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Martin Luther King, Jr. 50 Years Later: What’s Changed?

Wednesday, April 4th, 2018

Martin_Luther_King_Jr_On April 4, 1968 civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated while standing on the Lorraine hotel balcony in Memphis, Tennessee. In the wake of 50 years since his assassination, with the Trump era, white supremacy uprisings, police shootings of unarmed African Americans, disenfranchisement of Black convicted felons and mass incarceration, many are left wondering if anything has changed in 50 years or changed for the worse. In order to reflect on the 50 years, one must begin with a look back at the years before Martin Luther King’s rise in civil rights era.

Martin Luther King, Jr. led the civil rights movement from approximately 1955 until his death in 1968—a short 13 years. In those 13 short years, King’s leadership with others accomplished more than had been accomplished in the 350 years since Blacks first arrived in the U.S. Throughout the U.S. African Americans were treated as less than 2nd class citizens. Separate but equal was the law. In the year before King’s rise, the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that separate but equal was no longer the law in public education. Before Linda Brown’s case, Blacks were denied the right to attend public schools with whites.

Beyond schools, discrimination and desegregation existed in public accommodations in all forms of transportation, hotels, restaurants, parks, swimming pools, stores and anywhere the public and whites were involved. The biggest impediment to Blacks was the denial of the right to vote under Jim Crow laws in the south. In many areas, Blacks were not allowed to register to vote or required to pay a poll tax or take an absurd test—such as guessing the number of jelly beans in a jar. While many Blacks fled the south to the north for better opportunities, still discrimination waited for them in the north.

King’s nonviolent protests and the civil rights movement moved the nation as Blacks were seen on TV being beat by police as they led peaceful protests for the rights to be treated equally as whites and to e able to vote. Congressman John Lewis (D. GA) was one of those who almost lost his life in the fight for voting rights.

By 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson urged lawmakers to pass the Civil Rights Act. It was signed into law on July 2, 1964 and outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. It prohibited unequal application of voter registration requirements, racial segregation in schools, employment, and public accommodations.. The following year, Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act which was designed to protect and enforce the voting rights of Blacks as afforded in the Constitution. A core provision of the act required under Section 5 a preclearance requirement, which prohibits certain jurisdictions from implementing any change affecting voting without receiving preapproval from the U.S. Attorney General or the U.S. District Court for D.C. to show that the change does not discriminate against protected minorities. Unfortunately, in 2013 Shelby County v. Holder, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the coverage formula as unconstitutional, reasoning that it was no longer responsive to current conditions.

By 1968 at the time of King’s death, he was advocating for a living wage for workers. He was assassinated in Memphis, while he was there to protest with sanitation workers on adequate wages. Before his death, he had sharply criticized the Vietnam War.

When I hear folks say that not much had change since King’s fight for civil rights, I must differ. While many things are still present in the U.S. due to racism, such as a resurgence of the KKK and white supremacy, there is a difference. King came into prominence in the 90 years post slavery. In those 90 years, over 4000 Blacks were lynched. Many Blacks were systemically lynched on the court house lawns as a means of perceived white justice. Other Blacks were lynched or killed at the hands of prominent members of white society for perceived indiscretions against whites. Emmitt Till’s violent death in 1955 was the wake up call for the beginning civil rights movement. The death of Emmitt Till had a profound effect on King and moved him to action to start the Montgomery bus boycotts.

Today King’s dream of full citizenship for African Americans is still being fought and waged on many fronts. From the disparate police shootings of unarmed African Americans, mass incarceration of Blacks, disenfranchisementof voting rights for convicted felons in states and restircive voter ID laws for others, the struggle continues. The Trump era’s attempts to set back gains accomplished by President Obama are battles waging daily.

Perhaps the greatest testament to King is his fight for the reality that voting and voting rights are paramount for African Americans. The ability of African Americans to be able to vote, albeit with restrictive voter ID laws aimed to deter voting, enabled the election of Barack Obama. And the same ability of many Blacks to remain home on election day in November, 2016 ushered in the Trump era.

King’s death did not end the dream. It moved the dream into a new era—that must be fought continuously by a new generation. We are not back at square one but we must continue the fight.

