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Why a Decades Ago Attempted Rape Should Derail Kavanaugh

Monday, September 17th, 2018

Judge Brett Kavanaugh was on to smooth sailing to a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court before Professor Ford came forward with allegations of an attempted rape by Kavanaugh when he was 17. Ford at age 15 attended a party where Kavanaugh attempted to rape her on a bed and in the process placed a pillow over her head to prevent her from screaming. Now years later, Ford is scheduled to testify publicly about these allegations.

As I appeared on DC Fox 5 this evening, I was asked why would Professor Ford come forward so many years later. Most women, including Ford would prefer to forget the details of a sexual assault. However, the reality is most can never forget the assault or in Ford’s case an attempted rape.

While I cannot speak for Ford, she likely came forward now because she has a civic or moral duty to convey significant information about Kavanaugh’s character and fitness to serve on the highest court. And it doesn’t matter that the incident took place decades ago. No one should get a pass for attempted rape. And the issue should not be lightly dismissed due to the length of time. What should be judged is substance over timing.

Fox 5 also asked how me does one decide a “he said, she said” controversy. Normally, in a sexual assault case, it is viewed as he said she’s lying and that’s the end of it. But the MeToo movement is slowly changing all of the previous perceptions. A funny thing has happened. Women are now being believed. But the stakes are high here. So Professor Ford took a lie detector test given by a former FBI agent. Even with lie detector test, it may not be enough.

The determination of what will happen depends on how well Prof. Ford testifies; how believable she appears; Most will need to judge if there is any ulterior motive or if anyone has anything to gain by testifying. In this instance, Prof. Ford has everything to lose and nothing to gain. And if there is any doubt, folks should read up on what happened to Prof. Anita Hill after she testified. She almost lost everything in her academic career. Kavanaugh has everything to gain—a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court.
The parallels to Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas are misplaced. Anita Hill accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment in the work place. Professor Ford accuses Kavanaugh of a serious crime—-attempted rape. And those allegations deserve a serious look at Kavanaugh’s past. The FBI should be investigating him to locate persons who may have further information about the party, the judge and the professor.

Kavanaugh’s vote should be delayed until a full and complete investigation of these serious allegations. With the Republicans, that is not likely to occur. They want to ram Kavanaugh through the process before the midterms. What may occur is the Senate Judiciary committee may vote against a full Senate vote after hearing the testimony. There are 21 senators on the Senate Judiciary committee. 11 are Republicans and 10 are Democrats.

Most Republicans knew about Kavanaugh’s lack of judicial taste for women. That’s why he was selected in the first place—to turn back the hands of time for women; to vote against abortion rights. And now what stands between him and a lifetime appointment is a courageous woman. And her life will never be the same for her act of courage. All women’s lives will never be the same if Kavanaugh becomes a Supreme Court justice.

Kavanaugh must be blocked at all costs. The stakes are too high for an alleged rapist to sit for a lifetime on the Supreme Court. We are better than this.

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a lawyer, former prosecutor and member of the Supreme Court bar.

Women’s History Month and the Supreme Court

Monday, March 19th, 2018

supcourt_buildingAs we wind down Women’s History month, the role women played in Supreme Court cases is pivotal in understanding the huge  impact of women on the laws of this country.  For centuries, women advanced the law in cases involving civil rights, women’s right, marriage equality, health care and a myriad of other issues.   For all that remains to be done in the area of women’s rights, we have largely come from the second class status barring women from practicing professions,  attending schools and  marrying the person of their choosing without infringement of the government.

 

Beginning in 1869, Myra Bradwell applied for admission to the Illinois bar in accordance with a state statute that permitted any adult of good character and with sufficient training to be admitted to the practice of law. Because she was a woman, however, the Illinois Supreme Court denied her admission, noting that the “strife” of the bar would surely destroy femininity. Chief Justice Charles B. Lawrence  of the Illinois Supreme Court stated that “God designed the sexes to occupy different spheres of action.”

Bradwell appealed the decision to the United States Supreme Court, arguing that her right to practice law was protected by the Privileges or Immunities clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In 1873, the U.S. Supreme Court held that states may statutorily deny women the right to practice law.   Today women make up over 35% of all lawyers according to an American Bar Association report in 2016.

