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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.


My Top Ten Wishes (Satirical) For the Fake SOTU

February 5th, 2019 | Tags: , , ,
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Donald Trump, Public Domain

Donald Trump gives his second State of the Union Address (“SOTU”) tonight. I look forward to the Democratic rebuttal to be given by Stacey Abrams. Abrams who ran for governor of Georgia is the new face of the Democratic party.

Black women have supported the Democratic party by overwhelmingly voting in higher numbers than any other group in 2016, 2012 and 2008. Yet, the Democrats have often ignored Black women while trying to win back those whites who left the Democratic party beginning with President Lyndon Johnson in the 1960’s and have yet to return.

As I look forward to hearing Stacey Abrams tonight, I also wanted to share my satirical top ten wishes for the fake SOTU. In my David Letterman voice, here goes the top ten in reverse order beginning with number 10.

10. The wall becomes a non-issue and all federal government workers rejoice without the threat of a pending shutdown hanging over them.

9. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg arrives in her workout attire and begins her workout with her trainer on the House floor.

8. No Democrats show up for the SOTU except Speaker Nancy Pelosi who remains to protect the House.

7. Trump accidently takes a truth serum before giving the speech and provides special counsel Robert Mueller with everything he needs to indict Trump. Trump doesn’t realize he is speaking the truth for the first time in his life as he begins talking to the American people for over one hour.

6. Senator Mitch McConnell apologizes to the American people for failing to do his job during the Trump regime and hastily resigns.

5. While Trump is still speaking, armed FBI agents arrive to arrest and take Jared Kushner, Donald Trump, Jr. and Ivanka Trump to an undisclosed location. Melania Trump, Baron Trump, Tiffaney Trump remain listening to Trump finish his speech.

4. Vice President Pence goes into hiding after the speech begins which may implicate him in Trump’s doings.

3. Trump resigns. Mic drops.

2. Speaker Nancy Pelosi ends the SOTU with the gavel sounding marking the beginning of her presidency.

1. A new day begins in America on Tuesday, February 5, 2019 with the end of the Trump era/regime.

If only fiction could become fact.


Ralph Northam’s Photo Makes My Blood Boil

February 4th, 2019 | Tags: , , , , , ,
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Ralph Northam inauguration – creative commons

This Black History month marks 400 years since Blacks were forcibly brought to America. It started  with Virginia Governor Ralph Northam defending a 1984 racist black face photo standing next to a KKK member in his medical school yearbook page. As an African American, this photo makes my blood boil.

Virginia Governor Northam is the latest white person to be caught in a racist compromising position. When Northam first spoke about his predicament, he manned up. He stated that the photo was “clearly racist and offensive.” But then he flip- flopped to his current position—denying that he is in the photo. That position evolved apparently as many politicians called for his resignation.

To those many persons who are clueless about whites in black face, I suggest that you use the month of February to read up on it. White actors and musicians during the time of slavery and up to an including into the 1900’s would cover their faces in black dye and create stereotypical and racist portrayals of slaves and African Americans. The representations would show blacks as being inferior to whites, being sub- intelligent with a low IQ and being less than human and childlike. The Black face actors and musicians played parts and sang in ways to dehumanize and ridicule African Americans, making them the butt of jokes for white audiences. These portrayals were funny to whites but degrading to African Americans.

In Northam’s case, the 1984 yearbook photo was the same portrayal as earlier Black face actors. It was likely humorous to his white friends but appalling and disgusting to African Americans. Northam’s depiction goes even farther. It shows a white man in Black face standing next to a KKK member. How did he ever think that was humorous and not racist? Even if Northam was not well versed on Black history, the photo speaks volumes of what he really thought about African Americans over 30 years ago. The only thing possibly worse would have been if the KKK person was holding a noose.

Many people have something in their past that they regret doing. The problem with Northam is he failed to acknowledge the photo much earlier in his career, apologize for it and ask for forgiveness—like before he ran for Governor. It makes me think what else is Northam hiding. Northam has alluded to the fact that other photos may come up.

As for those persons who believe that 30 years ago is time enough for folks to change. I agree. However, I do not agree with persons who get caught holding the racist cookie 30 years later and only then saying—that was back then.

Ralph Northam should not get a pass on this one. And yes, he along with many others like him in both political parties should resign. Northam is the latest white politician caught in a racist web. Nearly every state and national political ally and the University of Virginia President James Ryan have asked for Northam’s resignation. The one politician supporting Northam is former Virginia congressman Jim Moran.