I appeared on BBC News to discuss the death of Martin Luther King, Jr.—50 years later.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w172w71nbqg1f2r

Start @5:40- 13:53

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

Please No More Sam Nunberg Circus as Breaking News

Wednesday, March 7th, 2018
Sam Nunberg -Courtesy of the Grio

Sam Nunberg -Courtesy of the Grio

Anyone, who turned on cable news TV at any time on Monday, couldn’t help but see a defiant Sam Nunberg, a former Trump aide, ranting and raving about his refusal to appear before a grand jury to testify pursuant to a subpoena. Nunberg, appearing possibly inebriated or at least smelling of alcohol according to CNN’s Erin Burnett, speculated about Trump, Roger Stone and other parties involved in the Russian-Trump investigation. Whenever did speculation become breaking news?  I wonder who on the major cable news outlets thought Nunberg’s hours long coverage was appropriate.

As I watched Nunberg, I wondered what the world must now think of the U.S. While we do have very good reason to be concerned about an Russian involvement or interference in our election, we do not have a good reason to air every possible aspect as breaking news. And Nunberg appears in the category  of non-breaking news given the non-substance of his interview.

I do think there are journalists that would not have interviewed Nunberg to the point of sickening to watch on air.  MSNBC Joy Reid recently interviewed Stephanie Hamill, an adviser for the National Diversity Coalition for Trump, who spouted conspiracy theories when asked to answer a question.  Akin to what should have happened with Nunberg’s speculation on Trump affairs, Reid cut off  Hamill’s responses, saying she does not harbor conspiracy theories on her show.  I think it would have been appropriate for one of the news outlets to have proceeded to commercial and return without Nunberg.   Perhaps, Joy Reid was needed to interview Nunberg to cut short his breaking-non-breaking news segment.

 

On Friday, we will learn if Sam Nunberg, former Trump aide, will appear before the grand jury pursuant to the subpoena issued to him to produce documents and testify in the Russian-Trump investigation. He later changed his tone indicating that he will comply. Whatever he decides to do, I hope the cable news networks do not waste another entire day to interviewing and discussing him as breaking news.

Nunberg’s grand jury attendance or non-attendance is not breaking news worthy of the news time spent on it on Monday.  If he doesn’t appear, as a former proseuctor, I know that Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller will file a motion to compel him to testify and bring the requested documents. If a contempt order is entered against Nunberg, he must comply with the subpoena or face jail time.

There are so many stories that were news worthy on Monday and will be news worthy on Friday, in lieu of Nunberg;  Gun control debate and laws, immigration and ending of DACA, upcoming special elections and ensuring our  2018 and 2020 elections are secured, Flint, Michigan water contamination are just a few.  Former first lady Michelle Obama once said that when they go low, we go high. Monday’s coverage of Nunberg was a new low for cable TV  news.  I just hope the cable news outlets do not rinse and repeat similar coverage of Nunberg  all day on Friday.

 

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

 

Celebrating Presidents Day with a Fake President in Office

Monday, February 19th, 2018
Donald Trump, Public Domain

Donald Trump, Public Domain

With everything going on with the Russian interference with our November, 2016 presidential election, some question the legitimacy of the current person holding the title and office of president.  On Friday, indictments were handed down against Russian individuals and entities for engaging in unlawful activities to undermine the 2016 election and to favor Donald Trump.  It begs the question that if a person holding the office of president won the office through the influence by the Russians, is President’s day still a legitimate holiday in 2018.

Monday, February 19, 2018 is President’s day.  Most local, state and federal offices are closed.  President’s day is celebrated on the third Monday of February.  When I was in school, it was celebrated as Washington’s birthday in honor of our first president.  It was changed throughout time to celebrate Presidents Washington and Lincoln and then all presidents including the present president in office.

If Robert Mueller’s investigation determines that Donald Trump’s campaign engaged in collusion or in overt activity with the Russians to undermine our election process in November, 2016, then the person presently holding the office is a sham or a fake.  Even with the lack of any present indictments showing a combined effort by the Trump campaign to engage in a conspiracy with a foreign adversary, this so-called president has already shown an unwillingness to actually occupy the office.

Instead of bringing the country together, Trump has consistently engaged in a pattern and practice of dividing the country.  It’s like it’s him and his staunch supporters and the rest of the country in a battle.  When opportunities arise to console and comfort a grieving country, he takes every opportunity to further ignite divisive sparks.   Charlottesville, VA showed the president’s true colors in supporting the Neo-Nazi’s during the summer rally where one individual was killed.  And this past weekend, after visiting first responders in Parkland, FL, he headed to a party at his nearby Florida resort, in the wake of 17 persons killed at Douglas High school.

