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LegalSpeaks is a progressive blog on legal-political issues with an impact on race and gender. Whether covering politics, court trials, Supreme Court arguments or the latest laws and bills affecting minorities and women, LegalSpeaks blog articulates unique and thought provoking opinions. The blog is not meant to be construed as legal advice.

Dear Black and Hispanic Folks: We Must Prove Trump Wrong

September 29th, 2016 | Tags: , , , , , ,
Posted in Legal | No Comments »
Photo Courtesy of Color Lines- 2012 Early voters

Photo Courtesy of Color Lines- 2012 Early voters


Donald Trump is casting himself as seeking the African American vote. He even put Omarosa Manigault, formerly of his Apprentice show, in charge of reaching out to African American voters. Many African American voters, that voted at the highest rate of every single group in 2012 to re-elect President Obama, are not feeling Hillary Clinton. To say that many blacks are not feeling the burn or energized by Clinton is an understatement. And by watching a few focus group reports, there are actually some young undecided black voters who appear wavering over Trump versus Clinton. And I understand the lack of excitement for Clinton. Let’s face it, Clinton is not an exciting political candidate. And her many years of baggage which amounts to distrust for many voters doesn’t help her either.


Donald Trump made clear his intentions in the first debate. As Maya Angelou once stated, when people show you who they are, believe them. His intentions are to keep blacks and Hispanics in their place—not to help uplift them but to trounce them. In reality, Donald Trump’s promise to go back to unconstitutional stop and frisk laws makes clear that he intends to use racist tactics that were outlawed by the federal courts to reign in blacks. Stop and frisk laws disproportionately targeted blacks and Hispanic persons, mostly men. Statistics show that from 2002 until August, 2013 when stop and frisk tactics were ruled unconstitutional, over 5 million persons were subject to it. Nine out of ten persons stopped committed no crimes. The overwhelming number of the 5 million stopped and frisked in New York City were Black and Latino men.


And Trump’s statements of failing to pay workers and small businesses who did work for him, failing to pay taxes and filing for bankruptcy 4-6 times shows he is not going to help the economy. His only help will be putting the U.S. into bankruptcy.


Trump is not targeting black or Hispanic voters. He intends to show that Hillary Clinton is not a good candidate so minorities will stay at home. This is where blacks and Hispanics must prove him wrong. It’s not going to be a love fest this election. Mitt Romney felt that blacks would stay home and not vote. And as I said then, we needed to prove him wrong. There is a reason why Romney and Trump want blacks and Hispanics to stay home. Neither can win a Presidential election if minorities stays home. That’s why Republicans have passed restrictive voter laws to help assist in lowering the minority voting base—under the ill-conceived and bogus guise of protecting the election laws. People stand a better chance of getting hit by a lightning bolt than voter fraud occurring.


I am not a Hillary Clinton surrogate. I supported Bernie Sanders during the primary. I have issues still with Hillary Clinton—mostly in the category of trust. But I cannot be silent anymore. I must do all that I can do to ensure that Donald Trump doesn’t take us backwards, figuratively and literally. For Hispanics, his efforts to build a wall and deport everyone who he deems to be a non-citizen entering the U.S. without papers should be enough to get out the vote against him. But I understand that Clinton’s issues also weigh on voters’ minds.   For African Americans and Hispanics, with the possible repeal of the Affordable Care Act, loss of Pell college grants, re-instituting the unconstitutional racist stop and frisk practices, self-describing himself as the law and order candidate –which code means putting blacks and Hispanics in jail or worse, this is no time to be complacent.


This is the time to prove Trump wrong by voting at the highest possible levels we can muster. Failure is not an option. Our lives and our children’s lives depend on it—figuratively and literally. We must take away Trump’s “trump” card. He is counting on blacks and Hispanics to stay home in November. We must prove him wrong.


Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal analyst, speaker and former Baltimore City prosecutor. She is frequently seen as a legal/political commentator on MSNBC, BET, CBS, PBS, Al Jazeera and Fox 5 DC to name a few.




Dear Police: Black People are Humans Too

September 27th, 2016 | Tags: , , , , ,
Posted in Legal | No Comments »



September proved to be a killing month of African Americans at the hands of police. Thirteen year old Tyree King running away from police in Columbus, Ohio, Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, Oklahoma with hands upon while being shot, Keith Lamont Scott, suffering with a brain traumatic injury in Charlotte, North Carolina and Alfred Olango, suffering from an epilepsy attack in San Diego County, are the most recent and notable names known in the media. The Guardian and Washington Post have kept as accurate a tally as possible since there is no federal database of police shootings and killings. In 2016, almost 800 persons have been killed at the hands of police. In 2015, it was 990. It averages roughly 1000 lives taken each year by police. From the period of 2005-2015, 54 police officers were charged with either manslaughter or murder. That averages out to 5 police officers charged per 1000 killings each year.


