Tag Archives: Courts

Like Sharks in Charge of Water Safety: Elie Mystal and the Supreme Court

Elie Mystal, of the Nation Magazine, is a national treasure. 

He is like a breath of fresh air in the middle of the stale, phony, self-serving, power and celebrity worshiping hosts and commentators appearing regularly on corporate news.

One, just one of the reasons I love him is that he rolls his eyes on national television.  Another reason I love him is that he tells the truth and talks like a regular person.  He doesn’t use ten words with one will do, and he doesn’t surround every statement he makes with a boat load of qualifying phrases.  

He rolls his eyes, he tells the truth, he doesn’t obfuscate because (unlike almost every other person appearing on corporate news) he is not afraid.

The right is not afraid of stealing Supreme Court seats, lying, cheating, rigging elections, subverting justice and a whole host of other things.  The center, however, is a culture of people who are afraid.  They are afraid to see the truth right in front of their faces, afraid to confront depressing and distressing facts, afraid of the very possibility of offending somebody, afraid of being inconvenienced, afraid of not perhaps, maybe not getting some job they haven’t even thought of yet.

I spent almost a decade out of the country.  When I returned, I was astounded to hear a student tell me she couldn’t take an internship at World Wildlife (World Wildlife, not the Communist Party) because she might someday want to apply for a job with the State Department.  This is who we have become.  The right, the Republican party is fighting 24-hours-a-day to establish a Christo-fascist authoritarian government and those in the center are afraid of their shadows.

On Thursday, Nicolle Wallace, MSNBC, spent an entire segment of her program listening to people lionize the members of the January 6 Commission for considering, considering referring Steven Bannon to the Justice Department for criminal contempt.  But, as Eli Mystal pointed out on CNN this morning, the whole process of the referrals to the Justice Department is nothing but theatre.

What every news program and every host should have been pointing out is that the Committee has (but is not using) the right of inherent contempt.  Using this right, the Congress can jail people who don’t abide by subpoenas until they do abide.  They don’t have to refer the matter to the Justice Department and wait for Biden’s (wimp noodle) hatchet man, Merrick Garland to act. 

In addition, inherent contempt means that people like Bannon will be jailed and stay jailed until they provide the information that was subpoenaed.  Going down the criminal contempt path and referring to the Justice Department, assuming Garland will prosecute  (which he will not) and assuming a conviction, only punishes the offender for not cooperating.  It does not secure the information needed. 

So, the House Commission investigating the coup attempt should be shamed and criticized for not taking the path designed to get the information we need.  Instead, they are heralded as heroes, patriots, courageous public servants.  The Nicolle Wallace program last night became a virtual campaign ad for Benie Thompson and the other members.  Not once, did Wallace or any of the members of the panel she assembled tell the American people that what the Commission was doing was a sleight of hand maneuver to look like they were doing something and not doing it.

Similarly, the Commission Biden appointed to study the Supreme Court expansion was “designed to fail.”  As Mystal wrote in April when the commission was formed: “Biden’s choices confirm the worst fears court reformers had about the president: He doesn’t want a solution; he wants an excuse to do nothing.”

Quoting from Eli Mystal’s article IN APRIL:

“Instead of creating a commission of high-minded reformers or bare-knuckle politicos, Biden has created the quintessential government committee that is purposefully designed to accomplish nothing. The “Commission on the Supreme Court” isn’t even allowed to make policy recommendations on what to do about the Supreme Court. It is merely supposed to “study” the issue, which is like hiring a chef to draw pictures of food instead of cooking a meal. When Republicans take power, they don’t commission a book report on what they should do with the courts. They show up to Washington prepared to reshape the judiciary from day one. Biden showed up prepared to read a law review article.”

“Perhaps even more troubling, instead of balancing some of the center-left people on the commission with more, or any, outspoken advocates of court reform, Biden went the other way and put Federalist Society scholars and judges in there to drag the whole thing to the right. I cannot recall the last time a Republican president bothered even to consult a Democratic voice, never mind a genuinely left voice, on how to proceed with a matter related to the Supreme Court. But Democrats continue to act like they need a hall pass from Republicans before they take any action.”