Trump’s attacks on women and support of men who are known sexual and domestic abusers further shows his division among gender.  And then there’s the race divide with Trump going against the NFL players’ right to silently protest the police brutality against blacks. He forcefully spoke against the players’ constitutional rights to address racism.  And many whites sided with the president and missed the point of the protests.  And Trump rarely misses an opportunity to attack Hispanics, Muslims and African Americans but often remains neutral in criminal actions by whites such as the Las Vegas killer and Charlottesville rally of KKK and white supremacists.

While there is no job description for the office of president, it appears that at a minimum, a president should unite the American people—or at least make genuine efforts to do so.  The Trump administrations does the exact opposite.  Sowing seeds of division may win votes with the weak Trump base.  However, it undermines the office of the president and disserves the e American people.

 

With possible further indictments in the wing on the Trump campaign and the president’s non-presidential actions in year one, do we really have reason to celebrate President’s day this year? I suggest we use President’s day 2018 to make a donation online to an organization that is upholding the constitution and democracy.  We don’t appear to have a president that honors either one.

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

Trump’s Wins are Major Losses for the U.S.

Sunday, February 4th, 2018
Donald Trump, Public Domain

Donald Trump, Public Domain

When Donald Trump campaigned in 2016, he stated that he planned to win on every single issue for Americans.  And one year after taking office, Trump has won hands down on every single issue that seeks to divide rather than unite us as a country and lower our standing in the world.

Trump got off to a running start on January 27, 2017 by hastily implementing a Muslim travel ban on 7 Muslim countries.  The ban barred citizens of the Muslim countries from entering the U.S. After a federal appeals court struck down the first ban, a second ban ensued.  Later after litigation, a third ban was enacted. On December 4, 2017, the Supreme Court allowed a third version of the travel plan to go into effect banning individuals from eight Muslim countries.   Citizens from the effected countries will not be able to immigrate, work, study or vacation in the U.S. while the ban is in effect. Litigation is still ongoing.

The propaganda of “America First” touted by Trump has resulted in a loss of travel business and jobs in the travel industry. An analysis shows that the travel ban could cost $18 billion dollars in U.S. tourism over two years.  In just the first week after the travel ban, business travelers canceled $185 million in travel bookings.

By January, 2018, Trump continued his attacks on other non-white countries by calling Haiti and all countries in Africa “shithole countries” in decrying against immigration from these countries.  The derogatory remarks further show the open bigotry advance by Trump.

On May 31, 2017, Trump declared that the U.S. would pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement. One hundred and ninety-five countries support the agreement. Only Syria and Nicaragua didn’t join—and now the U.S exited. The purpose of the Paris Climate Accord was to help prevent further global warming and to use clean energy.  Most of Trump’s base and likely Trump, himself, do not believe in the science of global warming. The Trump administration’s policies on world issues have diminished the U.S. in the eyes of the world and its standing among most countries, except Russia.

On August 12, 2017, hundreds of white supremacists, Klu Klux Klan members and Nazi’s marched at a rally in Charlottesville, VA.  The rally resulted in the death of one woman as a car plowed through peaceful anti-Nazi protestors and injured 35 other individuals.  Trump instead of denouncing the bigotry, racism and divisiveness of the rally, defended the white supremacists.  Trump stated there were “very fine people” on both sides.

White supremacists have existed throughout our country’s history.  Trump has allowed a renewed platform for their bigotry and hatred. According to research by the Anti- Defamation League, white supremacy propaganda has increased by almost 300% at college campuses –up from 2016.

In the fall with the beginning of NFL season, Trump weighed in on the protests by NFL players on police brutality and mistreatment against African Americans.  The protests began in 2016 by Colin Kaepernick.  By 2017, some NFL players began kneeling during the national anthem in silent protest.  Trump referred to Kaepernick and others as “sons of bitches” in defiance of players’ first amendment rights.  During his State of the Union address, Trump again stressed the importance of standing during the national anthem.  He never addressed the underlying reasons for the protests—police brutality against Blacks and Black mistreatment in the criminal justice system.

