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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.


Trump Travel Ban 2.0 is Dead on Arrival

March 16th, 2017 | Tags: , , , , , , ,
Posted in Legal | No Comments »

UnionRallyGroupOn Monday, March 6, Donald Trump signed another executive travel ban.  Instead of pursuing a likely dead end in lengthy litigation on the first ban which affected seven primarily Muslim countries— and also banned those person holding visas and green cards, the Trump Administration decided to start anew.  The second round ban exempted Iraq—still including the same six other Muslim countries. It further made provisions for those with Green cards and visas to be exempted.   However, not much else changed in the real sense of showing a need for a travel ban to Muslim countries.

 

And before the ban took effect, it was shut down by federal courts in Hawaii and Maryland.  Nothing had really changed from the first ban. The first one was shut down in federal court in the State of Washington placing a hold on the ban.  One day after announcing the new travel ban, Hawaii wasted no time at all in filing a lawsuit in federal court in Hawaii—much like the earlier one filed in the State of Washington last month.

 

 

I give the Trump Administration an “A” on persistence and a “F” on execution.  The most recent travel ban met the similar fate as the first one for the very same reasons.  The earlier ban met its fate as the Trump administration and Justice Department failed to articulate any real security concerns for a travel ban to seven Muslim countries.

 

Removing Iraq from the list was done at the request of apparently the State Department due to its Iraqi translators.   And the travel ban’s exemption of Green cards and visas still does not address if there is any real security reason or threat for a Muslim country travel ban.  The Administration failed to be able to effectively address those security concerns last month.  And courts work on evidence and not campaign promises.

 

These federal courts wasted no time in showing the Trump administration how the three branches of government work.  Both courts recognized the ban was solely against Muslims and therefore violated our constitution.  The judiciary branch shut down the ban as unconstitutional.  And the executive branch of government, a la Mr. Trump, has no alternative but to either further appeal its case in court or attempt yet another travel ban.

 

Mr. Trump is learning a lesson that many litigants learn once in court.  One’s prior words can be used against you in both civil and criminal court. And Mr. Trump’s prior tweets, speeches and words on needing a ban to expel Muslims from our country and prevent Muslims from entering was the reason for the ban.  In one press release issued during the campaign, Trump called for a complete and total shutdown of Muslims.  His own words caused his defeat. There is no national need for security concerns.

 

An unlawful travel ban by any other words is still unlawful.   Mr. Trump’s actions are unconstitutional, against the first amendment on freedom of religion and quite frankly, un- American.  If he wants to make America great again, which many persons seriously doubt, he can start by upholding the US Constitutional in his executive orders.

Freedom of religion is what democracy  and America looks like.  Mr. Trump has yet to learn this civics lesson.

 

DebbieFox5DC2017Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, member of the Supreme Court bar, legal analyst and former Baltimore prosecutor.  She is often seen in the media addressing legal  and political issues.


Why Ben Carson Lacks a Brain, a Heart and a Soul

March 7th, 2017 | Tags: , , , , ,
Posted in Legal | No Comments »

 

Ben Carson

Ben Carson

On Monday morning, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson,  referred to slaves as immigrants who came to America in the bottom of ships—yet wanting a better way of life, during his address to HUD.  Ben Carson’s remarks show either his ignorance of history or that he has sold his soul to Donald Trump for a cabinet position as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.  I suspect the latter.

 

Ironically, the Dred Scott decision was decided on March 6, 1857, some 160 years to the day that Carson made his outrageous statements about slaves being immigrants. Dred Scott went to court to sue for his freedom.  Supreme Court Chief Justice Taney wrote in the decision that blacks, free or slaves had no rights which the white man was bound to recognize.  Slaves were involuntarily brought to America from various African countries, taken away from their families to work for free in America.   They were not immigrants—they were property with no rights

 

 

Before whites descended upon West Africa, many Africans were wealthy, could speak several languages and conducted business with Europeans—traveling to European countries.  A visit to the African American Smithsonian museum is in order for Mr. Carson.  Everything was taken away from my ancestors once they were ripped away from their countries and taken across the ocean to build this country.  Their culture, religion, money, property, language, name and family were taken away as they became slaves and property of whites in America.   Slaves were sold and treated as less than animals to build the country that we now call the United States of America.  Slaves built this country on their backs.  And they were not immigrants.