If Northam’s photo involved something  of a serious nature involving sexual assault, I doubt if there would be much debate about his resignation. And he may have already resigned. Former Senator Al Franken resigned over a photo implying that he forcibly kissed a woman on an airplane while she was asleep.  The photo in Franken’s case was nowhere nearly as offensive as the Northam black face and KKK photo. While I don’t believe the photo warranted Franke’s resignation, he became a casualty of the MeToo movement.

The nature of Northam’s photo is racism. The offensive nature and outcomes of the two—race and sex, should be equal. Anything involving racism always carries a higher burden in America—even 400 years after the first Africans arrived.

Being an effective leader means being able to lead. It will be difficult if not impossible for Northam to lead the Commonwealth of Virginia after this debacle. The clock ticks. It’s only a matter of time before Northam resigns.

Washington, D.C. based Debbie Hines is an attorney and former prosecutor.


Roger Stone’s Fate at a Trial Will be Decided by Blacks

January 29th, 2019 | Tags: , , , , , ,
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Roger Stone was arraigned in D.C. federal court today. As expected, Stone entered a plea of not guilty. An arraignment hearing is for the purpose of advising the defendant of the present charges against him, allow him to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty plus state additional terms of the defendant’s pre-trial release. Stone had to give up his passport and cannot contact any witnesses. If he violates the terms, he goes to jail pending his trial date.

As for Stone, he is slowly learning what it means to be a defendant. Stone voiced concerns about being arrested in the early morning hours with over 20 FBI agents. His specific concern was that he was arrested with more force than Osama Bin Laden. By the way, Osama Bin Laden was shot to death during the raid on his house. The courtesy of affording a white -collar defendant the ability to turn himself in with his attorney at his convenience is exactly that… a courtesy. It is not mandatory, as Stone discovered.

Now the real reason why the arrest was likely done in the manner it was conducted had to do with the parallel search warrant of Stone’s residences. An announcement in advance would have potentially allowed Stone to destroy or attempt to destroy documents. A search warrant is obtained with a judge signing off on it. In the affidavit that is presented to a judge to obtain a search warrant is the belief of what the search is more than likely to yield. The Mueller prosecutors had good reason to believe based on either cooperating testimony or either evidence that another crime or crimes may have been committed.

It is likely that more charges are being considered. Stone may be asserting his white privilege in public. However, as a charged defendant, he is no different than other defendants who go before the court. He will be processed in the same way as all others.

As the events unfold and Stone’s attorneys learn of the evidence against their client, Roger Stone may be less inclined to boldly assert the lack of evidence against him. As the indictment reads, the prosecution has what appears to be a tight case against Stone. The reality of possible jail time may soon become a wake-up call for Stone. It’s usually a matter of if you feel lucky and want to roll the dice. Of if you want to face reality that wearing an orange jumpsuit daily is staring you in the face. Reality comes in many forms.

Stone emphatically states his wants his day in court. In a jury trial in the District of Columbia, Stone will be facing jurors who reside in D.C. Most D.C. voters voted overwhelmingly Democrat by almost 91% in the November 2016 presidential election. Only 4% of all D.C. residents voted for Donald Trump. While the District of Columbia’s Black population is just slightly under 50%, those jurors are not likely to be sympathetic to Stone. The fact that many potential jurors in D.C. work for the federal government which was closed for 35 days due to Trump’s shutdown bears indirectly on how jurors might feel about Stone. Stone has made it clear of his close association to Donald Trump. While jurors are advised to base their verdict solely on the evidence presented in a case, no one juror is  likely to be able to completely forego their thoughts about Trump.

Another hearing is scheduled for Friday, February 1 to plan future court events and hearings. Stone left the D.C. federal court without as much of a whimper, unlike his blustering and bold statements following his arrest in Florida. Maybe Stone is giving thought to those potential D.C. jurors who might hear his case and judge his guilt or innocence.

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is an attorney and former prosecutor.


Roger Stone Gets His Comeuppance in the Mueller Investigation

January 25th, 2019 | Tags: , , , , ,
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Trusted Donald Trump aide Roger Stone got his long awaited comeuppance for his behavior in the special prosecutor’s Trump Russia investigation. Stone was arrested at his office in the wee morning hours of Friday, January 25. While Roger Stone may have been expecting an indictment, nothing prepared him for the manner in which he was arrested.

