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Archive for March, 2018

Stormy Daniels was no Media Storm

Monday, March 26th, 2018

las-vegas-Everyone anticipated that the 60 Minutes interview of Stormy Daniels about her affair with Donald Trump would be a major blowout.  I even have friends living in Vancouver, Canada call to say they would be watching.  But Stormy’s interview was quite underwhelming by all accounts.

Her attorney had stated that she would be a credible witness.  Well credibility, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.  Ms. Daniels’ (not her real name) credibility on her account of meeting with Donald Trump and having unprotected sex with him while in a hotel room on their first meeting,  rang true.  Her demeanor and tone of voice in speaking sounded as if she were telling the story to a girlfriend—instead of to Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes. I have no doubt that she met Trump in a hotel room, flirted with him, had conversation and ultimately had unprotected sex with him—albeit she said that she was not attracted to him.  Her statement that Trump told her she reminded him of his daughter also rang true. Another woman who alleges an affair with Trump almost says the same exact words by Trump.  I would have concerns if my father said an adult porn star reminded him of me, right before he had sex with her.

Stormy Daniels was paid $130,000 to keep her sexual encounter a secret. And she said that she signed the nondisclosure agreement in November, 2016 because she felt it was the right thing to do.  She stated she had no intentions of kissing telling.  In January, 2018, she later signed a statement that read on 60 Minutes that she only met Trump in public.  The question was still left unanswered for me as to why she came public now.   My suspicious are that she now realizes her story for payment of a one- night affair is well worth over $130,000 and she wants to cash in with book deals, movies and interviews. Anderson Cooper asked her about this and she denied it.

Her version didn’t rang true about threats on her life in Las Vegas and that she wanted to defend herself from statements in the media.  No offense to Stormy but I don’t see how with her profession that she felt the need to ‘defend” her reputation. And Michael Cohen filed a cease and desist letter immediateley following her interview due to her attempts to connect him to a threat on her life.

In any event, as Stormy has filed a lawsuit to nullify the nondisclosure agreement, we may soon learn more sordid details.  She failed to answer if she had tapes, Emails or any other material involving Trump.  It wouldn’t surprise me if she has some other sordid proof of her relationship with Trump.  Remember Monica Lewinsky kept the soiled blue dress. That’s where I think the real value is in her story—if there is more proof to it.

And Trump and his attorney Michael Cohen may be in jeopardy of going afoul of the federal election laws.  Cohen by giving the $130,000 to Daniels far exceeded what an individual donor may give to a candidate. And Cohen’s hush money could likely be perceived as an in-kind contribution to the Trump campaign 11 days before the election—in an effort to affect the outcome of the election.

As for Stormy, a court will review the “hush” agreement to determine if it is legit. Stormy Daniels filed in court to be relieved of the agreement as it was never signed by Trump—who now seeks to enforce it.  I suspect that a court will declare that the agreement is unenforceable for that reason.

So Cohen and Trump may be in hot water. Stormy on the other hand is likely just getting started with playing with Donald Trump.  After all,  her interview clocked in at one of the most watched since 60 Minutes 2008 interview with Barack and Michelle Obama.

 

Washington, Dc based Debbie Hines is a lawyer in private practice and a former prosecutor.

Another Day, Another School Shooting, Another Killing

Tuesday, March 20th, 2018

assaultweapons (1)Days after the 17 minute school walk out in protest of gun violence and on the week of the Washington, DC March for Life on Saturday, March 24, another school shooting occurs.  This time, the shooting occurred at Great Mills High school in a small town in southern Maryland with the shooter, a teenage student, shooting a 16 year old girl and a 14 year old boy—all students.  They survived. The shooter died. Instead of an assault rifle, this time it was a Glock semiautomatic. Motive or target was yet undetermined.  So far, it was the 17th school shooting since January 1, 2018, according to CNN.

 

After hearing about the school shooting in St. Mary’s County, Maryland on Tuesday, March 20, I recalled the first time when  I appeared in a court case in St. Mary’s.  The court house is located in Leonardtown, MD which is a very small sleepy little town.  I am sure that nothing much in the way of crime happens in St. Mary’s. Nearby Leonardtown where the Circuit Court lies has a population of roughly 2,000. Great Mills is much larger with just over 8000 residents.  These towns in St. Mary’s are hardly metropolitan cities or even near a metropolitan city.  Once again, like Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High school, the area is one where a school shooting would likely appear to be out of the ordinary. Except in this day and time, no school is out of the ordinary for a shooting to occur.  The cycle of wash, rinse, repeat when it comes to gun violence continues in schools, churches, movies, malls and on neighborhood streets.  And the same cycle continues when it comes to actions taken by politicians to help stymie the gun violence in America.