 

Ben Carson has become like that family relative at holiday dinners who makes outrageous comments that no one believes while others try to convince him of his lack of knowledge.  But Carson is not that family member. He is a highly educated, trained and world renowned neurosurgeon who appears to have lost his mind, his soul or both.  And his words matter.

 

Carson further reminds me of all the major characters in the Wizard of Oz.  The tin man lacks a heart; the cowardly lion lacks courage. And the scarecrow lacks a brain.  Ben Carson lacks all three. He lacks the intelligence to know that he is being played a fool by a rich old white man named Donald Trump.  I doubt that Carson does not know his statements are false. And therefore social media online comments that he needs to read up on history are probably not necessary.

Ben Carson has become a true Trump spokesperson—someone who prides himself  or herself on “alternative facts” as Kellyanne Conway refers to which are otherwise known as lies.   A lie by any other name is still a lie.

And Mr. Carson’s assertion that slaves were immigrants is a lie.

 

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer and former Baltimore prosecutor. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from University of Pennsylvania.

 

Update:  Later on Monday evening Mr. Carson on Facebook stated:  “Slaves were ripped from their families and their homes and forced against their will after being sold into slavery by slave traders,” he wrote. “The Immigrants made the choice to come to America. They saw this country as a land of opportunity. In contrast, slaves were forced here against their will and lost all their opportunities. We continue to live with that legacy.”

 


Appeals Court Trumps Mr. Trump on his Travel Ban

February 10th, 2017 | Tags: , , , , , ,
Posted in Legal | No Comments »

supcourt_buildingOn Thursday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Mr. Trump and the Government’s request to lift the travel ban stay, pending an appeal. In upholding the lower court’s decision, which ended the ban, the federal appeals court gave an elementary school civics lesson to the President and the Department of Justice lawyers arguing the case.

 

The Department of Justice lawyers argued that the judiciary branch of the government had no authority to end the executive order.   It argued as if the President has full authority over the courts, our judicial branch of government.  The appellate court made it clear that there was no precedent for that part of the Government’s argument–ever, even if based on national security.  The appeals court gave Mr.  Trump a nice civics lesson. There are three branches of government under the U. S. Constitution—executive, judiciary and legislative. No one branch of government is superior to the other.  For Mr. Trump to misunderstand the checks and balances of democracy is appalling.

 

 

 

The court further found there was no evidence or facts that even supported the Government’s claim of a security need based on terrorism—or bad things happening as Mr. Trump asserts.   The Trump lawyers failed to provide any evidence or facts that would support the alleged need for the travel ban to the seven countries of primarily Muslim background.  The Government failed to show any of the seven countries were involved in any terrorist attacks on the U. S.  There was no irreparable harm shown to exist if the travel ban were lifted. The law, as Mr. Trump found today, is based on evidence and facts. It’s not what you say or tweet out to the public. It’s what you can prove in a court of law.  The Government was all talk but no substance.

 

The State of Washington, on the other hand,  through hard evidence and facts showed the harm committed by the travel ban as it affected its  public universities, including faculty and students, research abroad,  reducing its tax base and restricting travel to and from the U.S., leaving persons stranded without any recourse.

 

And the other civics or constitutional law lesson given to Mr. Trump is that any taking of life, liberty and property must be afforded due process under the U.S. Constitution. This means the government cannot take away rights unilaterally without due process, a hearing, means for redress and an appeal process.  The travel ban went into effect immediately—depriving persons of the right to travel from those seven countries to the U.S. without affording them any rights of due process to redress it.  The right to due process applies regardless of whether the persons affected are citizens or non-citizens.  While some of Mr. Trump’s supporters may complain, they too should read the U.S. Constitution.

 

The 9th Circuit decided the sole issue of whether to lift the stay and place the travel ban back in effect pending the appeal. In making its decision, it stated the Trump administration was not likely to win the issue on appeal.  The three judges on the panel that decided the case were appointed by Presidents Carter, Bush and Obama.