 

Following on the heels of Myra Bradwell, Virginia Minor of Missouri, a member of the suffrage movement, applied to the voter’s registrar  to register to vote. She was not allowed to register. In 1875, her case advanced to the Supreme Court. The question presented  was whether  the adoption of the fourteenth amendment, permits a woman, who is a citizen of the United States and of the State of Missouri, to become  a voter in that State, notwithstanding the provision of the constitution and laws of the State, which confine the right of suffrage to men alone.   In 1875, the U. S. Supreme Court in Minor v. Happersett decided that no new State admitted to the Union had ever conferred the right of suffrage upon women.  It would take a constitutional amendment in 1920 to confer the right to vote for women. And it would take decades later for Black women to become franchised in Jim Crow states.

In 1951,  third grader, Linda Brown, was denied entrance to Topeka’s all-white elementary schools. In the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court ruled on May 17, 1954, through Chief Justice Earl Warren that “in the field of public education the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place,” as segregated schools are “inherently unequal.”  Years later, Linda Brown would address the implications of Brown v. Board of Education:

 

 

In 1967, the case of Mildred Loving and Richard Loving would change the laws of interracial marriage. In 1664 – 300 years before the Loving decision, Maryland passed the first British colonial law banning marriage between whites and slaves — a law that, among other things, ordered the enslavement of white women who married black men. In 1667, the Commonwealth of Virginia banned all interracial marriages, threatening to exile whites who marry people of color. By 1883 in Pace v. Alabama, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that state-level bans on interracial marriage do not violate the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The ruling will hold for more than 80 years until Loving v. Virginia.

Mildred Jeter, of African American and Native American descent married Richard Loving, a white man in 1958 in the District of Columbia and then came back to their home state of Virginia.  They  were arrested and later tried.  They agreed to leave  their Virginia home due to its miscegenation laws and move to Washington, D.C.     Unable to return to visit Virginia, they sought legal help through Attorney General Robert Kennedy and then with the ACLU. In a unanimous decision, on June 12, 1967, the Supreme Court ruled that the laws forbidding inter-racial marriages were unconstitutional. Mildred Loving spoke to ABC News immediately following the decision on the effects of it:

 

Loving v. Virginia paved the way for Windsor v. U.S.  and the government’s discrimination of federal benefits to legally married same sex couples.  Edie Windsor sued the U. S. government which denied federal estate tax exemption benefits to legally married same sex couples.  In a 5-4 decision in 2013, the  Supreme Court declared that the Defense of Marriage act was unconstitutional.  Edie’s case paved the way for marriage equality in 50 states with the case of Obergefell v. Hodge in 2015.

 

Unlike Mildred Loving, Edie Windsor and Linda Brown,  Washington Post CEO Katharine Graham came from a family of privilege when she faced off with the Supreme Court and the Nixon administration over the Pentagon Papers. Nonetheless, Graham was still treated with the  second class rights of a woman when her father, Eugene, upon his retirement,  passed the helms of the Post over to Graham’s husband, instead of to his daughter Katharine.  However, as Katharine’s husband would later take his life in 1963, she became the CEO of the Washington Post. Faced with the decision in  1971 on whether to publish the Pentagon Papers exposing the lies of the Vietnam war, in defiance of the Nixon Administration’s lawsuit against the New York Time, she decided to publish.  The U. S. government filed suit for an injunction which led to the Supreme Court case holding  that the paper’s first amendment right to make information public trumped the government’s right to keep secrets. “In revealing the workings of government that led to the Vietnam War, the newspapers nobly did that which the Founders hoped and trusted they would do,” wrote Justice Hugo L. Black.  Graham’s valiant efforts changed the course of history, as did those of Edie Windsor, Mildred Loving, Linda Brown, Mildred Bradwell and  countless others.

Women still await full rights with regard to pay equity, sexual harassment laws, discrimination in the workplace, among other areas.  But time is almost up in these areas too.

Debbie Hines is an attorney and a member of the Supreme Court bar. She also is a contributor to the Women’s Media Center.