Their inclusion—again, at the expense of some of the individuals who have been actively fighting these people and their conservative takeover of the courts—is insulting.

It’s also a giant waste of time. Donald Trump appointed 226 fire-breathing conservative judges to the federal bench in just four years; we are 20 months away from a midterm election during which Democrats might lose their tenuous grip on power; yet Biden’s committee on studying whether we should maybe, possibly try to fix the court will spend 180 days dickering with Federalist Society people about what Thomas Jefferson would do.”

This report did exactly what it was intended to do, provide cover for Biden who doesn’t have the stomach to expand the Supreme Court (or get rid of the filibuster for that matter).  As Mystal pointed out, the commission itself was composed of people who make their living arguing before the Supreme Court.  Appointing a commission like that is like appointing the sharks to supervise water safety.

In addition, the commission had nothing to say, nothing, about ethics and the Supreme Court.  The Supreme court is the only judicial body in the country with absolutely no ethics regulations.  There is no requirement for members of the Supreme Court to recuse themselves from cases in which they might have an interest.  There is nothing to prevent the wife of a sitting Supreme court Justice to participate in a coup attempt to overthrow the government.  Ethics complaints filed against Bret Kavanaugh were summarily buried after his appointment to the Supreme Court. 

But, the Biden administration, so widely hailed on corporate news spins its wheels, claims the high ground and does nothing.

Sources:

Eli Mystal

Federalist Society Justice: Chris Hedges Interviews Steven Donziger

If you want a glimpse of what the legal system is already looking like under the reign of the Republicans and the Federalist Society, listen to this podcast where Chris Hedges interviews Steven Donziger “the human rights environmental justice attorney, about the grim reality when we confront the real centers of power.Donziger has been fighting polluting American oil companies for nearly three decades on behalf of indigenous communities and peasant farmers in Ecuador, and has been under house arrest in Manhattan for nearly two years. He went on trial in federal court in New York two weeks ago on contempt of court charges, which could see him jailed for six months, for appealing the demand to hand over his computer, cellphone, and other electronic devices to the court, a violation, he argues, of attorney-client privilege. No attorney without a criminal record in federal court has ever before been detained pretrial for a misdemeanor offense.”

YouTube channel: On Contact

People somehow believe that the authoritarian take over of the government will not affect them, that their lives will go on as usual. This is not the case. Increasingly, Republican ideologues are being appointed to the courts. They have no interest in law, reason, or justice. They have interest in power.

In this instance, the courts are persecuting an attorney for daring to confront the criminal behavior of a corporation. Federalist schooled Republican judges are using the criminal justice system to make sure that other attorneys realize that if they go after those in power, they risk their careers, their families and their livelihoods. This case is designed to send a message.

YouTube channel: On Contact

Putting the pieces together: reality winner

PUTTING TOGETHER THE PIECES: Reality Winner

In June 2018, Reality Winner pleaded guilty in a plea agreement that resulted in the longest-ever sentence imposed for a leak of national security information to the media.   

As her mother wrote:

Although Reality’s legal team did their best to build a defense for her, the court ruled against them at every turn, and the threat of 10 years in prison and hefty fines if she didn’t prevail at trial became too much to battle against.

Despite having a spotless record, distinguished military service, documented volunteerism, and service to her community, the government’s sentencing memo…portrayed Reality as an enemy of the country.

On August 23, 2018, the court sentenced Reality to 63 months in prison and three years of supervised release.

In a press release, U.S. Attorney Bobby Christine stated that resolving the case with this plea agreement was the best resolution, as a trial…[might] risk the further disclosure of classified information.

He said that the sentence imposed on Reality “promotes respect for the law and affords deterrence to similar criminal conduct in the future” — using Reality as the example. He referred to her as a “quintessential example of an insider threat.”