 

 

For now, the travel restrictions against the seven countries remain lifted.  According to the President’s early evening tweet following the latest court action, Mr. Trump spoke to his base with bald allegations and no substance to back up his national security needs as the reason for the ban.  It would do the President good if he were to pick up a copy and read the entire U.S. constitution—thereby saving taxpayers’ money on frivolous appeals and other legal actions.  In the words of singer James Brown, he needs to stop “talking loud and saying nothing.”

To read the entire court opinion, click here

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a lawyer, legal analyst and member of the Supreme Court.


I Marched the DC Women’s March in Honor of My Mother

January 23rd, 2017 | Tags: , , , , , ,
Posted in Legal | No Comments »

 

Naomi HinesI was one of the more than 500,000 persons attending the DC Women’s March.  For me, the March was personal in honor of my mother, Naomi.

 

My mom was born in Mt.  Gilead, NC, a small town of less than 1500 persons in rural North Carolina.  Growing up in the Jim Crow South, she longed for a better life as discrimination was rampant and the way of life there. Like so many Blacks living in the south during that era, she, as a young woman, migrated north, first to Buffalo, NY and later to Baltimore.  During her lifetime, she experienced various forms of discrimination such as not being able to shop in stores due to the color of her skin, sit and eat in at many restaurants, live in many areas of Baltimore City, purchase homes in certain areas due to restrictive covenants preventing Blacks from living and buying homes in some areas.  And this was after she moved to Baltimore.

 

My mother fought for many health care reforms as an employee and later as a retiree of the Baltimore City Health Department.  Although, she on religious grounds did not support abortion for herself; she supported every women’s right to choose.  And she was instrumental in getting a health care clinic built in our community. She was a staunch supporter of her union, knowing that unions make life better for working Americans.

 

And she knew that education was key and crucial for her children who attended public schools and later obtained college degrees.   She and my father never failed to attend and become active in PTA meetings and our school events. Although my mother never mentioned the word “disability” in relationship to herself, she was born with an obvious physical disability.

 

When I saw many of the signs during the Women’s March supporting Planned Parenthood, the right to choose, unions,  women in wheel chairs  moving along the course during  march,  I felt like my mother was there with me in spirit.  One sign in particular reminded me of my mother. Growing up, at times when we misbehaved, she would say, “I brought you in this world and I’ll take you out.”  And one sign I saw online was a twist on her words, “Vaginas brought you in this world and vaginas will vote you out.”

 

All that my mother fought for during her lifetime is now in jeopardy with the Trump Administration.  We are facing possible setbacks in all areas of women’s rights including in areas of health, education, housing, civil rights, workers’ rights, disability rights and voting rights, to name a few.  And for those who say, we should take a wait and see approach to Donald Trump’s administration, I say that we cannot wait to take action.  And that’s why the more than 500,000 women marched in DC and many millions more marched in solidarity across the country and around the world.

 

The lyrics of the old gospel song state, Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around applies to the new Trump era.  My mother lived to see many changes in her life that afforded me the many opportunities I now possess.  And on my watch, I will do all that I can to resist any efforts to turn around our rights.   I owe it to my mother who showed me the way.

 

 

DebbieFox5DC2017

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal and political commentator and former Baltimore City prosecutor.  She often appears on MSNBC, PBS, CBS, Al Jazeera and Fox 5 DC among others. Her op-ed writings appear in the Huffington Post, Washington Post, Baltimore Sun and Baltimore Afro American.


Remembering Barack Obama’s First Inauguration

January 21st, 2017 | Tags: , , , ,
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ObamaElectionOn this Inauguration day, I choose to reflect on President Obama’s first inauguration on January 20, 2009 and what it meant to me. It was a blistering cold day with temperature in the 20’s.  I attended with a college friend and sorority sister. We were so excited that we could hardly sleep the night before. My friend wanted to get there very early to make sure we had a good spot. We were not fortunate to have tickets with seats.  We settled on arriving at 7:25 am.—a little later than the original 5:00 am time my friend suggested.  The actual swearing in was not until 12 noon.

 

The time passed by effortlessly. We talked to those in the crowd as though they were old friends. As I looked around the crowd, I saw faces of all races, ethnicities and ages. I recall an older black woman who came from Florida. Her son brought her a ticket and paid for hotel room in November.  When she had to have back surgery, her son assumed she would not be able to attend. She was determined to make it—-walker and all.  She knew it was likely a once in a lifetime experience.

