. To make that Luke Skywalker shot, he needed a perfect alignment of elements. None of those elements are present today.  The over-hearted rhetoric from the President and his critics however are magnifying our divisions and anger.

Here is the column:

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“Symbols . . . Of Subtle Oppression”: Virginia Judge Orders Removal Of Portraits Of White Judges

Judge David Bernhard is a jurist in Fairfax County (where I reside) has issued a controversial order that the portraits of white judges must be removed from a courtroom because their presence would deny a black defendant a fair trial. In a decision applauded in the Washington Post, Bernhard declared that a fair trial is threatened in “a courtroom gilded with … white individuals peering down on an African American defendant.”  Continue reading ““Symbols . . . Of Subtle Oppression”: Virginia Judge Orders Removal Of Portraits Of White Judges”

No Recusal But Now A Reversal? Federal Judge and Sister Of Leslie Abrams Changes Order On Georgia Ballots

U.S. District Judge Leslie Abrams Gardner attracted considerable criticism when she declined to recuse herself from a challenge over voter eligibility.  Gardner is the sister of Stacey Abrams who has led the effort to register voters in the state. Many felt it was inappropriate for Gardner to rule on the case, a concern that was magnified by her quick rejection of a purging of the rolls of roughly 4000 inactive voters.  Now, it appears that Gardner has not recused herself but did reverse herself.  A new order has issued upholding the purge in the face of an appeal.

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