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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.


Sean Spicer Rewarded for Lies; Jemele Hill Almost Fired for Truth

September 19th, 2017 | Tags: , , , , , , ,
Posted in Legal | No Comments »
Frmr Press Secretary Sean Spicer

Frmr Press Secretary Sean Spicer

On Sunday, September 17, the 2017 Emmys aired with an appearance and skit by former White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer.  It appears the Emmy’s wanted to make light of the lies that Spicer told as press secretary about the crowd size of Donald Trump’s inauguration with a skit about the Emmy crowd size.

I am still fuming at Spicer’s appearance. Sean Spicer should have been booed and hissed off the stage. Instead Spicer appeared afterwards to be having the time of his life with meeting, greeting, partying and taking selfies with celebrities.

During his brief stint as press secretary, Spicer told lie after lie each day, in an apparent attempt to appease his boss.  His biggest and first of many lies was that the Trump inauguration crowd size was the largest that there had ever been in history.  After his Emmys appearance, he now asserts he regrets telling this lie—as if it was no harm, no foul. A lie is still a lie. And the Emmys giving Spicer any media platform sends a wrong message.

Contrast Sean Spicer’s mainstream acceptance with that of rejection of ESPN co-host Jemele Hill’s comments.  Jemele Hill, in a series of tweets on September 11, stated that Donald Trump is a white supremacist— “Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists.” Hill in a series of tweets, stated her reasons for asserting Trump is a white supremacist. Hill stands by her September 11 personal statements and provides specific reasons in an interview with the Washington Post.

Hill’s comments stem from Trumps’ association with known white supremacists, the birther movement, derogatory comments about Mexicans and Blacks, among others.  Current White House Press Secretary Sara Hucklebee Sanders called for Hill’s firing.  And a host of other persons including Donald Trump negatively weighed in on her comments. Hill’s truthful opinion almost costs her job.

Spicer’s lies get rewards and perks for him. He is now weighing options as a TV commentator, speaker engagements with high fees and a host of other media perks—all due to his lies.  Who knows Spicer may be even given his own show.  It could be called, “How I Lied My Way to Fame and Fortune.”.

I know there are folks who will say that Spicer’s Emmy appearance was meant as parody and humor. After all, Trump critic Stephen Colbert came up with the idea.  Sorry but I cannot find humor with Spicer who made a mockery of the White House with constant lies throughout his brief tenure as press secretary.

 

Growing up, my parents always stressed the importance of being truthful. As a trial attorney, I always advise my clients to tell the truth. I advise them that bad things will happen if you get caught in a lie.  In today’s world with the election of Donald Trump, we have come to apparently accept lies as the new norm. And Sean Spicer proves once again that lying pays.

In the case of truth versus lies, lies win. Unfortunately, it’s the truth that may get you fired.

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

 

 


Another White Cop Acquitted in Murder of a Black Man

September 15th, 2017 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Legal | No Comments »

police-chase_mediumOnce again, as we have seen all too often, another white police officer has been acquitted in the murder of a St. Louis Black man, Anthony Lamar Smith.  Ex- police officer Jason Stockley was charged with first degree murder in the shooting death of Smith.  This 2011 case, like the few others where police officers have even been charged, ended the same way as the officer trials in Freddie Gray, Walter Scott, Jonathan Ferrell and Samuel Dubose cases.  They all ended without justice for the murder of a black man.  Most end in an acquittal or hung jury without a retrial.

There was strong evidence in the Smith case to convict Stockley.  First, Mr. Smith was trying to get away from the officer during a police chase in his vehicle. Stockley, apparently outraged at Smith’s actions is heard saying, I’m gonna kill that ___expletive. And less than one minute later, Stockley kept his promise and shot and killed Smith.   Stockley later alleged a gun was found in Smith’s car—after going inside the car.