After releasing a press statement bragging about the length of the sentence, Christine continued to preside over her persecution.  He fought her move for Compassionate Release. 

Sources:

•        https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/atlanta-us-attorney-brings-in-assistants-who-worked-on-voter-fraud-issues-raising-fears-of-political-interference/2021/01/08/c4057f9a-51c9-11eb-83e3-322644d82356_story.html

Twitter: cjjohns1951

no federal pandamic plan, mcconnell packing the courts and other morning delights

MORNING RUNDOWN

•       At the beginning of the pandemic, because of the total lack of a federal plan to deal with the problem, New York spent $1.1 billion for supplies to deal with the crisis.  According to the New York Times (NYT) Both the state and city governments entered into contracts rushing to try to deal with the pandemic.  Now they are trying to avoid paying vendors who they say didn’t deliver on time, and making void contracts now that the crisis has abated.  The New York Times called the behavior a “frantic buying spree.”  But, this buying “spree” was the result of the lack of a federal plan and the decision to allow states to bid against each other for emergency supplies. (See NYT, 12/17/20)

•       Several health care workers in Alaska have had severe reactions to the new vaccine.  There is no coverage of the idea that rational people may be reluctant to have a vaccine because it was developed under the Trump administration.  There are almost weekly stories about the Trump administration’s successful influence over the CDC.  The corporate media is filled with stories about how black people and reluctance to get the vaccine.  To give you an idea of how in touch these corporate media people are, one commentator noted that black people were reluctant to get the vaccine because of the Tuskeegee “airmen.”    (NYT, 12/17/20)

•       The Judiciary is time bomb waiting to explode. (NYT, 12/17/20)   The NYT reviewed more than 10,000 published decisions and dissents during the first three years of the Trump administration.  Trump appointees were “more likely…to disagree with peers selected by Democrats…” and “more likely to agree with their Republican colleagues.”  The “published opinions from the nations’ appeals courts this year show that Trump appointees stand out from other judges…”  The “conservative imprint” is only deepening.  One of the reasons we managed to escape another Trump term is the federal judiciary.  But, that is the reason Mitch McConnell is packing the federal courts with “right-thinking” judges.  Next time, these judges may side with even the most outrageous lawsuits to maintain the power of the Republican party.  McConnell has encouraged federal judges to retire to make room for these more radical colleagues. (NYT, 12/17/20)

•       The new version of the stimulus bill doesn’t include the get out of jail fee card for corporations wanted by McConnell (NYT 12/17/20)

OPENING SUBMISSIVE STATEMENT: AMY CONEY BARRETT: HANDMAIDEN OF OPPRESSION

Just note the phrases of submission, of deliberate non-threatening language in the opening statement of ACB. The play here is: Look, this is a soft-spoken, non-threatening, non-intellectual mom, home, apple pie person. How could you be afraid of this? But, make no mistake about it, this woman is the handmaiden of oppression.

Statement:

“I thank the President”  “my family” “I thank” “I am especially grateful” “it has been a privilege” “my family” “my husband” “have been married” “he has been a selfless” “marriage”  Marriage “is easy.”  “far luckier in love than I deserve.”  “parents” “wonderful children.” “parents” “her parents’ “love” “liberal arts” “brought him home” “happy-go-lucky”  “kind” “our delight” “loves watching movies” “mom” “siblings” “dearest friends” “happy” “so grateful” “my parents” “my parents” “life of service, principle, faith and love.”  “grade-school spelling bee” “Dad sang” “devoted teachers” “high school” “literature class” “my first presentation” “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” “feared I had failed” “my professor” “filled me with confidence” “mentor” “degree in English” “passion for words” “legal mentors” “my first job” “continues to teach me” “he is cheering me on”  “from his livingroom” “taught me” “devoted to his family” never let the law define my identity” “discussed the issues with my colleagues” “remain mindful” “I read every word from the perspective of the loosing party” “one of my children was the party””I would understand” “fairly reasoned” “deeply honored”  “sacrifice, particularly from my family” “believe deeply” “humility” “with appreciation” “I was nine years old” “grace and dignity” “When I was 21 years old” “just beginning my career” “forever grateful” “honor of a lifetime” “valued colleague” “I might bring a few new perspectives” “first mother of school age children” “only sitting justice who didn’t attend law school at Harvard or Yale.”  “Maybe I could even teach them a thing or two about football.”  “I would like to thank” “reached out with messages of support” “I believe in the power of prayer” “so many people are praying for me.”  “I pledge faithfully”

The Supreme Court is a nightmare.