Mueller’s team sent a strong and serious message to Trump confidante, Roger Stone, by arresting him at 4 a.m. much like everyday street criminals, mob bosses and narcotic dealers are arrested. Of course, following his arrest, Stone complained about the nature of the arrest with over 29 FBI furloughed agents coming to his house to take him into custody. Stone for his part declared his innocence.

The lack of common prosecutorial courtesies usually afforded to white collar clients/defendants to conveniently turn themselves in with their lawyer upon indictment shows the seriousness of the case and the possible indication of a flight risk by Stone.
Prosecutors obtain indictments on what they can likely prove. The indictment shows Mueller’s team intends to prove that Stone acted like a mob boss in witness tampering, threatening to do harm to witnesses’ pets, lying and obstruction of justice. Stone may soon be singing another song and re-considering his loyalty to Trump.

The prosecution does not need to set out its entire case in an indictment. And at any time, the Special Counsel’s office could file a further amendment or addition to the indictment. While we don’t know the strategy of the special prosecutor’s office, the case was laid out for possible collusion in the indictment.

The decades long relationship that Trump has with Roger Stone makes it difficult for Trump to distance himself from Stone. The possibility of jail time for Stone makes it easier for Stone to re-consider his Trump loyalty and consider his loyalty to his life and family. While Stone does not presently intend to make statements against Trump, other white-collar defendants in the investigation, like Cohen, Flynn, Papadopoulis and Manafort took deals rather than go to prison. Persons who wear suits don’t normally want to trade them in for an orange jumpsuit and leg braces.

While Trump may state that Stone’s indictment has nothing to do with Trump, is a witch hunt and is more about lying, the indictment allegations and details suggest otherwise. The indictment states a high ranking Trump campaign official was “directed” to ask Stone in October, 2016 to obtain further information about Clinton leaked emails. This indictment is likely just a tip of the iceberg in the chain to the Trump campaign and stolen leaked Emails during the campaign.

I suspect that the Mueller investigation has far more incriminating information on Stone than what is listed in the indictment. And when Stone’s lawyers come to meet with the prosecutors, they may see a preview of what might be awaiting Roger Stone that is not contained in the indictment. Prosecutors may use this tactic as leverage for Stone to plead guilty and cooperate, if facing more charges.

At some point, Stone may want to take a deal and cooperate rather than face the potential for years in jail. And of course, a president can pardon a convicted felon. It is unclear if a convicted person can be pardoned by a president who might also be an unindicted co-conspirator. What is clear is Roger Stone is the 6th Trump campaign aide to be indicted. The others, Rick Gates, Paul Manafort, George Papadopoulos, Michael Cohen and Michael Flynn all pled guilty. That’s 5-0 for Mueller and one is pending. That’s like Tom Brady having won 5 previous Super Bowls and now he is facing number 6.  The odds do not bode well for Roger Stone.  Ditto for the Rams.

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is an attorney and former prosecutor.


White House Gangsta in Chief Needs to Leave

January 23rd, 2019 | Tags: , , ,
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Donald Trump, Public Domain

The federal government shutdown has now gone into two missing paychecks for workers without any resolution. It started as Trump’s demand that Mexico would pay for the wall. Then it advanced to American taxpayers would need to pay for the wall. Mexico likely laughed at the suggestion of their paying for it. And now it has snowballed into a hostage take over situation of over 800,000 federal government workers plus contract workers being furloughed until presumably American taxpayers pay for the wall. Trump has placed America at risk in food safety, air safety, health safety, economics, intelligence and basic human rights.

While the focus at times has been on federal government workers in the DC, Maryland and Virginia area, federal employees work in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia. Large numbers of workers are located in Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico, South Dakota, West Virginian and Iowa –Trump Red states. There are government contractors who are not government employees who will never receive back pay.

There is so much at stake with the government shutdown. The lives and well being of 800,000 employees and their families are at stake. Most families are merely one paycheck away from homelessness. Rents and mortgages due are not being paid by many workers. Food lines and food pantries are now feeding government workers and supplying food for their families. The Department of Agriculture may need to forego food stamps distribution in February and SNAP benefits to 40 million Americans. The SNAP program began in 1964. There has never been a lapse in providing food services since the program began. The Food and Drug Administration is lacking the ability to keep our food supply safe, in terms of inspection.

The FBI cannot effectively work. The FBI Agents Association warned Tuesday that the ongoing government shutdown is not only hurting individual FBI employees and their families, but hampering key operations. This means that gangs such as MS-13 and other criminal enterprises will not receive appropriate investigation, indictments and court documents resulting in a likely increase in crime.