In a further twist in this case, there was evidence showing guilt on the part of Stockley or reason to disbelieve the ex-cop’s version. A gun was found in Smith’s car.  However, the gun did not have any DNA belonging to the victim; Instead, it had Stockley’s DNA on it.  Any reasonable person would conclude that the gun was planted by Stockley and did not belong to Smith.

DNA can work both ways to exonerate or convict an individual.  In the case of a police officer shooting, even when the absolute clarity of the DNA proves the gun did not belong to the deceased victim, the white police officer is still somehow given the illogical benefit of the doubt. In other words, even with DNA proof that the officer lied, he is allowed to be acquitted.  Despite this proof of strong evidence tampering on the part of the former police officer, presiding Judge Timothy Wilson found the shooting was a justified shooting.  Stockley chose a bench trial over a jury trial.

It seems these days, as in the past over 100 years, a Black man’s life still appears subordinate to a white man’s life.  And in the criminal justice system, it appears that black lives do not matter, particularly when it comes down to police shooting cases.

As long as the police are allowed to investigate their own officers for wrongdoing in police involved shootings, there will continue to be injustice in the criminal justice system.  Black lives do matter. But much too often, Black lives do not matter in the case of a police involved shooting of a black man.  The rigged criminal justice system, in favor of police officers over a Black man’s life, must change.

As a lawyer and former prosecutor, I respect the judicial system.  I just don’t think it’s fair—at all times like in this case. Today, I fear another cop got away with murder.

 

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer and former Baltimore City prosecutor. She often appears as a legal analyst on MSNBC, CBS News, Al Jazeera, PBS News Hour and Fox 5 DC. Her opinion pieces appear in the Baltimore Sun, Huffington Post and Washington Post. Follow her on Twitter @legalspeaks.


Black Lives Matter but not to the White NFL Owners

September 11th, 2017 | Tags: , , , , , , ,
Posted in Legal | No Comments »

1397150326000-USP-NFL-NFC-Championship-San-Francisco-49ers-at-AWeek one of the NFL 2017 season started on Sunday, September 11. With all 32 NFL owners and teams refusing to sign quarterback Colin Kaepernick due to his protest against racial injustice, my taste buds for the love of football has drastically changed. Kaepernick’s act of kneeling last year for the national anthem in protest of our country’s racial injustice towards Blacks drew disfavor among NFL owners.

I have been an ardent NFL football fan most of my life. Growing up in Baltimore, my family religiously followed the Baltimore Colts and now the Ravens.  I proudly attended the Super Bowl parade in Baltimore in 2000 with the defensive dream team of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. And then in 2013, I watched my beloved Ravens’ win over San Francisco against then quarterback Colin Kaepernick.  As an added bonus, I attended the Ravens’ honor at the White House following their 2013 win.  My brother played high school and later college football—further increasing my love of the sport at a very early age.

None of my experiences will allow me to watch the NFL make an example of Colin Kaepernick for asserting his first amendment right to free speech.  If Kaepernick had done something in violation of his contract or committed a crime, perhaps, I could see the need for punishment.  The irony is the NFL over the years rarely banishes a player for committing criminal acts, except perhaps former Ravens player Ray Rice.

Case in point is former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis who was charged with two counts of murder when two men were stabbed to death in 2000 following a Super Bowl party. Lewis later struck a plea bargain deal and pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice. He continued to play until his retirement.  Lewis commented recently that Kaepernick should play on the field but give up his social justice voice on and off the field.  Kaepernick has reportedly stated he will not protest, if signed by a team.

 

Recently Lewis alleged the Ravens refused to sign Kaepernick due to tweets by Kaepernick’s girlfriend. Give me a break.  Interesting enough, the Ravens did not back Lewis on this insane comment. They know the real deal as to why Kaepernick was not signed.  And it has nothing to do with a girlfriend’s tweet but everything to do with a black man asserting his opinion on racial injustice in a silent kneeling position during the playing of the national anthem.

Seventy percent of all NFL players are black players. NFL players are allowed to play in a sport that, in recent concussion studies, shows extremely harmful effects to their health due to head concussions.  Many NFL players suffer with degenerative brain disease known as CTE which for many years the NFL denied existed.