It seems as if the recent wave of police killings of unarmed blacks are coming fast and furious in September. It really never seems to let up, leaving many African Americans and those persons standing on the side of justice, swirling with an array of emotions from anger, sadness, sorrow, numbness, stress, tension, anxiety and a host of every other imaginable emotion. I know at times, I have gone through the entire gambit of emotions.
There is much talk and little action being done. While Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump spoke on the recent killings, neither said what they would do as President to change the culture of racism and injustice. Trump during the first Presidential debate stated he would bring back stop and frisk. Stop and frisk measures were declared unconstitutional because the outrageous practices racially targeted blacks and Hispanics, in addition to doing nothing to deter crime. Trump proudly announced his endorsement of the Fraternal Order of Police which actively supports police officers who have shot and killed innocent persons. And Clinton mentioned during the debate that systemic racism must be addressed. How to stop the killings of unarmed blacks is the big question.


The silence among fellow police officers is what is most troubling to me. Silence is the same as condoning the shooting deaths of unarmed African Americans. Charlotte’s Police Chief said the video of the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott did not “definitively” show a gun was shown. Few officers ever speak out against injustice. In the shooting death of Walter Scott last year in Charlotte, NC another police officer supported former officer Michael Slager’s account that Scott had a gun pointed. It was not until video taken by a bystander revealed both Slager and his partner lied. Scott was running away at the time with his back towards the officer. More officers need to speak the truth. If as some contend, that it is only a few bad ones, one would think other officers would be more vocal and speak out. The code of blue appears more powerful than standing with justice. Zero tolerance by police departments is another way to bring justice to an unjust situation. Police are being provided with body cameras but many somehow conveniently find it impossible to always wear them or turn them on. There are now police officers who are finding ways to prevent a dash camera from video. If police were given no warnings to wear and turn on body cameras or else termination, perhaps they might remember to wear and use them. Instead police are given free pay and leave time when a killing occurs and placed on administrative duty—a paid vacation or desk duty.


I know that I am sick and tired of seeing innocent lives taken at overzealous and racist police officers. As Desmond Tutu once said, “ If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” And for most police officers, they have become implicit in the killings of innocent and unarmed African Americans by choosing to remain silent or condoning their fellow officers’ actions. So they have chosen to stand with injustice rather than truth. As long as police are silent and victims appear powerless, there will be more unrest in America until the boiling pot completely boils over.


Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal commentator, speaker and former Baltimore prosecutor. She frequently appears on MSNBC, BET, CBS, C-Span, PBS among other news outlets. Her Op-Ed articles appear in the Huffington Post, Washington Post and Baltimore Sun.

No Trump, No Way, No How

September 16th, 2016 | Tags: , , , , , , , ,
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Hillary_Clinton_official_Secretary_of_State_portrait_cropThe presidential elections of 2008 and 2012 now seem like a century ago in terms of where the country is now headed.  In 2008 and 2012, President Obama campaigned on hope and change which resonated with voters.  In 2016, we see an extreme form of racism, xenophobia and misogynist campaigning by Donald Trump appealing to many voters.  And with a little of over a month until the election, there appears to be a growing trend leaning now towards Donald Trump.  In November, we could be calling Donald Trump our next president.


In the eight years of President Obama’s two terms, I came to realize that racism is alive and well in the U.S.  In fact, it never really went anywhere. While many persons speak of patriotism towards the U.S. and against protests during the playing of the national anthem, there was often little patriotism shown towards our Commander in Chief with many persons, including Republican members of Congress and the GOP Senate disrespecting President Obama throughout his term in unprecedented ways.  Donald Trump capitalized on that disrespect with his Birther movement theories. He has now broadened his attacks.


Now Donald Trump’s comments take on attacking women, Muslims, Hispanics, Blacks, LGBT and anyone else that appears to attack him or be a perceived threat against him.  Present polls, at least those this week, show the Presidential race is in a statistical dead heat.