Here’s How to Fix DACA and Gun Laws

Monday, February 26th, 2018

UnionRallyGroupIn a significant blow to the Trump Administration, the Supreme Court denied, without comment, the administration’s request to leapfrog ahead the system to immediately appeal to the Supreme Court an adverse California federal court ruling on “DACA”- Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.  Previously, a California federal judge denied the Trump administration’s order to immediately end DACA—stating that the Administration was enjoined nationwide from ending it.  It thereby ensured that almost 700,000 DREAMers may continue to remain in the country—at least for a while longer.   DACA is the program established by President Obama in 2012 which protects against deportation some of those who entered the country illegally as children. Trump sought to end the program in March, 2018.

The current status of the case, in light of the court’s ruling, is the Trump administration must now go through the normal court route and appeal the ruling to the 9th circuit, which hears appeals from California’s lower federal courts.  The Universities of the California filed a lawsuit stating that their lawsuit must be allowed to proceed before a ruling against DACA.  Depending on the ruling in the 9th circuit after hearing oral arguments and filing briefs, the case may still eventually proceed to the Supreme Court.  For now, it is not on the fast track that the Trump administration intended for it.   It could take well over a year to reach the Supreme Court.  By then—we may have a new Congress.

And for now, this puts DACA back in the public spotlight.   With much recent focus on gun legislation in light of the Parklands, Florida school shooting and killing of 17 persons, many other issues have taken a back seat.  It is as if the dyslexic Trump presidency and GOP controlled House and Senate lawmakers cannot focus on more than one issue at a time.  And the issue of gun violence extends far beyond school shootings to violence in our cities and everywhere people go.  Immigration and gun laws need fixing. Neither have been presented with any viable legislative fixes. With November, 2018 in the wings, it is all the more important that the Supreme Court declined to fast track DACA.

In the interim, everyone affected by DACA and this includes DREAMer’s schools, colleges, employers, families, friends and co-workers should register to vote and vote in the November midterm election. The future of over 600,000 persons who are in this country since childhood depends on it.  For now, until November, 2018, their lives hang in the balance.  Today’s Supreme Court decision gave DREAMers a much-needed reprieve.  Perhaps following November, 2018’s midterms election, a change in the GOP party- controlled House will offer a permanent fix to both DACA, immigration and gun laws. If the GOP will not fix either DACA, immigration or gun control laws, we need to fix the GOP by voting them out of office.

 

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal/political commentator and member of the Supreme Court bar.

Supreme Court Sweeps in Final Week

Monday, June 27th, 2016

supcourt_building

The  Supreme Court decided important cases today on political bribery, abortion rights and gun rights. The highest court struck down a restrictive Texas abortion law and vacated former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell’s bribery conviction. It upheld a federal gun law that forbids gun ownership if  convicted of domestic violence.

 

The court ruled that Texas’ HB2 draconian abortion law is unconstitutional and struck down the abortion law which unduly interferes with the rights of women to obtain an abortion. In a decided ruling of 5-3, the Supreme Court ruled that Texas HB2 law which placed strict standards against abortion doctors, clinics and almost closed all access to abortion in Texas is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court rejected Texas’ argument that the law was intended to protect women’s safety. The law was written to block women’s access to abortions in the State of Texas.

While Congress or the Senate has failed to pass any meaningful laws on gun control, the Supreme Court made clear today that no absolute right exists for gun ownership for those who have committed and been convicted of domestic violence. The Supreme Court upheld a federal law which prohibits people convicted of domestic violence from legally owning guns. In a blow to gun rights advocates, the Supreme Court made clear that the law covers intentional acts of domestic violence and those that are committed in the heat of an argument, whether misdemeanor or felony conviction.

In upholding the federal law, the Supreme Court affirms that the second amendment is not an absolute right to bear arms for those convicted of domestic violence—however it occurs. And the Supreme Court also indirectly inferred that those who are victims of domestic abuse are entitled to have gun right ownership stricken from their abusers. In many jurisdictions, local state laws also forbid the ownership of guns by those who have committed an act of domestic violence. And individuals are required to turn into law enforcement authorities any guns that they already possess.