The real control over players’ health, earnings, livelihood and right to speak out on social justice issues lays with the white NFL owners. All 32 NFL owners are white.  NFL owners want Black players to play football at all costs, including giving up their health, knowledge about the risks of playing and freedom of speech afforded to them in the Constitution.

 

The U.S. Constitution and the first amendment have nothing to do with the NFL and playing football, if the truth be told according to league owners. And if the real truth be told, black lives have nothing to do with football, according to NFL owners, except to make white owners and the NFL richer. In 2015, the 32 NFL teams earned $12 billion dollars.

And the real truth is Black Lives matter but just not to the NFL. Colin Kaepernick knows the real truth. And for that reason, NFL owners refuse to sign Kaepernick.  For those who stand with Kaepernick and the reasons underlying his protest, a boycott of the NFL and its sponsors deserves our unwavering support.

 

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer and former Baltimore prosecutor.  She frequently appears on MSNBC, Al Jazeera, PBS, CBS and Fox 5 DC as a legal analyst. Her opinion articles appear in the Washington Post, Baltimore Sun and Huffington Post.


Lawyers Sue Heartless Trump on DACA

September 6th, 2017 | Tags: , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Legal | No Comments »

AmericanflagThe law can be used for good or bad. And when it’s used for good, I have no greater feeling as a lawyer. Today was one of those good days.  The District of Columbia joined 15 states to sue the federal government, Donald Trump as President, Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Trump’s decision on ending DACA.

 

Litigation is my life and one that I’m proud of. And I am so proud today that lawyers in New York, Massachusetts, Washington, Delaware, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia took a stand for DACA in fighting for the lives of those young undocumented “Americans” who came here as children before the age of 16 and know no other country except the U.S.

 

The lawsuit filed in federal court in New York alleges that Donald Trump’s decision to end DACA is motivated by ill will; will cause a loss of revenue for these states, lower employment, split up families and serve no useful purpose under the rule of law. Major businesses, Amazon, Starbucks and Microsoft filed affidavits within the lawsuit stating the effect of ending DACA will have ill adverse impact on businesses.  Mr. Trump, also known to a few as the jobs creator, will be doing anything but increasing jobs.  In addition, Mr. Trump has made known that he does not favor Mexicans—from a Mexican American judge presiding over his lawsuit to calling Mexicans “bad hombres”. More than 78% of the DACA recipients are of Mexican descent.

California has an unusually large segment of Hispanic residents. And California Attorney General Xavier Becerra intends to file his state’s separate lawsuit to protect the almost 200,000 DACA recipients in the State of California.  Maryland’s Attorney General Brian Frosh is contemplating taking similar action.

A federal lawsuit must be based on an aspect or issue involving the U.S. Constitution or federal law. The basis appears that the revocation of DACA is illegal based, in part, on discrimination of Mexicans.  Each state spells out in the lawsuit how its individual state will suffer substantial harm in areas of business, education, health and tax revenue.  Many aspects of the lawsuit sound similar to travel ban legal arguments in lawsuits filed earlier this year citing previous derogatory statements by Trump against Mexicans and due process arguments.

The 15 states and the District of Columbia joined in the lawsuit are both blue states and a few red states that voted for Trump.  North Carolina, a red state, argues that immigration and DACA recipients are vital to its economy. North Carolina asserts in the lawsuit that it has one of the highest application rates to DACA in the country.  The lawsuit alleges that North Carolina will lose 7.8 billion dollars over the next ten years if DACA is rescinded.  I assume that before long other states will take action, in addition to those contemplated by Maryland and California.  The full Complaint can be read here.

The Department of Justice will defend against the lawsuit.  While the case will likely be an uphill climb to win, legal precedent is often won by advancing the right arguments and being on the right side of the law. And fighting Trump on ending DACA is being on the right side of the law.  The law can be sterile at times.  But this lawsuit is full of heart.

