Legal Speaks Home Debbie Hines Bio Blog TV Clips Practice Areas Res Ipsa Loquitur Links Contact
Blog Home

Archive for December, 2012

Happy New Year’s Day from LegalSpeaks

Monday, December 31st, 2012

Debbie Hines

Debbie Hines

Happy New Year to Everyone! We made it through 2012 with the election of Pres. Obama but have not quite finished the work of avoiding the “fiscal cliff” and completing other unfinished business yet. As many of you who subscribe to LegalSpeaks are aware, a Christmas holiday hiatus known as a vacation was in order. Beginning January 2, 2013, LegalSpeaks will resume with regular blog posts and articles on progressive legal and political news.

Today—January 1st marks the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation where President Abraham Lincoln freed all the slaves in the confederate states. The Emancipation Proclamation declared that on January 1, 1863, all persons held as slaves in “rebellious areas” shall be forever free. This move paved the way for the 13th amendment to the Constitution which codified the emancipation in our constitution. In Washington, DC the Emancipation Proclamation is briefly on display at the National Archives for the next several days. And on December 31, 2012, thousands were able to see several pages of the original Emancipation Proclamation as the Archives stayed open past midnight–in honor of the 150th anniversary.

On December 31, in many black churches across the country, services known as “watch night” services are held in memory and honor of the slaves and also freed black persons who waited up past midnight on January 1, 1863 for slaves to be free. In many black church watch night services, congregants pray on their knees as the new year comes in—just like many slaves and freed blacks may have done on December 31, 1862. Honoring this practice, the Archives remained open past midnight on December 31. While growing up, I remember my mother, who grew up in the Jim Crow South, praying on her knees, whether in church or at home, as the clock struck midnight and the New Year came in. And if there ever was a time that we need prayer as a country, it is now.

As we as a country embark on this new year, let us remember that no barrier should stand in our way of doing the right thing. President Barack Obama proclaimed that in honor of the 150th anniversary, we should “begin this new year by renewing our bonds to one another and reinvesting in the work that lies ahead, confidant that we can keep driving freedom’s progress in our time.”

As we enter the new year, some upcoming Legalspeaks articles in 2013 may include:
• The Fiscal Cliff and its Effect on Women and Minorities
• President Obama’s First Term in Review
• Pres. Obama’s 2nd Term and Implications for Women and Minorities
• President Obama’s Abraham Lincoln Moments
• Voter Suppression and its Aftermath
• Gun Control Now-Not Later
• Will it be a Happy New Year for Most Working Americans?
• What will it Take to Make Congress Work?
• What do Diverse Women Want in a 2nd Obama Term?
• The Good, Bad and Ugly from 2012

As always, thank you for your reading, subscribing and commenting on Legalspeaks.

Happy New Year!
Debbie Hines, Esq.

Happy Holidays

Sunday, December 23rd, 2012

Debbie Hines

Debbie Hines

As we approach the holidays and upcoming New Year, I wanted to take the time to extend my heartfelt thanks to all who read, comment or subscribe to LegalSpeaks blog. It is my desire to bring the most relevant legal and political progressive commentary. I wish everyone a wonderful holiday and a happy and prosperous new year.

As we enter the new year, let us take the time to remember those who have passed away in 2012. My heart goes out to the families and extended families of Newtown, Connecticut and all cities and towns across America that have faced gun violence. Let’s also think of ways that collectively we can make 2013 a better progressive political year for our country and fellow Americans.

Wishing you and your family–love, peace and joy this holiday season!

All the best,

Debbie Hines, Esq.
Founder, LegalSpeaks

John Kerry Moves Closer to Sec. of State as Rice Steps Aside

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

Last week, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice withdrew her name for consideration as Secretary of State. I was saddened and disappointed but not surprised to hear her announcement. Once the GOP attacked her and few vigorously supported her, it seemed like just a matter of time before she succumbed to the criticism. Republicans spoke out against her appointment from the beginning based on her handling of statement on the four Americans who died in Benghazi. They also had the audacity to call her unqualified, despite her impeccable credentials.