I will never forget Aretha Franklin singing My Country ‘Tis of Thee while clad in her green church going hat.   Her rendition was part gospel, part jazzy and all soul.  It made the words of the song ring clear to me for the first time.

“My country ‘tis of thee, Sweet land of liberty—of thee I sang. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrims pride, From every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

 

It was the first time I saw my country with new eyes. And as President Obama took the oath of office, tears swelled in my eyes—as they did in those around me. All my emotions of that day and my life as a Black woman in America were wrapped up in that moment. I felt like I was a part of America for the first time.

 

At the end of the swearing in ceremony, flags were given out. People were hoarding flags—taking two, three and four flags as souvenirs.  Unfortunately, I did not get one.  I asked every Black person I saw if could have one of their extra flags. No one wanted to give up one flag.  One small white boy gave me one of his extra flags. I still have that small flag today.  That flag is a reminder to me of what I felt like as a proud Black woman in America on January 20, 2009.  That was a long time  ago from where I stand today.

 

Today I feel sadness for my country.  And I mourn the fact that President Obama’s term is finished.  That frigid cold day on January 20, 2009 gave me the spirit to fight for what I want this country to become.  This is my country –and I will fight  to feel what I felt on January 20, 2009 once again.  And just like the words to the gospel song—“ I ain’t gonna let nobody turn me around.

 

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


Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 2017 Trump Era

January 16th, 2017 | Tags: , , , , ,
Posted in Legal | No Comments »

MLKMonumentOn December 31, 2016, I attended a watch night church service where Rev. Dr. William Barber led the service. During the service, I heard a rousing account from singer, activist and song writer Joan Baez about an event with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  It bears relevance for today. Baez tells a story from when she was traveling with Dr. King and he fell asleep, making him very late for a speech.  The other ministers and activists could not wake him.  They asked Joan Baez to go in into the bedroom and sing a song to Dr. King.  As Baez finished her song, “Swing Low Sweet Chariot”, Dr. King raised his voice and said, “Joan, sing another one”.   Today we need to waken the inner voice of Dr. King to fight the battles that lay ahead of us with the new Trump Administration.

 

As we celebrate the legacy of Dr. King on his holiday and birthday, we are reminded, as King once wrote from his jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  And we see that even before Donald Trump’s inauguration, there are many new injustices facing the nation and affecting the world.  There are battles once fought that we must now fight again. As we see a new era with justice being dismantled for immigrants, women, people of color, LGBTQ community, civil rights and civil liberties being taken away, the Voting Rights Act being diminished, health care rights being challenged, religious freedoms at risk, sexism, racism and xenophobia on the rise, we must channel our collective inner Dr. King to rise from a sleeping bed.

 

It is not enough to quote Dr. King’s speeches on his birthday and watch his clips on TV, one day of the year.  Those of us who demand justice must now all rise to the occasion and continue the fight that Dr. King started.  And we must fight not on one day but every day. With the Republicans holding the three branches of government, House, Senate and Executive with the ability to forge a new Supreme Court era, the battle will not be easy.   As President Obama said in his farewell speech, change only happens when ordinary people get involved, get engaged, and come together to demand it.

 

And we must think beyond the norm, for the times coming ahead are anything but normal.  Rep. John Lewis, (D. GA.) the only remaining living person who spoke on the stage with Dr. King at the 1963 March on Washington, does not believe that Trump is a “legitimate president” as the Russians illegally engaged in the electoral process of this country.  Despite Donald Trump’s assertions that John Lewis is all talk, John Lewis’ record speaks for itself. And the intelligence data obtained by our various intelligence agencies express a real threat to our Democracy due to Russian hacking affecting the legitimacy of our incoming President.

 

As we go forth to remember Dr. King, we must now more than ever, be reminded that history repeats itself, if we allow it.  Everyone who respects and loves Democracy and justice must wake up from their slumber and stay woke.

 

Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal commentator and former Baltimore City prosecutor who appears on CBS, MSNBC, PBS, Al Jazeera, Fox 5 DC, BET, among others. Her op-ed articles have appeared in the Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, Huffington Post and Baltimore Afro.

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