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer and former Baltimore prosecutor.  She often appears as a legal and political analyst on MSNBC, CBS, PBS, Al Jazeera and Fox 5 DC.  Her opinion articles have appeared in the Washington Post, Baltimore Sun and Huffington Post.


DACA and The Devil Living Inside the White House

September 4th, 2017 | Tags: , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Legal | No Comments »
Donald Trump, Public Domain

Donald Trump, Public Domain

Donald Trump proclaimed Sunday, September 3, 2017 as National Day of Prayer.  And on that same day, he announced that he intends to end DACA with a 6-month delay period of time.  DACA stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.  It is the executive order that President Obama signed in June, 2012 which protected and allowed undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children to be granted work permits.  It does not cover all young undocumented immigrants brought here, as it has a cut-off age and other requirements.

800,000 undocumented young persons are believed to be covered under DACA.  Trump had earlier stated that he had a “great heart” in terms of DACA and those young persons covered under it.  On Sunday’s National Day of Prayer, he showed where his real great heart lay. He announced ending DACA on the same day he asked people to pray.

Over 91% of individuals under DACA are employed or attending school. They are mostly law-abiding individuals.  They are our neighbors, co-workers, friends, colleagues, students and family members. They traveled to the U.S. illegally through no fault of their own.  They are often referred to as Dreamers who have earned their place in our society and are contributing to it.

During Hurricane Harvey, one Dreamer, Alonso Guillen, a recipient under DACA,  lost his life as he was trying to save the lives of others during the flooding.   Rescue volunteer Guillen, a 31 year old disc jockey, insisted on helping those in the floods in his neighborhood of Cyprus Creek. After helping others, he was swept away and his body was discovered by his family on Sunday.

 

I don’t know what Trump prayed for or who he prayed to on his self-proclaimed National Day of Prayer. I prayed for humanity, empathy, compassion and fairness in our leaders and for our country.  Donald Trump has been on the wrong side of humanity, empathy, compassion and fairness ever since taking office and even before.

 

Trump supports white supremacists in the White House and Neo-Nazis shown killing Heather Heyer on the streets of Charlottesville.  He supports and pardons Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Arpaio, an Arizona sheriff for 24 years, abused the criminal justice system in treating Hispanics as sub-human in his jail. Arpaio is known for being one of the most corrupt and abusive sheriffs in America. He sparked fear in Hispanics by unlawfully targeting and detaining them, holding them in cruel and sub-humane conditions.  Trump started his term with an illegal Muslim travel ban to the U.S.  At every turn these last 8 months, Trump has been on the wrong side of justice and fairness.

 

We must stand as a nation with Dreamers.  We are all dreamers of the American dream. While many of us were born in this country, most of us were not born with a multi- million-dollar inheritance like Mr. Trump.  And most immigrants are not able to marry a millionaire like Melania Trump  and remain here.

 

We must diligently work and pray for the Dreamers to remain.  I pray that all Dreamers will be allowed to remain in this country. Mostly, I pray for Donald Trump under Psalms 109:8 which reads:  “May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership.”

 

 


Donald Trump’s Dog Days of Summer

September 3rd, 2017 | Tags: , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Legal | No Comments »
Donald Trump, Public Domain

Donald Trump, Public Domain

 

The dog days of summer are usually referred to as the hottest days of the summer, particularly from mid- July to almost the end of August.  And Labor Day has come to mean the unofficial end of summer with vacations ending and students returning back to school.   The dog days of the Trump Administration have been particularly hot.  With summer closing to an end, I thought that now is a good time to evaluate the Trump Administration’s summer days.