Some missteps by Hillary Clinton, including how she handled her pneumonia, only added to the surge by Donald Trump.  After the Democratic convention, Hillary Clinton should have been easily able to coast to November and an easy victory.  Her attitude of inevitability is what caused her the Presidential primary in 2008.  This year, Clinton’s attitude of avoiding primary debates along with no press conferences for over 275 days, while Trump commands the airwaves like he owns all of the networks, is working to an extreme disadvantage for her.


We are currently on a 24/7 news cycle.  While Clinton and her team may believe that she is better off avoiding press conferences, it is inconsistent with her taunts to Trump to release his tax records.  She avoids transparency albeit in a different way—the result is the same.  The American voter is left without a transparent picture of Clinton or Trump.


All is at stake in the November election for Millennials, women, Hispanics, African Americans, Muslims, working families, single parents, LGBT community, unions and even the working and poor white folks who believe their country must be taken back.   Trump regularly spreads vicious stereotypes about communities of color.


Trump thinks all black people live in ghettoes with nothing to lose by voting for him. Trump’s appeal to African Americans includes describing   Blacks as having no jobs and living in poverty. His pitch was: “You’re living in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58 percent of your youth is unemployed.” “What the hell do you have to lose?”  Trump has threatened to change the U.S. Constitution to get rid of birthright citizenship which grants citizenship to all persons born in the U.S.  Birthright citizenship in the 14th amendment is what made all African Americans born into slavery U.S. citizens.  And he still thinks President Obama is not an American citizen—although his campaign representatives differ. So what do African Americans have to lose with Trump? Everything for starters.


And remember Trump kicked off his campaign by calling those of Mexican heritage criminals and rapists.  He stated a Muslim judge was not capable of handling a lawsuit against him—due to the judge’s religion. And the centerpiece of his campaign is building a wall on our southern border and making Mexico pay for it. He proposes to ban Muslims along with Mexicans. Trump has suggested appointing judges to turn back LGBT same-sex marriage and other LGBT rights and supports legislation discriminating against transgender people.


Polls show Trump and Clinton are not trustworthy in the eyes of voters. The choice between an untrustworthy and aloof Hillary Clinton and a downright racist, ignorant Donald Trump is not a good choice for me.  But it is the only choice I have. Yes, I have discounted out the third party candidates, Jill Stein and Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.


After eight years of President Obama, it’s difficult to realize that our only choices boil down to these two candidates.  I recall Hillary Clinton saying to her supporters who might have wanted to stay home and not vote back in 2008, “No Way, No How, No McCain” in supporting then Senator Barack Obama.  And now we’ve got to say to those voters who might want to stay home in November, 2016, Dump Trump, Ditch Trump and Drop Trump and support Hillary Clinton.  There is no other way.


Washington, DC based Debbie Hines, trial lawyer, legal/political commentator and former prosecutor often appears on Al Jazeera, BET, CBS, Fox 5 DC, PBS, MSNBC, NPR among others. She also writes opinion pieces for the Huffington Post, Baltimore Sun and Washington Post.


Hillary Clinton Can No Longer Play it Safe

September 7th, 2016 | Tags: , , , , , ,
Posted in Legal | No Comments »

Hillary_Clinton_official_Secretary_of_State_portrait_cropAccording to a recent CNN poll conducted September 1- 4 of this week, Donald Trump is in the lead for the Presidential race. All other recent polls show that Hillary Clinton is in the lead and in some polls leading by a decent margin. However in politics as in sports, apparently most voters and especially the media hates a run-away game. If the game is too close to call, it becomes more exciting. CNN’s poll may be a good thing for Hillary Clinton. It shows Trump’s lead by 2 percentage points- albeit within the margin of error.  Despite the polls, most voters, myself included, are somewhat apathetic to this election.

The apparent reality is most voters, except perhaps the minority of fear mongering Trump folks, appear lethargic by this election cycle. Voter apathy is an understatement. Who the apathy curve will benefit remains to be seen. The media is trying to infuse some excitement in an otherwise dull apathetic election by constantly putting Trump on display and bringing up Clinton’s past issues with the private email server or the Clinton Foundation. Meanwhile Trump is playing by his own racist, narcissistic, misogynistic and xenophobic rules. And Clinton is playing by her own play it safe rules. Clinton unlike Trump tries to remain out of the media’s way for likely possible fear that the media will badly misquote her or do even worse harm to her election chances.


An election win for Trump is a scary proposition, one that could become true. November in political days is still a long way away. But what is even scarier is Hillary Clinton playing by her own old rules. Avoiding the media by refusing to give press conferences and answer questions in over 275 days and counting.


