Below is my column in USA Today on the diminishing role of Attorney General Merrick Garland at the Justice Department after a series of controversies. As a well-known moderate, many of us had hoped that Garland could be a unifying presence at the Department; assuring a divided nation that justice would be pursued in an even-handed and apolitical fashion. Yet, in controversy after controversy, Garland has failed to take modest steps to make such assurances. After well documented cases of bias and false statements by FBI and DOJ officials in past investigations, there was a clear need for greater transparency and independence in investigations. Garland has consistently swatted away such options. This week, Garland stayed on that path and refused to release any part of the affidavit used as the basis for the search of Mar-a-Lago. This included the possible issuance of a redacted copy or even responses to specific concerns over the timing or basis for the search. While Trump has called for the release of the affidavit, Garland will not even release those sections dealing with the account of the prior discussions and agreements with the Team Trump. There is little proactive effort to anticipate or address such concerns as vividly shown in the last week.
Fox News is reporting that the FBI seized boxes containing attorney-client privileged and potentially executive privileged material during its raid Mar-a-Lago. When the raid occurred, I noted that the legal team had likely marked material as privileged at the residence and that the collection could create an immediate conflict over such material. Now, sources are telling Fox that the Justice Department not only took attorney-client material but has refused Trump requests for a special master to review the records.
For many who watched the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard trial, some of the most outstanding moments involved his defense counsel Yarelyn Mena. It was an extraordinary opportunity for the 29-year old graduated from CUNY (2015) and, by all accounts, Mena performed well. It was considered the turning point of one of the most famous trials in modern history. It is something that should be a matter of great pride for the CUNY community and, not surprisingly, the website did an article on their graduate. However, it has now been deleted with an apology after people objected that they were upset or traumatized by the recognition due to Heard’s allegations of abuse. Continue reading ““We Regret Any Pain”: CUNY Apologizes and Deletes Article On Depp Lawyer”→
There was an extraordinary story this week out of Rolling Stone magazine, which breathlessly reported a “serious matter” of an allegation that Supreme Court justices prayed with evangelicals, including some associated with groups that filed amicus briefs with the Court. Many liberal sites went immediately into instant vapors at the thought of justices praying with such individuals, including the usual unhinged claims of ethical violations and renewed calls for everything from court packing to impeachments. What is clear is that the critics will require more than this “hope and a prayer” to achieve such ends. Continue reading “Hope and a Prayer: Liberals Condemn the Conservative Justices After Dubious Rolling Stone Article”→
In the aftermath of the historic ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, politicians and pundits have denounced the Supreme Court justices and the Court itself for holding opposing views on the interpretation of the Court. Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the justices “right-wing politicians” and many journalists called the Court “activists.” Most concerning were legal analysts who fueled misleading accounts of the opinion or the record of this Court. Notably, it is precisely what the Court anticipated in condemning those who would make arguments “designed to stoke unfounded fear.” Continue reading “The Dobbs Decision Unleashes Rage and Revisionism”→
The hearings of the House Select Committee on the Jan. 6th riot have featured a number of Republican lawyers, including former Attorney General Bill Barr, who opposed efforts to challenge the election after finding no support for the widespread election fraud claims of former President Donald Trump. The media called them “Team Normal.” That does not sit well with the most rabid activists who spent years demonizing Barr and others. Yet, the most ironic dissenting voice is that of former Clinton campaign General Counsel Marc Elias, who just ran a vehement column “Calling B.S. On Trump’s ‘Team Normal.'” Elias is a lawyer previously sanctioned in court and accused of lying about the hidden funding of the Steele Dossier by the Clinton campaign.
There is an interesting case out of Ohio where the state Supreme Court has ruled that Lake County Common Pleas Court JudgeEugene Lucci erred when he gave Manson Bryant, 35, an added six years after Bryant called him “racist as f**k.” The outburst followed his initial sentencing for robbery, kidnapping, and weapons charges relating to an armed burglary.
Last week, many of us initially celebrated the reinstatement of the Center for the Constitution Director Ilya Shapiro as a belated but important victory for free speech and academic freedom. Then we all read the rationale from Law Dean William Treanor, who adopted a technicality that not only avoided a full endorsement of Shapiro’s rights but left a menacing uncertainty as to his (and any other conservative’s) future protections at Georgetown University Law School. Shapiro has elected to leave Georgetown to take a position with the Manhattan Institute given the lack of support for his right to speak freely at the law school. Unfortunately, most schools want to avoid litigation (and the controversy) over terminating dissenting faculty. The preference is to make life on faculties so hostile or intolerable that faculty will simply resign.
Below is my column in The Hill on the subpoena war raging in Washington as the Jan. 6th Committee prepares for its first public hearings this week. This weekend, the Justice Department announced that it would not be prosecuting former chief of staff Mark Meadows and social media director Dan Scavino. As noted below, they took a wiser course of limited cooperation. The refusal to prosecute triggered a backlash from Rep. Adam Schiff who wanted to see more criminal charges out of the Biden Administration.
We previously discussed the cases of attorneys Colinford Mattis and Urooj Rahman, who were accused of throwing a Molotov cocktail into a police vehicle in New York. They were facing domestic terrorism charges and the possibility of 30 years in jail. This week, the Biden Administration agreed to a massive reduction of the charges in a plea agreement that will likely result only in a couple years of jail time. What is particularly bizarre is that the plea agreement reduces an earlier plea agreement for a more serious offense.
In yesterday’s massive defamation award to actor Johnny Depp, his ex-wife Amber Heard was left holding a bill for $15,000,000. Even after a reduction for her own award and a statutory reduction of the punitive damage portion, Heard is still looking at $8,350,000 in damages. Many view that amount (which is $1.35 million more than her divorce settlement) to be justified in light of the damage caused to Depp’s reputation and career. However, the stain of this verdict should be shared with others, even if they avoided the sting of actual damages. That includes many in the media (including the Washington Post staff) who rushed to paint Heard as a victim and Depp as an abuser. Yet, the greatest condemnation should be reserved for the organization that not only pushed that narrative but actually helped draft the defamatory column: the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Continue reading “The Depp Trial and the Demise of the ACLU: How a Celebrity Trial Exposed the Collapse of a Once Celebrated Group”→
The massive verdict in favor of actor Johnny Depp yesterday constitutes a rare victory of a public figure under the difficult New York Times v. Sullivan standard for defamation. The award of $15 million found that Amber Heard not only lied but did so with malice. Depp ran the table on all of his counts. While this case will likely be studied for years, the one verdict in favor of Heard is itself notable because it was based on defamation by counsel — a lesson for lawyers in defending their clients in public.