Women, just think about where we are. This statement was not an exposition of brilliant legal reasoning. Instead, it was a woman displaying stories about her children, her husband and how wonderful he is, how she might teach men on the Supreme court something ABOUT FOOTBALL. What a f…ing embarrassment. Disgraceful.

elie mystal, writing in the nation @elienyc

Elie Mystal, today, writing in the Nation:

I would like to mourn her. But even Ginsburg herself realized there would be no time for that.

McConnell has already removed the filibuster rule for Supreme Court appointments, which means he needs only 50 votes to confirm a new justice (since the vice president breaks any ties), and he has 53 Republicans.

It’s not hard to see how McConnell will control his caucus. Remember, while some Republicans will occasionally furrow their brows in performative outrage at the latest Trump tweets, almost all of these people are in favor of the hardcore conservative legal policies Ginsburg spent her life opposing.

Republican senators might not like Trump’s handling of the coronavirus, but they love taking health care away from millions of people; they love the deregulation that leads to environmental destruction; and they consider it a moral imperative to reduce a pregnant woman to the legal status of a medical incubator…

Obama either didn’t anticipate McConnell’s unprecedented maneuver to block his nominee or thought that Garland’s moderate stances would cause other Republicans to resist McConnell’s gambit to block him.

These are people who support “…the right to bear shoulder-launched grenades…”

It would now seem like the list of potential Supreme Court nominees Trump produced last week was released with some kind of inside information about Ginsburg’s failing health

McConnell has proven that the composition of the Supreme Court is a function of raw political power.

We must do everything we can to stop McConnell from filling Ginsburg’s seat and, however that turns out, we must retake political power and reform a Supreme Court that has been irrevocably broken by McConnell’s ongoing hypocrisy.

Truth May Matter, but Justice Evidently Does Not: The Stone Sentencing

roger 2

I don’t know how many more days like this I can handle.

 

Roger Stone, convicted for witness tampering, lying to Congress and obstructing an official proceeding was today sentenced to 40 months in prison.  The media immediately turned the judge, who rejected an initial Justice Department recommendation that Stone get between 7 and 9 years, into a hero.

 

Ari Melber on MSNBC (who evidently considers himself the Consoler in Chief) once again had guests on to tell the American people that the judicial branch is holding steady, the last bastion of integrity and justice.  The institutions, so he claims, are holding.

 

Well, I’ve got news for Ari F…ing Melber, the institutions are not holding.  The executive branch is a criminal enterprise masquerading as a government (Sarah Kenzior), the Congress is toothless and being led by the nose by a collection of thugs who are either being bought off or extorted or who are just so craven for power they will do anything.  This same group of thugs is appointing new federal judges at breakneck speed.  Their nominees are so inept and ignorant they would never ever get near a courtroom as a judge unless there were a thoroughly corrupt administration shoveling them into lifetime positions.  The media is controlled by corporate interests and mediocre star reporters who laugh and joke their way through crisis after crisis after crisis.  The institutions are crumbling before our eyes.

 

Neither the corporate press nor the members of Congress are brave enough to see what’s happening and convey the seriousness of the situation.  The institutions are holding, they say.  Nothing to see here.  It will all be alright.