 

Governor McDonnell at CPAC; Attribution Gage Skidmore

Governor McDonnell at CPAC; Attribution Gage Skidmore

In what was expected by many legal observers, the Supreme Court vacated the bribery conviction of Bob McDonnell with a decisive 8-0 ruling and dealt a likely death blow to Virginia federal prosecutors. By way of background, McDonnell while in office, received multiple gifts from business man Johnnie Williams consisting of loans, a paid wedding reception for his daughter, jewelry, vacation and golf trips. More specifically, the McDonnells received almost $200,000 of gifts and cash consisting of:

 

  1. $50,000 loan, without loan papers, used to pay of the McDonnell’s’ credit card debt
  2. $20,000 additional loan
  3. $15,000 payment to a caterer for the McDonell’s daughter’s wedding
  4. Round trip tickets for the McDonnell’s daughters to attend an out of town bachelorette party
  5. A lavish shopping spree in New York for Mrs. McDonnell to buy couture designer clothing and accessories for the Governor’s inauguration
  6. A Rolex watch, specifically requested by Mrs. McDonnell to be engraved for her husband, after seeing one on Williams’ arm
  7. Golf outings costing thousands of dollars
  8. Use of private jets
  9. Shares of stock

 

The Supreme Court did not focus on the gifts but focused on what constitutes official duties in exchange for the gifts–which is bribery if gifts are accepted in exchange for “official acts”. The highest court sparred McDonnell from jail by stating the official acts under federal corruption law means more than setting up business meetings, a launch at the governor’s mansion of Williams’ business and talking to others. And without more actions, it does not meet the bribery standard.

 

While the Court left open that McDonnell could be retried, it is not likely that will occur as the entire case rested on the theory that the Supreme Court struck down. What the Supreme Court stated is that it’s acceptable for lawmakers to receive the massive amounts of gifts that McDonnell received without any case, controversy or matter that may be pending. And the ruling also may have some implications for recently convicted politicians and those awaiting trials on bribery issues.

 

In all, Monday was a busy day of rulings for the Supreme Court.

 

Debbie Hines at the Capitol

Debbie Hines at the Capitol

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

How Donald Trump Could Affect Minorities Attending Schools

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016

supcourt_buildingIn the same week that the Supreme Court decision of Brown v. Board of Education marked its 62nd anniversary declaring that “separate but equal” schools are unconstitutional, a Mississippi town was found to be in violation of Brown and Donald Trump lists his possible eleven Supreme Court picks for vetting. It’s almost surreal and one could not script the three together. But the three are intertwined together in ways that could affect minorities and attendance at schools.

Brown v. Board of Education’s decision on May 17, 1954 marked the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision which found that barring blacks from attending white segregated schools on the theory that all schools were separate but equal was unconstitutional. The premise of “separate but equal” had held true as the law in the U.S. since 1868. And following Brown v. Board of Education, many African American and other minority children were bused to schools in white areas or otherwise allowed to attend previously all white schools, as a result of the decision. The decision affected schools everywhere—in northern and southern states.

Fast forward to May 17 , 2016, some sixty-two years later. A federal court ruled on a case involving Cleveland, Mississippi that has been fighting against the principles in Brown v. Board of Education for decades. Some say justice delayed is justice denied. And in the recent case of Cleveland, Mississippi, the saying is true.

For over 50 years, the small town of Cleveland, Mississippi battled with desegregating its schools. And now, a federal court has ruled the town must combine its mostly all black and other minorities attending middle school and high school with whites into one school. And the town is weighing its options to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. And so, for now, the issues decided in Brown v. Board of Education are still in dispute—in the minds of those living in Cleveland, Mississippi.

Generations of black children in the small town have been denied a right to an equal education as declared by Brown. And if the town has its way, there may be years before the issue is finally resolved, if appealed to the highest court.

And here’s where Donald Trump’s list of possible Supreme Court justices announced in the same week, if he is elected, enters the picture.   If Donald Trump becomes President Trump, the education case involving Cleveland, Mississippi would go before the Supreme Court with a Trump Supreme Court pick. And while however far-fetched it may seem at the present moment in time, a reversal of Brown v. Board of Education’s ruling could occur. A few months ago, it seem far fetched that Donald Trump would become the Republican nominee.  But even without a Trump pick to the Supreme Court, the high court has slowly taken away affirmative action rights for minorities in education cases occurring over the years.

And while the Democrats continue to fight during the primary process, for minorities, it is particularly imperative that Donald Trump never enters the White House—as President of the United States.

 

 

2171_48010694635_9179_n[1]Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal analyst and member of the U.S. Supreme Court bar. Her Op Ed articles appear in the Washington Post, Baltimore Sun and Huffington Post.