In politics, as in sports, one does not usually end up winning by playing it safe. In my sport of choice, football, the Super Bowl is not won by the team that plays it safe. It is usually won by the team that goes all out and plays to win at all costs and against all odds. Hillary is playing –not to lose. And there is a difference as many sports aficionados know. The one who plays it safe in a championship game is often the one who loses the game.

Hillary Clinton needs to step up her game. Unfortunately, the stakes are way too high for the country for Clinton to play it safe or by the old Clinton set of rules. Staying away from the media while Trump bombards the airwaves with mostly false propaganda is not being safe. It’s running scared. Whether one calls it running scared or playing it safe, Clinton must change her strategy.

My advice to Hillary Clinton and her team is that she must change. All this talk about change for the country and the one person who seems adverse to any change is Hillary Clinton. If Clinton is going to change, the time is now.  The best sports team as judged by sports analysts does not always win. It is not enough to be the best team or candidate. Hillary Clinton needs to be winning candidate in November.

I suggest that Hillary Clinton bring her “A” game in the remaining days. A “B” game is not good enough. The stakes for our country are way too high for Hillary Clinton to continue to play it safe.

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal and political analyst and former prosecutor. She often appears on Al Jazeera, BET, CBS, C-Span, PBS, Fox 5 DC, MSNBC among others. Her writings appear in the Washington Post, Baltimore Sun and Huffington Post.

Colin Kaepernick Did the Right Thing

September 1st, 2016 | Tags: , , , ,
Posted in Legal | 3 Comments »



San Francisco  49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick decided to again  sit down during the singing of the national anthem  due to his stance against this country’s unfair, unjust and racist treatment of African Americans and people of color. And in the process, a firestorm has erupted on line and off line. Many support his stance and others decry that it is unpatriotic. Some question his motives. Others say that he should do more than just a silent protest. Then there are others who say the silent protest is inappropriate.

Regardless of what persons think about Kaepernick’s actions, he has every right under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to protest in the manner that he chooses. It is really a mild form of protest—except that Kaepernick is a public sports figure. And that is causing the hail storm of comments and controversy.

Kaepernick’s stance came about from his concern of police killing black people and people of color with impunity while continuing to receive a pay check. From 12 year old Tamir Rice, 17 year old Laquan McDonald, 18 year old Michael Brown, 22 year old Oscar Grant, 25 year old Freddie Gray, 43 year old Eric Garner, 50 year old Walter Scott , just to name a few, the police have no age discrimination when it comes to killing blacks. Kaepernick dared to take a stand against these actions.

For those who know history, this is not the first time that an athlete or public figure has spoken out against discrimination in the U.S. The “greatest” Muhammad Ali was vocal against racial discrimination. In the 1960’s, Ali spoke about why he wouldn’t go to Vietnam to fight for our country stating our country would not fight for his rights here in America. And over 40 years later, there is still discrimination against returning black veterans who have fought abroad for our country. Many of those veterans gave online support of Kaepernick’s actions.

At the 1968 summer Olympics, U.S. Olympians gold medalist Tommie Smith and bronze medalist John Carlos raised their hands in the Black Power salute and lowered their heads in protest of racial injustice and inequality in the U.S., during the playing of the nation anthem. Both were later vilified by many at home in the U.S.

Symbolic silent protests on issues are not just made by black athletes. Recently last year, many officers of the New York City police department  stood but turned their backs on New York Mayor De Blasio as he spoke during an officer’s funeral. Some police officers felt that De Blasio disrespected them when he spoke about warning his son Dante to be wary of cops and the dangers posed by them for African Americans.  De Blasio ‘s son is biracial.  The lesson that De Blasio gave his son is one that many African Americans must teach their children daily about police.


In President Obama’s first term in office in September, 2009, South Carolina Representative Joe Wilson shouted out “you lie” to the president during his speech. Wilson’s response was in response to President Obama’s statement on undocumented immigrants. While the comment was distasteful, disrespectful and downright racist, Rep. Wilson has a constitutional right to protest President Obama. His protest actions against the leader of the U.S. far exceeded the present actions of Colin Kaepernick. And the House of Representatives issued a formal rebuke—albeit along party lines.

For many African Americans, the reasons behind Kaepernick’s actions come as no surprise. When then Senator Barack Obama was running for office in 2008, Michelle Obama made the statement that “for the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback.” She was almost instantly bombarded for her comments—viewed as negative by many white individuals. Yet, for me, when she made those comments, they resonated with my feelings about our country.