 

As a former prosecutor, the story of guns, gun violence, shootings and death are not new news.  According to the American Bar Association, in 2013, there were over 11,200 murders with firearms. African Americans suffered 57% of all murders with firearms, even though blacks only make up 13% of the U.S. population. In contrast with other countries, in 2010, there were 17 firearm deaths in Finland; 35 in Australia, 39 in England and Wales; 60 in Spain, 194 in Germany and 200 in Canada.

We know the problem.  We also know some of the solutions.  We just lack the ability to combine gun problem with solution in a meaningful way.  There is no one solution size fits all when it comes to different types of gun violence.  One thing is for sure, more guns are not the answer.  Ditto for arming teachers.

 

Besides banning assault weapons, large capacity ammunition magazines, increasing age to purchase a firearm to age 21, denial of gun purchases due to serious mental health issues and domestic violence orders, tightening gun permit laws on  three day wait at gun shows, restricting guns at sensitive places including colleges, churches, county owned property, we need to restrict sales of guns by private individuals.

We should also look to those other countries who have so few murders, albeit they don’t have the NRA and the second amendment to contend with.   In 1996, both Britain and Australia had mass shootings.  In 1996, a lone shooter entered a school in Scotland and killed 16 -five and six-year-old children plus a teacher.  And in the same year in Australia, a man killed 35 people in a mass shooting at a cafe.  Both Britain and Australia had a major crackdown on gun laws and passed sensible gun laws.  Our legislators haven’t reached the boiling point where they will enact gun laws to save lives.

What appears different and just may work now is the pressure being exerted by the voices of young persons who have experienced gun violence all their lives.  And those voices are not limited to school gun violence but to gun violence in the urban cities and in places like St. Mary’s County.  No place is immune to gun violence.  No one is safe.

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial attorney, legal analyst and former prosecutor who is frequently seen in the media addressing gun laws and crimes.

Women’s History Month and the Supreme Court

Monday, March 19th, 2018

supcourt_buildingAs we wind down Women’s History month, the role women played in Supreme Court cases is pivotal in understanding the huge  impact of women on the laws of this country.  For centuries, women advanced the law in cases involving civil rights, women’s right, marriage equality, health care and a myriad of other issues.   For all that remains to be done in the area of women’s rights, we have largely come from the second class status barring women from practicing professions,  attending schools and  marrying the person of their choosing without infringement of the government.

 

Beginning in 1869, Myra Bradwell applied for admission to the Illinois bar in accordance with a state statute that permitted any adult of good character and with sufficient training to be admitted to the practice of law. Because she was a woman, however, the Illinois Supreme Court denied her admission, noting that the “strife” of the bar would surely destroy femininity. Chief Justice Charles B. Lawrence  of the Illinois Supreme Court stated that “God designed the sexes to occupy different spheres of action.”

Bradwell appealed the decision to the United States Supreme Court, arguing that her right to practice law was protected by the Privileges or Immunities clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In 1873, the U.S. Supreme Court held that states may statutorily deny women the right to practice law.   Today women make up over 35% of all lawyers according to an American Bar Association report in 2016.

 

Following on the heels of Myra Bradwell, Virginia Minor of Missouri, a member of the suffrage movement, applied to the voter’s registrar  to register to vote. She was not allowed to register. In 1875, her case advanced to the Supreme Court. The question presented  was whether  the adoption of the fourteenth amendment, permits a woman, who is a citizen of the United States and of the State of Missouri, to become  a voter in that State, notwithstanding the provision of the constitution and laws of the State, which confine the right of suffrage to men alone.   In 1875, the U. S. Supreme Court in Minor v. Happersett decided that no new State admitted to the Union had ever conferred the right of suffrage upon women.  It would take a constitutional amendment in 1920 to confer the right to vote for women. And it would take decades later for Black women to become franchised in Jim Crow states.

In 1951,  third grader, Linda Brown, was denied entrance to Topeka’s all-white elementary schools. In the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court ruled on May 17, 1954, through Chief Justice Earl Warren that “in the field of public education the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place,” as segregated schools are “inherently unequal.”  Years later, Linda Brown would address the implications of Brown v. Board of Education:

 

 

In 1967, the case of Mildred Loving and Richard Loving would change the laws of interracial marriage. In 1664 – 300 years before the Loving decision, Maryland passed the first British colonial law banning marriage between whites and slaves — a law that, among other things, ordered the enslavement of white women who married black men. In 1667, the Commonwealth of Virginia banned all interracial marriages, threatening to exile whites who marry people of color. By 1883 in Pace v. Alabama, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that state-level bans on interracial marriage do not violate the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The ruling will hold for more than 80 years until Loving v. Virginia.