President Obama forcibly spoke out in support of Susan Rice in the beginning. And members of the Congressional Black Caucus and some women members of the Democratic Caucus supported her along with many minority women’s groups. But the Administration’s support of Rice became silent during the loud thunder of the GOP. And many other women’s groups failed to come to her side.

While many pundits and politicians disagree that the dispute over Rice was never over Rice but about John Kerry’s seat. It was never about the four Americans that died. Ironically Republicans spoke more about the four deaths in Benghazi than they have about the mass murders of children in Newtown, Connecticut. It was always about the GOP wanting to have John Kerry’s seat. Massachusetts Senator John Kerry has now become the front runner for Secretary of State. Some media sources indicate that Kerry will be named as early as Friday. And already, people are lining up to fill his seat until an interim special election is held. Sources also state that Senator Ted Kennedy’s widow, Vicki has also been asked to fill the interim seat. In the end, the Obama administration may have not only lost the opportunity to select a candidate of their choice; the Administration may also possibly lose a Democratic senate seat, should Kerry be nominated.

In the end, if John Kerry is nominated, the Republicans will have their way. Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown lost to Elizabeth Warren. However, should Kerry’s seat become available, Scott Brown can dust off his campaign materials of a month ago and begin anew.

There may be a silver lining in the case of Susan Rice. Everyone knows about Karma. And hopefully Karma will remember the GOP’s attack against Susan Rice. It was not long ago that the Republicans attacked Elizabeth Warren as President Obama’s choice to head the Consumer Financial Bureau—a position that she was eminently qualified for. She also stepped aside. And now she is the newly elected Senator from Massachusetts who will be sitting on the Banking and Finance Committee. So the GOP should be careful what they ask for. Their attack on Susan Rice may come back to haunt them in the future.

Sandy Hook and Time to Take Action Against Gun Violence

Sunday, December 16th, 2012

On Sunday, President Obama said in a televised memorial speech in Newtown, Connecticut that if there is one step that we can take to prevent another Columbine, Tucson, Aurora, Virginia Tech or Newtown, we have an obligation to try. He continued by saying we cannot say that we are powerless or to say that the politics are too hard. And if the politics are not too hard, then the Obama Administration should do more than just make a speech. And Congress needs to do more than standing by idly to prevent gun violence in America. If it’s not too hard, then our lawmakers need to step up to the National Rifle Association (“NRA”). The NRA has many of our Republican lawmakers hostage to changing our gun laws.

The taking of the lives of 20 six and seven year old first grade children by a madman is unthinkable. But it was also unthinkable for other madmen to take the lives of high school students in Columbine, college students at Virginia Tech, movie goers in Aurora or constituents in Tucson. Speeches are fine during a period of grieving. But as my mother would say we must not only talk the talk. We must also walk the walk. And it’s time for America’s lawmakers and leaders to walk the walk.

This was the fourth such speech by President Obama during his first term. So I will await and follow up to see what type of action that the Obama Administration will take on gun violence. Unfortunately we cannot prevent all gun violence. But steps must be taken against gun violence. Right now, there are no steps being taken. We are just making speeches, having memorials and funerals and moving on. There must be more done. Our government must be able to multi-task on the fiscal cliff, the economy, health care and gun control.

The Obama Administration should research what executive orders and powers that the president can order without the vote of Congress. Executive orders are used rarely and criticized when used. Historically, large policy changes with wide-ranging effects have been effected through executive order, including the integration of the armed forces under Harry Truman and the desegregation of public schools under Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Just this past week, there were so many shootings that made the headlines—Newtown, Connecticut, an Alabama hospital, Jovan Belcher and many more gun killings across the country that went unreported, even in their communities. In Washington, DC, the nation’s capital, during President Obama’s first term, there have been shootings of children while sitting on their steps and inside their homes by intruders or stray bullets. It’s hard to believe that we are not becoming desensitized to gun violence until some unthinkable act like killing 20 children occurs.

