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LEGAL SPEAKS BLOG

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.


Harvey Weinstein is Everywhere

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

gamma_2From Thomas Jefferson, Bill Clinton, Donald Trump to Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly, men like Harvey Weinstein are in every professional. While the recent focus has been on prominent men in the media and politics, the truth of the matter is powerful men who seek to use women as sexual objects for their own power perks have existed since the beginning of time. And the crime of rape has also existed since the before the beginning of this country. As a lawyer, I have encountered my own Harvey Weinstein.

There are powerful men who view women as toys for their own sexual satisfaction. And in many professions, the practice is pervasive, in all areas. While the encounter may last only a few minutes, in some instances, for women, the stigma and emotional trauma may last a lifetime. While women seek to advance in their careers on their professional merits, often times, some powerful men have other misogynist ideas in mind which may make or break a woman’s career or her self-esteem.

I spoke recently to a lawyer who represents companies in sexual assault and other discrimination cases. She confirmed that the practice of powerful men who want women to pay to play is in every profession from law, business, entertainment, politics, tech and even the medical profession. And although the Harvey Weinstein defense is that it was a different culture earlier than it is now, that is not true. Sexual predators, perverts and rapists existed in the early Weinstein days and now. And the fact that most of these men can get away with decades of wrongful sexual allegations shows the power of silence.

In 16 states, the statute of limitations has changed to no statute of limitations. This means that there is no longer a year limit in which to file a claim in these states. This is why New York and Los Angeles are investigating alleged claims against Weinstein. But for many women, the harm has been already done and some may still prefer to stay silent.

In these misogynist cultures, it is incumbent upon other men to speak up, in defense of women who are victimized. In the Weinstein case, there were men who knew of his sexual transgressions. According to accounts, at least several women allegedly confided in male colleagues. If the all -male board had been advised of the alleged Weinstein sexual predator actions, then perhaps some women may have been spared his advances.

Many times, women may not want to speak up. Silence is the protector of male sexual predators. I encourage men to become more actively involved in speaking out against these sexual transgressions by their male colleagues, instead of staying silent on the sidelines.

For further commentary on the subject, I participated in a lively panel discussion with anchor Bruce Johnson.


What if the Las Vegas Killer was Black, Muslim or God Forbid Both

October 4th, 2017 | Tags: , , , , ,
Posted in Legal | No Comments »

las-vegas-The Las Vegas mass shooting and killing by Stephen Paddock resulting in 58 deaths and hundreds of injured individuals is a horrific event in our history.  The media’s focus on the motive of the killer and the whitewashing of Paddock committing the crime loses the point.  There are no good motives for killing anyone—let alone over 50 persons.  Any killer who kills innocent persons while perched from a high-rise luxury hotel shooting them down as if he were playing a video game, is not a good person. Much of the media has gone out of the way to paint Paddock as a regular white guy.  I can’t but help to think how the media would have addressed the killer if he or she were Black, Muslim or both.

Every possible good trait known about Paddock has been mentioned.   From being prescribed Valium to being a high stakes gambler and an apparently wealthy individual with a girlfriend, the media has struggled to make sense out of his killing rage.  Contrasting the depictions of a good white male figure with how the media describes Black or Muslim killers and victims makes me what to scream out loud.

Assumptions of a bad actor are the routine media response when describing even Black victims, particularly when shot and killed by whites.  Trayvon Martin was said to be “up to no good;” Ditto for Michael Brown who was shot and killed in Ferguson.  The media went out of its way to find anything bad associated with Michael Brown. Media accused Brown of a robbery before police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed him. The alleged robbery had nothing to do with Darren Wilson shooting Brown.  Freddie Gray was portrayed as a criminal instead of the six officers who were on trial for his murder.  Eric Garner was portrayed as a criminal selling loose cigarettes illegally instead of a victim gasping for air while being unlawfully choked to death.

And for Muslims who are involved in killings, there is never any semblance of the media looking into the individual’s life for anything good.  Media almost always looks for everything that a Muslim did wrong, any association with ISIS and coming to this country illegally, if they immigrated here.

But when the white mainstream media looks at a white guy killer, like Paddock, they see themselves and wonder how it could happen.   As a former prosecutor, there is never a good reason for a murder or why someone kills and plans a vicious attack on hundreds of innocent individuals.  So, please stop trying to find out why or how a good white guy went bad.  Or in the reverse, look for the same good traits when reporting about Black and Muslim victims and killers.  It is a two-way street—if you care to look both ways.

 

And while you’re looking down the two-way black and white street, make sure that Black history is not erased in the coverage.  First, the killing of 58 persons in Las Vegas was not the largest mass killing in modern U. S. history—as inaccurately rolled on many network chyrons and stated by anchors.   The largest U.S. killing occurred on the early morning hours of June 1, 1921 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  White Tulsa police officers deputized other whites to attack innocent Blacks for what they believed was an attack on a white woman by a black man. In the vicious killing, burning and raping that followed of an entire town of 10,000 Blacks, 300 Black persons were killed; 4000 were captured and placed in jail and thousands more left and never returned.  The area was known as the “Negro Wall Street” in 1921 due to wealthy Blacks residing there. And while some may ask, why is this important at a time like the Vegas shooting?  It is always important to never forget history—and particularly to refrain from erasing Black history.

And lastly let’s remember that all Black is not bad and all white is not good.   And Stephen Paddock was not good—at all.  He was pure evil.  He was a domestic terrorist. So please let’s stop trying to make him out to be a very good white guy gone bad.  He was rotten to the core—his white skin and all.

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

 


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.


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