And standing in the cold frigid air in January, 2009 during the first inauguration of President Obama, I felt my first sense of patriotism and pride in the U.S. that I had felt in likely decades—far longer than I can even remember. I remember clutching the small American flag given to me. That moment was a very tiny speck on my patriotic spectrum. I woke up the day after the inauguration and saw that I was in the same America that discriminates daily against African Americans and people of color.

With all the police killings against African Americans and racism and hatred spewed daily towards African Americans, including against President Obama, I support Colin Kapernick’s actions. And he did the right thing.

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal/political analyst and former prosecutor. She appears on Al Jazeera, BET, CBS, C-Span, Fox 5 DC, MSNBC, PBS and others.



Why Do Clinton and Trump Hate Following Rules?

August 25th, 2016 | Tags: , , , , , ,
Posted in Legal | No Comments »

Hillary_Clinton_official_Secretary_of_State_portrait_cropAs many people have already discovered, this election year is like no other in recent history—perhaps ever. Both candidates seemingly hate to follow and play by the rules. I must admit that Donald Trump’s unorthodox rule hating methods make Hillary Clinton’s rule mishaps look like child’s play.


As a child growing up, my brother and I played just about every board game imaginable. That’s how I developed a love of games and learning. In Scrapple, we could not make up words and expect to win. This presidential election for the highest office in the U.S. has shown that practically no rules exist anymore  and words don’t matter.

Donald Trump appears to be making everything up as he goes along. Every Republican presidential candidate since Richard Nixon has released their tax returns. Democrats from Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton released their tax returns. Yet, Trump refuses to release his tax returns claiming that he is being audited by the IRS. Whether or not Trump is being audited is disputed. However, there appears no dispute that an IRS audit would not prevent him from releasing his returns.


And Trump along with his surrogates and national spokesperson Katrina Pierson can change history at the drop of a hat. Facts have become a thing of the past. Pierson previously said that President Obama brought the country into the Afghanistan war when in fact, it started following the September 11 attacks in 2001. Then there’s Rudy Giuliani, one of Trump’s surrogates who recently stated that there has not been a successful radical Islamic terrorist attack on U.S. soil before President Obama took office. Somehow, Giuliani overlooks that while he was mayor of New York City that 911 occurred in 2001. But since rules no longer matter, lies have become acceptable.


Trump prides himself on being the no rules, anti-establishment non-politician.   That’s why he has presumably broken all rules in making outrageous racist, xenophobic and misogynistic comments, having no policies and disputing known historical facts. All the rules are off the table for Trump.


And Hillary Clinton has trust issues because many Americans do not believe she plays by the rules over her decades long career. Trump makes Hillary look like an amateur in rule breaking protocol. Now Hillary Clinton does have her share of issues. For starters, unlike other candidates, she hardly ever gives press conferences. In July, I attended the joint National Association of Black Journalists (”NABJ”) and National Association of Hispanic Journalists (“NAHJ”) convention. Hillary Clinton spoke and gave a press conference before the two groups. Trump was invited but declined. At the time of her appearance before the NABJ and NAHJ, Clinton had not given access to the media with a question and answer press conference in 244 days. Unfortunately, one cannot stop Trump from giving press conferences.

And then Hillary Clinton has her every ongoing Email server debacle. The recent mishap is her apparent failure to turn over some 15,000 emails for review. That’s a lot by my count. The fact that Hillary Clinton even thought it was acceptable to have her Secretary of State department emails on a private server at her New York home defies the logic of playing by the rules.


The failure to adhere to rules is where the similarities end with Trump and Clinton. Trump is downright dangerous. His lack of knowledge of policies, laws and the U.S. Constitution, narcissistic ways, bullying anyone and everyone, stoking racism, attacking immigrants, while pandering to Russian President Vladimir Putin puts the danger of his lack of rules in a whole other category. While Clinton may be unorthodox with rules that result in trust issues for many individuals, including myself, no one can doubt that she is qualified to be president. Trump is no more qualified to run the country than as my dear mom used to say than a man with a hole in his head.

The choice is not perfect by any means. Both Trump and Clinton dance to their own sense of rules. Clinton’s dance is easier for me to follow to the polls in November.


Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal analyst and former Baltimore prosecutor. She has appeared on Al Jazeera, BET, CBS, C-Span, MSNBC, Sky News among others. Her op-eds appear in the Baltimore Sun, Washington Post and Huffington Post.


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