Mildred Jeter, of African American and Native American descent married Richard Loving, a white man in 1958 in the District of Columbia and then came back to their home state of Virginia.  They  were arrested and later tried.  They agreed to leave  their Virginia home due to its miscegenation laws and move to Washington, D.C.     Unable to return to visit Virginia, they sought legal help through Attorney General Robert Kennedy and then with the ACLU. In a unanimous decision, on June 12, 1967, the Supreme Court ruled that the laws forbidding inter-racial marriages were unconstitutional. Mildred Loving spoke to ABC News immediately following the decision on the effects of it:

 

Loving v. Virginia paved the way for Windsor v. U.S.  and the government’s discrimination of federal benefits to legally married same sex couples.  Edie Windsor sued the U. S. government which denied federal estate tax exemption benefits to legally married same sex couples.  In a 5-4 decision in 2013, the  Supreme Court declared that the Defense of Marriage act was unconstitutional.  Edie’s case paved the way for marriage equality in 50 states with the case of Obergefell v. Hodge in 2015.

 

Unlike Mildred Loving, Edie Windsor and Linda Brown,  Washington Post CEO Katharine Graham came from a family of privilege when she faced off with the Supreme Court and the Nixon administration over the Pentagon Papers. Nonetheless, Graham was still treated with the  second class rights of a woman when her father, Eugene, upon his retirement,  passed the helms of the Post over to Graham’s husband, instead of to his daughter Katharine.  However, as Katharine’s husband would later take his life in 1963, she became the CEO of the Washington Post. Faced with the decision in  1971 on whether to publish the Pentagon Papers exposing the lies of the Vietnam war, in defiance of the Nixon Administration’s lawsuit against the New York Time, she decided to publish.  The U. S. government filed suit for an injunction which led to the Supreme Court case holding  that the paper’s first amendment right to make information public trumped the government’s right to keep secrets. “In revealing the workings of government that led to the Vietnam War, the newspapers nobly did that which the Founders hoped and trusted they would do,” wrote Justice Hugo L. Black.  Graham’s valiant efforts changed the course of history, as did those of Edie Windsor, Mildred Loving, Linda Brown, Mildred Bradwell and  countless others.

Women still await full rights with regard to pay equity, sexual harassment laws, discrimination in the workplace, among other areas.  But time is almost up in these areas too.

Debbie Hines is an attorney and a member of the Supreme Court bar. She also is a contributor to the Women’s Media Center.

International Women’s Day and Black Sheroes

Thursday, March 8th, 2018
Dr. Dorothy I. Height and Debbie Hines

Dr. Dorothy I. Height and Debbie Hines

 

International women’s day on March 8, 2018 is particularly special in light of the recent #MeToo and #TimesUP movements. As we celebrate international women’s day to commemorate the many generations of women who have advanced women’s rights, I wanted to highlight five African American women whom I admire for their strength, courage and fortitude.

 

When I think of a woman who displayed enormous resilience and fortitude in unfathomable times. I can’t help but honor Harriet Tubman for her heroic and humanitarian efforts in advancing freedom for slaves. Born into slavery, she escaped in 1849 and later led hundreds of other slaves to freedom through the Underground Railroad with help from abolitionists.  Tubman devoted her entire life for racial equality and women’s rights.  After slavery ended, she continued with efforts on suffrage for women. In honor of her life, the U.S. Treasury announced in 2016 that Tubman would replace Andrew Jackson in the center of the new $20 bill.

 

As a lawyer, I stand on the shoulders of Charlotte E. Ray.  In 1872 Charlotte Ray became the first woman admitted to the Bar in the District of Columbia, as well as the first African-American woman to be a member of the formal bar anywhere in the U.S. She opened a solo practice in Washington, DC specializing in real estate law, but according to historians, she was not able to obtain sufficient legal business and had to give up the active practice of law. Ray remained involved in the suffrage cause and returned to her first career, teaching, in New York in 1879.  Today women lawyers make up 36% of lawyers, according to the American Bar Association’s report in January, 2017.

Dorothy I. Height was a fierce civil rights and women’s rights leader who was president of the National Council of Negro Women for 40 years and fought alongside of Martin Luther King.  She counseled presidents on civil and women’s rights issues including Dwight Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson to President Barack Obama. Height was one of the original organizers of the March on Washington but did not receive the opportunity to speak due to her gender. She would later help found the National Women’s Political Caucus with Gloria Steinem, Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm (D. NY), Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and others.  National Women’s Political Caucus founded in 1971 called for action “against sexism, racism, institutional violence and poverty” and recruits and trains progressive women candidates to run for public office through today.  In 2018, there are the  largest numbers of women running for elective offices in American history.