 

It reminds me of something that happened to me in Scotland years ago.  I went along with a friend to a house where the father of the family had thrown himself out a window.  Fortunately, he fell into the lovely Scottish garden below.  I was charged with sitting with the young son.  At some point I said: It’ll be alright.  The kid’s head snapped around and he stared at me with incredulity and contempt.  “Alright,” he said.  “Alright? My father just jumped out of a window.”  I nodded.  “You have a point.”  I said.

 

Sentencing for white collar (political and corporate) criminals is already an obscene joke in this country.   Take a look at Jesse Eisinger’s recent (and totally ignored) book “The Chickenshit Club.”  Eisinger details what happens these days to prosecutors who try to aggressively prosecute white collar criminals.  It’s an endeavor which is against their career interests.    Most white collar (corporate and political) criminals are not prosecuted.  The Justice Department almost always does deals with their attorneys before they come to trial.  A trial is considered time-consuming, expensive and unnecessary.  Smart prosecutors are expert negotiators and deal makers. As Eisinger points out, not only have prosecutors learned that they put their careers on the line if they fail to negotiate a deal, the institution itself has lost the expertise to prosecute cases and take them to trial.

 

Line prosecutors in the Stone case, though, did go to trial.  These prosecutors risked their careers but they proved their case and then recommended a sentence that was squarely in the middle of (already lenient) sentencing guidelines.  Their reward?  William Barr intervened, overruled them and after they resigned in protest sent his cronies into court to claim that DOJ had reconsidered the sentence recommendation and decided a lesser sentence was appropriate.

 

Then, when most of us who are sane and love the law and the concept of justice noticed, when something like 2000 former DOJ officials wrote a letter of protest, Barr sent his minions back into court to say that it had all been a misunderstanding.

 

Nobody who has a brain can mistake this series of events for anything but what it was – an attempt by Barr and Trump to see if they could simply throw caution to the wind and direct the sentencing of one of Trump’s buddies.  They tried, they got some push back, and they backed off to some extent.  But, make no mistake about it.  They will try again, and they will probably succeed.  This is (like the pardons) a softening of the ground.

 

Because of this, what was needed from the courts was a strong statement that high-level government officials cannot just dictate prosecution and sentencing.  What we got was the same “chickenshit” response from Jackson we saw previously from Mueller (who defined his investigation so narrowly it could not really be effective).  Jackson compromised, caved, backed down.

 

Earlier in the day, Seth Abramson tweeted that Trump used professionalism against people.  He predicted that Jackson would give Stone a lenient sentence in the name of being “reasonable,” or “fair” or “unbiased” or “professional.”  In doing so, she failed to send a message that the justice system is going to fight.

 

This morning, when I first heard the reporting that she was talking tough in court, I knew we were in big trouble.  In highly publicized cases like this, when judges talk tough, they sentence light.

 

“What did you expect.”  My partner said to me as I was pacing around the house indignant at the lenient sentence and the reaction of the corporate media.

 

“I know, I know” I responded “but it’s like knowing somebody’s going to die and having it actually happen.”

 

“You thought you might be wrong?”

 

“I was hoping, hoping I might be wrong.”

 

But, I was not wrong.  Of course, I was not wrong.

 

Tuesday night, Ari Melber had Melissa Murray on his show and she told a story about lecturing students.  She was talking about Nixon vs. Fitzgerald. She told her students that in immunizing the president from civil suits the courts did not make him a king.  He was still subject to other checks – the impeachment process, the free press, the effect on his legacy.  Her students, 112 men and women learning to be lawyers, laughed at her.  Well they should have.  I would have laughed at her.

 

Murray, as much as I love her, is another of those people (like Joyce Vance, Chuck Rosenberg and others) who’s identity is bound up with believing a fairy tale.  That fairy tale is that there are people with integrity who will stand up to injustice, corruption and the destruction of democracy.  The fairy tale is that these people will step up and save us. They will not.  We live in a society largely made up of conformists, of cowards, of people who are too timid and too comfortable to rock the boat.  Their careers and their inflated salaries are more important to them than their county, democracy or justice.

 

Jackson said in her decision today that the truth matters.  Maybe, but justice evidently does not.