SCOTUS Vacancy May Send Frmr VA Gov. McDonnell to Prison

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016

supcourt_buildingInstead of running his own 2016 Republican campaign for presidential nominee, former Republican Governor and once rising GOP star Bob McDonnell will be awaiting the outcome on his Supreme Court hearing on April 27. McDonnell and his wife Maureen were convicted at trial of receiving gifts and loans in exchange for official government assistance to Star Scientific, the dietary supplement company, of businessman Jonnie Williams, Sr. A federal appeals court upheld their convictions. So now their last Hail Mary is with the Supreme Court.  And the Supreme Court vacancy may seal his fate.

 

The gifts from businessman Williams ranged from golf outings, catering for their daughter’s wedding, 2 loans, expensive shopping sprees to New York for Mrs. McDonnell, a Rolex watch and an assortment of other gifts, including as specifically outlined in the indictment, as follow:

 

  1. $50,000 loan, without loan papers, used to pay of the McDonnell’s’ credit card debt
  2. $20,000 additional loan
  3. $15,000 payment to a caterer for the McDonell’s       daughter’s wedding
  4. Round trip tickets for the McDonnell’s daughters to attend an out of town bachelorette party
  5. A lavish shopping spree in New York for Mrs. McDonnell to buy couture designer clothing and accessories for the Governor’s inauguration
  6. A Rolex watch, specifically requested by Mrs. McDonnell to be engraved for her husband, after seeing one on Williams’ arm
  7. Golf outings costing thousands of dollars
  8. Use of private jets
  9. Shares of stock

 

The prosecution contended and the jury convicted the McDonnells of receiving the gifts in exchange for allowing Williams’ business Star Scientific to produce the launch of its business and product at the VA governor’s mansion and potentially use Virginia employees in clinical trials of the dietary supplement, thereby defrauding Virginia taxpayers.   From looking at the gifts, it looks as if the case was open and shut. And so the question becomes why the Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments.

 

 

The defense portrayed Maureen McDonnell as an overzealous wife and as the “fall woman”, throwing her under the bus for his transgressions. McDonnell maintained his innocence and contends that he did not do anything official in exchange for the gifts given to him. Williams for his testimony received immunity and no jail time. Maureen McDonnell was sentenced to one year and one day. And Bob McDonnell was sentenced to two years in federal prison- far less than the almost 10 years requested by the prosecution. Both have remained free pending the final outcome.

 

As his political case heads to the Supreme Court on Thursday, it goes before a possible tie decision among the justices. And if the justices split along party lines of 4-4, the federal appeals court decision will stand and both McDonnells will be headed to a federal prison.

 

McDonnell wants the Supreme Court to agree with him that in accepting the gifts, he did not violate the law. His lawyers assert that the former governor did not perform any “official actions” or use “actual government power”; Instead they argue that the former governor only arranged meetings, attended events and the most routine political activities. Hence the argument is McDonnell did political business as usual.

 

While McDonnell did not overtly state he used any political favors in exchange for Williams’ gifts, a launch of a business at the governor’s mansion is a favor, not likely to be received by most people- just for the asking. And attending functions where Williams would not have ordinarily been invited to are circumstantial evidence of a political favor. The nature of the continued gifts over a period of time and the activities afforded to Williams is minimally enough to uphold the conviction. It is true that McDonnell received far more than perhaps what Williams got in exchange for his gifts. However, the quid pro quo  or exchange does not need to be equal for a bribery conviction to be upheld.

 

McDonnell and his wife’s convictions should be upheld. If not, then anyone with money can buy political favors, however small and call it “politics as usual” without fear of criminal prosecution. The Supreme Court may have taken this case to show that any amount of money in exchange for any political favor, however slight, is corruption. If not, then our entire political system will be deemed more corrupt and rigged than most people already believe. And special interest groups will become bolder in cashing in on political favors and stating “business as usual.”

 

UPDATE:  At oral arguments held on April 27, the justices on both sides of the political spectrum  seemed inclined to lean towards McDonnell’s position–as setting up meetings is nothing out of the ordinary.  A decision will be rendered by the end of June.

 

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, member of the Supreme Court bar, legal analyst and former prosecutor. Her Op Ed articles appear in the Washington Post, Huffington Post and Baltimore Sun. She appears on air on Al Jazeera, BET, CBS News, C-Span, Fox 5 DC, MSNBC, Sky News, PBS, among others.