One cannot help but wonder what more will it take for our leaders to take action. One leader, California Senator Dianne Feinstein (D. CA) says she will introduce a bill that will seek to seek to limit the sale, transfer and possession of assault weapons, along with the capacity of high-capacity magazines. Senator Feinstein, a gun control proponent, says she intends to introduce the bill on the first day our lawmakers return in January, 2013.

Our leaders must “take meaningful action”. This time cannot be just another opportunity for speeches and memorials. A civilized society deserves more. And our lawmakers owe us more. We have fought over who gets to vote, who gets health care and who gets to marry; We must now fight over who gets to carry a gun. And we must do it now.

Debbie Hines is a former felony prosecutor who has prosecuted gun crimes and murders. She is founder of LegalSpeaks, a progressive blog on women and race in law and politics. As a legal and political commentator she has appeared in national, international and local media including the Michael Eric Dyson Show, local NBC, ABC and CBS affiliates, RT TV, CBC- Canadian TV, NPR, XM Sirius radio, the Baltimore Sun, Huffington Post, Washington Post and Washington Times and others.

Connecticut School Killings Show It’s Time for the Gun Talk

Saturday, December 15th, 2012

A 20 year old madman walked into a Newtown, Connecticut elementary grade school and took the lives of 20 children, six teachers, one principal and then took his life. Before the school killing, he killed his own mother. The school’s number of killings marks it as the second worse mass shooting in U.S. history behind Virginia Tech in 2007. Will this be the one that starts the political gun talk and gets our politicians’ attention?

Mother Jones reveals that 30 states have had mass murders since 1982. In recent years, mass killings have included the Arizona gunman who shot Gabriele Giffords and killed six others, the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shootings of 71 wounded and 12 killed and 1989 Columbine High school. And every day in America there are gun violence killings in many urban cities across America. Last week, football player Jovan Belcher shot and killed his girlfriend and then took his life. This week, gun violence also erupted in an Oregon shopping mall.

Guns are embedded in our culture from the beginning. They’re in the U.S. Constitution–the 2nd amendment’s right to bear arms. It’s also how we became the United States by taking land from the Native Americans–using guns. And now no one seems to be able to answer the question of why can’t we do something about gun violence. The most important question is when will we do something about gun violence in America. And that answer must be now.

It’s past time to talk about gun violence in America, now is the time to take action. While 34 states have been busy passing laws to restrict voting rights, no state and few politicians speak out against gun violence. The time and effort spent on enacting restrictive voting laws against non-existent voter fraud, should have been used on our real problem- gun violence. Few politicians will do anything about the gun violence. But now is the time for our leaders to stand with our law enforcement officials against the gun lobby to get serious about gun violence.

While opponents argue against any type of gun control, most voters strongly support stronger gun control. Nearly two-thirds of Americans agree that we should ban the sale of assault weapons. Republicans let the assault weapons ban expire in 2004. And another two-thirds of Americans support banning high capacity magazines or clips that can carry 30, 50 or 100 bullets at one time. Unfortunately, there are almost no restriction on the type of weapons available for purchase by private individuals, including military-style assault weapons.

Today, only federally licensed gun dealers are required by law to run background checks and 40% of gun sales or six million guns a year are sold by unlicensed dealers who are not subject to the law. What that means is anyone can buy a gun from a private seller or at a gun show with no questions asked and without any background checks.

Even in the wake of other mass school killings of Virginia Tech and Columbine, Kansas, Mississippi and Utah allow guns on school grounds, including elementary schools; Utah allows guns in buildings that house pre-schools and daycare centers. In Ohio, it’s legal to carry a gun into a bar. Everyone should know that alcohol and guns don’t mix. Arizona and Wyoming allow guns to be carried without any permit at all.

Every day in America, people suffer from gun violence. There are 34 persons who are killed in America by guns each day—not including suicides or accidents. In urban cities across America, many students are as concerned about studying as they are about gun violence.