Former Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm (D. N.Y.)  was the first black woman elected to the U.S.  Congress in 1968. She served until 1983.  And in 1972 she became the first woman to run as a candidate for president in the Democratic party and the first African American to run for president in a major party, thus paving the way for Barack Obama. She ran on a campaign of “unbought and unbossed”.  Despite being a political trailblazer,  Chisholm would later say that, “When I ran for the Congress, when I ran for president, I met more discrimination as a woman than for being black.” Chisholm knew her efforts were not in vain but a “catalyst for change”.

Rosa Parks never held a political office.  In her own right, she was a fierce women’s and civil rights activist.  She is often referred to as the “mother of the freedom movement.”  She was far more than the Black woman who refused to give up her seat on a bus designated for whites only section in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955.  Her actions started the 381-bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama and helped to launch nationwide efforts to end discrimination in public facilities. On November 13, 1956, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a lower Mississippi court’s ruling that stated racial discrimination laws in public accommodations are unconstitutional. Parks’ small but mighty gesture of refusing to give up her seat on a bus led to one of the largest and most successful boycott movements against racial segregation.  At her death in 2005, Rosa Parks was the first woman to lie in honor in the Capitol Rotunda.

Today women are still using their efforts as catalysts for change for gender and racial equality.

Debbie Hines is a lawyer and political and legal commentator.  She addresses issues on women and race in law and politics.  She holds a Juris Doctorate from George Washington University Law School and a BA in history from the University of Pennsylvania.

 

Please No More Sam Nunberg Circus as Breaking News

Wednesday, March 7th, 2018
Sam Nunberg -Courtesy of the Grio

Sam Nunberg -Courtesy of the Grio

Anyone, who turned on cable news TV at any time on Monday, couldn’t help but see a defiant Sam Nunberg, a former Trump aide, ranting and raving about his refusal to appear before a grand jury to testify pursuant to a subpoena. Nunberg, appearing possibly inebriated or at least smelling of alcohol according to CNN’s Erin Burnett, speculated about Trump, Roger Stone and other parties involved in the Russian-Trump investigation. Whenever did speculation become breaking news?  I wonder who on the major cable news outlets thought Nunberg’s hours long coverage was appropriate.

As I watched Nunberg, I wondered what the world must now think of the U.S. While we do have very good reason to be concerned about an Russian involvement or interference in our election, we do not have a good reason to air every possible aspect as breaking news. And Nunberg appears in the category  of non-breaking news given the non-substance of his interview.

I do think there are journalists that would not have interviewed Nunberg to the point of sickening to watch on air.  MSNBC Joy Reid recently interviewed Stephanie Hamill, an adviser for the National Diversity Coalition for Trump, who spouted conspiracy theories when asked to answer a question.  Akin to what should have happened with Nunberg’s speculation on Trump affairs, Reid cut off  Hamill’s responses, saying she does not harbor conspiracy theories on her show.  I think it would have been appropriate for one of the news outlets to have proceeded to commercial and return without Nunberg.   Perhaps, Joy Reid was needed to interview Nunberg to cut short his breaking-non-breaking news segment.

 

On Friday, we will learn if Sam Nunberg, former Trump aide, will appear before the grand jury pursuant to the subpoena issued to him to produce documents and testify in the Russian-Trump investigation. He later changed his tone indicating that he will comply. Whatever he decides to do, I hope the cable news networks do not waste another entire day to interviewing and discussing him as breaking news.

Nunberg’s grand jury attendance or non-attendance is not breaking news worthy of the news time spent on it on Monday.  If he doesn’t appear, as a former proseuctor, I know that Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller will file a motion to compel him to testify and bring the requested documents. If a contempt order is entered against Nunberg, he must comply with the subpoena or face jail time.

There are so many stories that were news worthy on Monday and will be news worthy on Friday, in lieu of Nunberg;  Gun control debate and laws, immigration and ending of DACA, upcoming special elections and ensuring our  2018 and 2020 elections are secured, Flint, Michigan water contamination are just a few.  Former first lady Michelle Obama once said that when they go low, we go high. Monday’s coverage of Nunberg was a new low for cable TV  news.  I just hope the cable news outlets do not rinse and repeat similar coverage of Nunberg  all day on Friday.

 

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal analyst and former prosecutor.