The TSA workers who make on average $30,000 must continue to do their jobs without pay. Many TSA workers have already called in sick causing check points at various airports, including Baltimore Washington airport to close checkpoints. Air traffic controllers are now beginning to call in sick. At some point, our air traffic safety will result in a tragedy of huge proportions.

Presently, there is no end in sight. Donald Trump ran at least four companies into bankruptcy. He appears on track to make America his fifth bankruptcy. If the U.S. were a private company, like Trump is running it, he would have already been removed. Papa John’s Pizza removed its CEO and founder under less severe issues than those being displayed by Trump.

One thing is for sure. Trump has a chokehold on America. A CBS News poll found that 71 percent of Americans do not believe the government should be shutdown over Trump’s demands for a border wall payment. Unless our lawmakers find a way around his insanity, our country will be crippled even further. And Trump and Putin will be laughing all the whole time. It’s time to begin impeachment. We cannot wait much longer—if America is to survive. As Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib stated, “impeach the mother fucker”.

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is an attorney and former prosecutor.


Pelosi v. Trump: Politics Over Money

January 18th, 2019 | Tags: , , , ,
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Donald Trump may have likely met his match with Speaker Nancy Pelosi. With the government being shut down, Speaker Pelosi raised concerns about Trump giving his State of the Union address before the government re-opens. In a letter addressed to Trump, she stated that he should delay his speech until after the government reopened. Her concerns were for security and the fact that nothing entitles Trump to give a state of the union address, in the manner he intended. In other words, it is almost like a nothing burger.

Pelosi had also made plans to embark on a trip with a Congressional delegation to Afghanistan. Trump in like Trumpeon fashion retaliated. And this is where the story gets interesting.

Trump denied the delegation use of government military planes to travel to a war zone. He likely saw Pelosi’s trip as grandstanding. It was a visit to the troops and to engage in government business.

Despite denying Congressional use of government planes for government business, Trump allowed Melania Trump to take a government plane to go on a weekend frolic. Once again, the Trump hypocrisy continues. If anyone should have been taking a commercial flight, it should have been Melania Trump—not our elected officials on government business.

Then Trump allegedly doubled down by further exposing the intended commercial travel, thereby placing in jeopardy the lives of the Congressional delegation, the military and anyone traveling on the same commercial flight. Pelosi had decided to take Trump up on his request to travel via commercial airlines albeit more risky. The administration’s purported leaking of those plans thwarted any commercial travel to Afghanistan for the near foreseeable future.

Trump at this stage is reacting to Pelosi’s demands. He is now in reactionary mode. And anyone who knows negotiations will tell you that is a poor position to find oneself in. Trump reacted to Pelosi’s denial of his $5 billion wall; he reacted to her letter to delay the State of the Union address. He reacted to her purported trip to visit the troops overseas and conduct official government business. And then Trump reacted to Pelosi’s attempt to continue travel via commercial flight. If this were an Ali- Frazier fight, with Pelosi being Ali and Trump being Frazier, Frazier is on the ropes. And the Ali/Pelosi rope-a-dope is working quite well.

Nancy Pelosi is a veteran politician from a family of generations of politicians. Many persons fail to remember that Speaker Pelosi hails from Baltimore where her father and brother were mayors of Baltimore. She often speaks about her political lessons learned from her father, Tommy D’Alessandro. While Nancy Pelosi was learning how to be a shrewd politician, Donald Trump was playing with his father’s money—and losing it. While Pelosi was beginning her political career in 1977 and later getting elected to Congress in 1987, Trump was learning how to file for corporate bankruptcy. He filed for business bankruptcy four times beginning in 1991. Nancy was getting re-elected to Congress in 1993.

Nancy Pelosi has many political maneuvers up her sleeve. More importantly, she is an effective leader. While Republicans despise her, she has been able to keep her base intact, while becoming the next person in line for presidency following Vice President Pence.

From his business dealings, Trump has likely never had to deal with a woman, the likes of a Nancy Pelosi. And his naivety is showing with his reactions to her moves. Speaker Pelosi is looking to see what Trump has in the way of punches. Presently, she has ascertained his weakness. Like a boxer, she will continue to hammer away at his weakness. And in Trump’s book, the Art of the Deal, one caveat states that the worst thing you can possibly do in a deal is seem desperate to make it. It makes the other person smell blood. Right now, Pelosi smells blood.

Trump wants his wall. He has a wall. Her name is Nancy Pelosi.

UPDATE:  Speaker Pelosi delayed Trump’s State of the Union address until after the government is re-opened.

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


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