 

Trump’s Administration has been hounded with its failure of repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, the ever- ongoing Trump-Russia investigation by Special Prosecutor Mueller, Trump’s comments on the Charlottesville Nazi/white supremacist rally, the Twitter roll out of elimination of transgenders in the military, pardon of Sheriff Arpaio and now the expected ending of “DACA”, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

 

For the past 8 years of the Obama Administration, the Republican Party vowed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and leave millions without health insurance.  Trump declared the repeal and replacement of Obamacare would be the very first thing that he intended to accomplish.  With a Republican controlled House and Senate, it seemed very likely that the Affordable Care Act was on its death bed.  A vote in favor of repeal and replace would have likely left more than 16 million people uninsured by 2026.  And yet in the summer of 2017, the Republicans and the Trump administration failed to accomplish their signature promise. On July 28, 2017, during the wee morning hours, the repeal and replace voted failed with deciding votes by Senators John McCain (AZ), Lisa Murkowski (AK) and Susan Collins (ME) joining the Democrats.

 

The ongoing Russia- Trump investigation has continued to heat up and dog Mr. Trump.  It shows no signs of going away. With leaks abundant, it appears that each summer day brought a new revelation.  There were times that White House reality show was turning faster than any televised soap opera.  With a search warrant of Trump’s former campaign manager and chief campaign strategist Paul Manafort’s house on July 26, 2017 to revelations about previously undisclosed June 9, 2016 meetings with Don Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner, Manafort and a Russian lawyer evolving around possible collusion, there was no letting up.

 

Beginning in mid-June, the Mueller focus began centering on targeting Trump for obstruction of justice and Kushner’s finances and business dealings. And even Vice President Pence lawyered up in mid-June with hiring of outside counsel. Despite all, Trump tweeted claiming victory against the investigation on June 16, 2017.

 

Unfortunately for Trump, Mueller did not wave a white flag and give up on the Trump-Russia investigation. Instead the efforts intensified. And Trump had to add lawyers to his legal team along with Kushner and Don, Jr adding additional counsel in the form of criminal defense attorneys.

 

In mid-June, the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) director testified that Russian hacking occurred in at least 21 states.   In July, Trump refused to blame Russia for meddling in our election. Instead of relying on information from DHS, he relied on the word and denials of Russian President Vladimir Putin during the G-20 summit—as if Putin was going to admit anything.

Towards the end of July, it was leaked that Special Prosecutor Mueller was allegedly investigating Trump’s business deals, had his tax returns, the same ones Trump failed to disclose. A special prosecutor has the power to subpoena documents during its investigation.

Now CNN and MSNBC are reporting that Mueller has brought on top IRS Department of Justice prosecutors.  The heat is really on.  A case on the Russia collusion may take months if not years to complete an investigation.  Whenever prosecutors follow the money trail, it is a much easier case to prove matters such as tax evasion.  While they are not as salacious as the Russia-Trump collusion, tax matters are less reliant on fact witnesses.  Al Capone was convicted of tax evasion instead of the alleged violent acts he committed. In cases involving mob members, it was often tax evasion that brought them to justice and jail—instead of the crimes of murder and obstruction of justice.

And on August 3, news outlets reported Mueller impaneled a Washington grand jury to investigate the Trump-Russia thing. As a former prosecutor, the grand jury means the Trump-Russia investigation is not going away any time soon. Politico reported on August 29, that special counsel Mueller and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has teamed together on the investigations.

 

The most egregious and morally repulsive aspect of Trump’s summer were his comments surrounding the Charlottesville Neo-Nazi/KKK/white supremacist rally in August. Counter protester Heather Heyer was killed by a white supremacist whose car attacked protesters.  Instead of denouncing the hatred, bigotry and violent actions of Nazis and white supremacists, Trump defended it. He stated publicly that there was blame on “many sides”—meaning Nazis and the counter protesters against bigotry and hatred were both to blame.  As an African American, I know which side the President stands on in with respect to blacks and Jews versus white supremacists. Throughout history, White supremacists openly lynched, burned and terrorized blacks in many parts of the country. And now a U.S. president openly condones their racist and bigoted conduct.

With fall approaching and the dog days of summer leaving us, things will not cool down for Trump.  And it will only get hotter for the Trump Administration. Unfortunately, things are heating up for everyone else as long as he remains in office.

 


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