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Appeals Court Trumps Mr. Trump on his Travel Ban

Friday, February 10th, 2017

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

Monday, January 23rd, 2017

 

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.

 

 

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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

Saturday, January 21st, 2017

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

Monday, January 16th, 2017

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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The Trump Era and Justice for People of Color

Monday, December 5th, 2016

President Elect Donald Trump has nominated Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions as his pick for Attorney General of the U.S. Sessions is a lightning bolt for anything related to civil rights and justice for people of color. Much of the progress seen in the Eric Holder era and now Loretta Lynch era may likely soon be erased with a much darker side taking its place. The prior history of Sessions speaking out in support of the Klu Klux Klan (“KKK”) in the past years, is troubling for civil rights advancement.

Some of the areas at risk are police consent decrees, federal police lawsuits for excessive force and death of unarmed individuals, immigration legislation deferring deportation of “Dreamers”, reduction of mandatory minimums, Voting Rights legislation, federal lawsuits opposing voter disenfranchisement and the Civil rights Division, itself. Sessions favors increasing the prison population. Former Attorney General Eric Holder favored decreasing the prison population by reducing non-violent drug sentences and reducing mandatory minimums. Sessions opposes reducing sentences, even if non-violent. Sessions is in favor of increased surveillance without the need for a search warrant. Former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was notoriously known for wiring taping civil rights activists, Martin Luther King and anyone that deemed to speak out in favor of civil rights. And Donald Trump has previously stated he favors stop and frisk laws which were previously held unconstitutional.

Justice is at risk in the Trump era.

On the Bill Press show on December 1, I elaborate on the ways a Trump era Department of Justice may be a major setback for justice and civil rights for people of color.

Listen and Watch Here:

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal analyst and former Baltimore prosecutor. She often appears on MSNBC, PBS, CBS, Al Jazeera, BET and Fox 5 DC.

Why Walter Scott’s Killer May be Re-Tried–Even if Found Guilty

Saturday, December 3rd, 2016


 

 

 
Debbie Hines on MSNBC explains the Michael Slager trial and the implications of the lone juror holdout.

Former Charleston, SC police officer Michael Slager, who is on trial for the murder of Walter Scott, after firing 5 shots into Scott’s back, while fleeing from the officer, may get an early Christmas present—his freedom. As of Friday, a jury of 11 white persons and one lone black juror failed to reach an unanimous verdict. Eleven of the jurors support a conviction of either first degree murder or voluntary manslaughter. One lone hold-out states in a letter given to the judge that he or she is unable to come to a guilty verdict and won’t come to a verdict (paraphrased). Judge Newman did not order a mistrial on Friday, December 2. Instead, Judge Newman instructed the jury to go home over the weekend and continue deliberations on Monday, December 5. Michael Slager may have already won his freedom and the right to a new trial with the help of the one lone dissenting juror.

The video taken by a bystander witness showed Slager firing shots into the back of Walter Scott as he ran away 17 feet from the officer, after being stopped for a busted tail light on his car. The video further shows Slager attempting to plant a Taser gun at the feet of Scott following the shooting. No evidence in the trial showed that Scott ever had possession of the Taser. Slager’s testimony stated that he was in fear of Scott. No case is ever a slam dunk. However, this case is a classic example of a first degree murder case. Nonetheless, the jury is deadlocked.

In a case where a jury becomes what it feels is deadlocked, most judges will give or read what is called the “Allen charge” which tells the jurors to continue to deliberate and to keep an open mind. The Allen charge does not allow the other 11 jurors, as in the case of Slager, to coerce the lone juror into changing his or her mind. That would be sufficient grounds for an appeal.

There are several points that are interesting in the Slager trial. In all jury trials, whether criminal or civil, the judge instructs that the foreperson should send notes to the judge whenever there is a question or issue with deliberations. The foreperson speaks for the jury through written notes. So, it is interesting that the lone juror chose to write a separate note to the presiding judge. And it is even more interesting that the note possessed all of the appropriate legal buzz language needed to assist the defendant, in the event the lone juror changes his or her mind and votes with the other eleven for a conviction.

While I hate suggesting conspiracy theories, I do find it strange, for lack of a better word, that this one lone juror has almost made it his cause to declare the defendant not guilty. While that is the right of any particular juror to vote his or her conscience, it seems that there might be more here with this lone juror. The note suggests almost some form of legal training to state the appropriate buzz word language to give a new trial to the defendant, even if a guilty verdict is reached.

Unless a juror later speaks to the media, which often does occur in many high profile cases, the public does not know any information about the juror such as education, occupation, age or other material information. That information is solely known to the lawyers, judge, parties and court room clerks. This lone hold-out appears to be going above and beyond what a hold out juror usually does by letting the foreperson advise the judge of the circumstances.

As the days and perhaps weeks go on, we may come to learn more about the lone hold-out juror. For now, that juror has given Michael Slager his freedom whether through a mistrial, if declared, or a guilty verdict, if rendered. The tone for grounds for appeal are clearly already set by this lone hold-out juror, if he/she has a change of mind to convict Slager.

Judge Newman has indicated if a mistrial is declared, the case will be re-tried. While it is important for closure to the family of Walter Scott that a verdict be rendered, declaring a mistrial now will save the family more heartache down the road. If a guilty verdict is rendered next week, the defendant will undoubtedly appeal.   It is better to declare a mistrial now that having to redo a trial several years later.

 

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal analyst and former Baltimore prosecutor. She can be seen on MSNBC, CBS, PBS, Al Jazeera, BET, Fox 5 DC and other news outlets.

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