It’s no excuse that the “bad guys” will always have guns. We need to do what we can to protect innocent persons against gun loopholes to prevent gun violence. We need to do what we can to protect Americans from unnecessary gun violence. And we need to do it now. No politician wants to address gun violence in a meaningful way. Most do not ever want to have the gun talk. Even the White House spokesman, Jay Carney said that this is not the time to have the talk. But we need action. And we need it now. Somehow, I think it will get a lot worse before politicians will be able to muster the courage and backbone against the NRA to have the talk and to take some action.

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a former prosecutor and founder of LegalSpeaks, a progressive blog on women and race in law and politics. As a legal and political commentator she has appeared in national, international and local media including the Michael Eric Dyson Show, local NBC, ABC and CBS affiliates, RT TV, CBC- Canadian TV, NPR, XM Sirius radio, the Baltimore Sun, Washington Post and Washington Times among others. She also contributes to the Huffington Post.

The Michigan Fight for Workers Rights Continues

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

It’s been a little over a month since the election and Republicans are again attacking the middle class, this time in Michigan. Michigan, the home of the auto industry and the United Auto Workers Union, became the 24th “right to work” state on Tuesday, December 11, 2012. “Right to work” legislation in Michigan is Republican politicians’ attempts to revoke workers’ right to organize, dilute unions and the right to bargain collectively. Right to work is really the right to pay workers less money and benefits. Due to the hard work of unions, we got the 8 hour day, sick leave and vacation time. For many workers, they don’t think about these three significant work laws which were hard fought and won by unions.

Michigan Governor Rick Scott signed the bill almost immediately before the bill’s ink was dry. Michigan Democratic Party Chair, Mark Brewer stated ,” the people of Michigan will not forget how he abandoned working families…and “how the Republican legislature rushed through these bills with no committee hearing and little debate during the lame duck session.” The fight for 2014 begins today in Michigan.

The Michigan auto workers are showing us how unions are essential to building a strong American economy. Unions do not hurt people; they help workers. Despite Republican lawmakers such as Wisconsin governor Scott Walker and New Jersey governor Chris Christie and many others attempts to silence unions, the fight will continue against these tactics. These tactics are really meant to benefit corporate greed that wants to keep getting tax benefits while denying paying fair wages to workers.

Beyond fighting for workers’ rights, unions are a major arm in Democratic politics in fighting for civil rights, worker rights and the middle class. “Strong unions result in better jobs, a stronger economy, and a healthier community. The assault on Michigan’s working families will drive wages down and increase the income gap, especially for women, young workers and people of color, according to Melanie Campbell of the Black Women’s Roundtable.

American’s greatness is powered by our middle class—auto workers, nurses, construction workers and teachers. In companies where there are no unions, such as Walmart, often times, workers are paid less than a living wage and must rely on government subsidies to make ends meet. And they have no means to challenge unfair working conditions without risking getting fired. Unions help to ensure that workers receive a fair pay, helping to decease the income pay gap, particularly among women and people of color.

Right to work laws have no positive impact on job growth. Studies show these laws reduce wages by up to $1500 a year. Six of the 10 states with highest unemployment have right to work laws–further dispelling the myth that RTW laws help job growth.

Tuesday is a rally call for unions to do what they do best and fight against corporate greed and for a stronger America. Starting today, the fight for 2014 begins. It’s time to fight again to replace those politicians who vote against workers with ones who support prosperity for all and not a select few. The workers and people, who Mitt Romney referred to as the 47%, must continue to fight for a living and decent wage and working conditions. Despite what Republicans may think, that is the American way.

As the daughter of parents who respectively were members of AFCSME and AFL-CIO, I will continue to support unions and a fair and decent living wage and benefits for all workers. My parents were able to make a decent living wage and support our family due to the work of unions.

Debbie Hines is a former prosecutor and founder of LegalSpeaks, a progressive blog on women and race in law and politics. As a legal and political commentator she has appeared in national, international and local media including the Michael Eric Dyson Show, local NBC, ABC and CBS affiliates, RT TV, CBC- Canadian TV, NPR, XM Sirius radio, the Baltimore Sun, Washington Post and Washington Times among others. She also contributes articles to the Huffington Post and the Women’s Media Center.