 

Just in time for Christmas, Trump gave the best winning Christmas gift to the rich— an overhaul of the tax code resulting in increased wealth for the wealthy. On the tax increase, Congressman Paul Ryan boastfully stated on Twitter on February 3, 2018 that the tax increase resulted in one high school secretary to receive an additional $1.50 per week—as if that was something to be boastful about.

Previously Trump and the GOP—tried to repeal and “replace” Obamacare on at least two occasions. With the tax law, Trump ended up settling for repealing the individual mandate requirement to purchase health insurance—all but insuring that insurance premiums will soar in 2019.

Some other wins for Trump are appointments to lead federal agencies whose ideology are in direct conflict with the agencies they lead, nominating federal judges for a lifetime appointment who have little or no trial experience, casting doubt on our system of checks and balances otherwise known as the rule of law and his relentless attack on the media and journalists except Fox News —referring to the media as “fake news”.

 

Assuming if Trump is impeached, indicted or otherwise put out of office before 2020, he will still be winning in 2020 and thereafter. The dismantling of our norms, distrust of our media, loss of world standing and divisiveness caused by Trump’s first year in office will likely last for decades—long after 2020.   Trump’s wins are our losses as a society.

 

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal/political commentator and former prosecutor.

Trump’s Days are Dwindling Down

Wednesday, November 1st, 2017

Meeting with my national security team in #WashingtonDC. #Trump2016

A post shared by President Donald J. Trump (@realdonaldtrump) on

 

Some Republicans now state that Donald Trump may not seek re-election. If the unsealed indictments of Paul Manafort, Rick Gates and guilty plea agreement of George Papadopoulos are any indication of things to come, Trump may not last the entire first term. The much anticipated hashtag of #MuellerMonday revealed a 31 page, 11 count indictment against Manafort and co-defendant Gates’ indictments for money laundering and failing to register as a foreign agent. Allegations revealed $75 million held in offshore account by Manafort resulting in his use to purchase lavish million-dollar homes, secure loans, purchase a lavish lifestyle of a million-dollar wardrobe in an alleged scheme to evade reporting of income and payment of taxes. It is a classic money laundering scheme as alleged.

After turning themselves in, Manafort and Gates respectively were released on $10 million and $5 million bail, ordered held on house arrest, only to leave for lawyer, doctor and court appearances and ordered to turn in their passports. NPR reported after reviewing unsealed court documents that Manafort had three passports and traveled with aliases. For a man alleged to be worth over $75 million, perhaps $10 million in bail was low. And if the government proves its case, all of the alleged ill-gotten gains will be turned over to the government. Usually, white collar defendants are released on their own recognizance—only having to report to pre-trial. The trial may not occur for over a year due to the nature of the charges.

The real coup of Mueller was the unsealing of the indictment and guilty plea of George Papadopoulos, an alleged Trump campaign foreign policy advisor. Papadopoulos pled guilty to one count of making a false statement. It was the best kept secret in a town that is not known for secrets. According to court papers, Papadopoulos is a cooperating defendant—meaning he is likely wearing a wire to gain and or corroborate information.

The Trump administration denies having knowledge of him, except to say Papadopoulos was a volunteer. The Internet is not as forgetful. In March, 2016, Trump tweeted an Instagram photo of Sessions and Papadopoulos at a meeting with Trump and a few others present. Trump titled it  “national security meeting”—with Papadopoulos present seated two seats to the left of Jeff Sessions.  Trump and Sessions are at the heads of the  table shown in the Instagram photo.

Today, Trump says Papadopoulos was a low level volunteer. Court papers allege a meeting was held in March, 2016 on seeking assistance from Russia on dirt on Clinton, in the campaign. In addition to Trump, Attorney General Sessions may now be in legal hot water. Of course, both will continue to deny involvement—and attribute everything to fake news.

Special Prosecutor Mueller, a former George W. Bush FBI director appointee, has been diligently working on the Trump Russian investigation for months now. By all legal accounts, he is methodically investigating the involvement of Russia into our 2016 presidential election. And the end game for Trump may likely be death by Mueller, whether by indictment, impeachment, resignation or 25th amendment. But mark my words, Trump’s days are numbered.

Meeting with my national security team in #WashingtonDC. #Trump2016

A post shared by President Donald J. Trump (@realdonaldtrump) on

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer who represents white collar defendants and a former Baltimore prosecutor.

Lawyers Sue Heartless Trump on DACA

Wednesday, September 6th, 2017

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.