Wednesday, September 30, 2020

The Attorney General of the United States is coordinating political activities with the White House

In recent days, the Justice Department has declassified or disclosed sensitive materials related to each of these proceedings that, on the surface, have little to do with each other. Yet within hours, President Donald Trump had weaponized each to boost his reelection campaign, reported Politico.

The Justice Department under William Barr is coordinating political activities with the White House in a way not seen since John Mitchell and Watergate, say veteran prosecutors and other Washington insiders, even in the 60-day period before an election when “political'' cases and investigations used to be placed on hold to avoid the appearance of partisanship. 

We all know where John Mitchell ended up--prison.

“These actions are not typical,” said William Jeffress, a veteran defense lawyer who represented former President Richard Nixon after he left the White House. “Tradition is that politically sensitive actions by DOJ go dark at least 60 days before an election.”

Jeffress called the Justice Department’s unusual press release last week regarding a handful of discarded military ballots in Luzerne County — a crucial area of a crucial state that swung to Trump in 2016 — “particularly striking.”

“The attorney general is working hand in glove with the White House and the Trump reelection campaign,” said Gene Rossi, a former federal prosecutor from Virginia turned white collar defense lawyer. “We have not seen that level of unseemly coordination since Attorney General John Mitchell.”

Justice Department officials insist there is no basis to suggest that politics have infected the work of the department. Still, at the heart of these new disclosures is a common thread: They all support narratives that Trump has been pushing in recent months and deploying against his rival, Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

Democrats have increasingly sounded the alarm about how they say the machinery of the federal government has been mobilized to back Trump’s reelection. They also cite recent evidence that the Treasury Department helped supply explosive information to Senate Republicans that was released last week in a report about Biden’s son Hunter’s business relationships, along with examples at other agencies that suggest Trump is successfully harnessing the power of the state to serve his election needs.

But they’re most alarmed about what they say is a Justice Department effort to aid Trump politically.

For example, Trump has baselessly asserted a widespread campaign of voter fraud that calls the legitimacy of the 2020 election into doubt — a claim that has been rejected by lawmakers of both parties, intelligence officials and his own hand-picked FBI director. Yet on Thursday, a U.S. attorney from Pennsylvania issued an unusual letter that revealed a newly opened investigation into a handful of mishandled ballots in a Pennsylvania election office.

Though local officials have indicated the episode was likely a technical error, the U.S. attorney, David Freed, revealed that the affected ballots were cast for Trump — a detail that has become a fixture of Trump public comments in the days since. Other media outlets reported that Attorney General William Barr personally flagged the news to the president, who proceeded to tease the discovery in a radio interview before it was publicly announced.

To DOJ veterans, this disclosure was as egregious a breach as any in Barr’s 17-month tenure.

“This is not something that the attorney general should even be telling Trump or they should be announcing in any fashion,” said Nick Akerman, who served as a prosecutor during the Watergate-era investigation of Nixon.

The pattern so perturbed one current assistant U.S. attorney — veteran Massachusetts-based prosecutor James Herbert — that he issued a stinging broadside against Barr in the pages of the Boston Globe over the weekend.

“While I am a federal prosecutor, I am writing to express my own views, clearly not those of the department, on a matter that should concern all citizens: the unprecedented politicization of the office of the attorney general,” Herbert wrote, citing Barr’s handling of special counsel Mueller’s report, his involvement in cases like Flynn’s and his echoing of Trump’s baseless allegations about mail-in ballots. “The attorney general acts as though his job is to serve only the political interests of Donald J. Trump. This is a dangerous abuse of power.”

A Justice Department official rejected the suggestion of any impropriety in revealing the ballot investigation. It was an issue that local media had begun to chase, which the local U.S. attorney’s office had discovered was likely to be the subject of news reports. Freed had been considering a statement on the matter independently before Trump jumped to the front of the line and disclosed the investigation during a Fox & Friends Radio interview, this official said.

How did Trump know? The DOJ official said Barr, aware of the local media buzz, had mentioned to the president that the department was going to be examining the issue.

David Weinstein, a former assistant U.S. attorney in Florida, said the disclosures related to the Pennsylvania ballots probe were “inappropriate, both in their content and timing.”

“When I was an [assistant U.S. attorney], you would never reveal anything about your ongoing investigation,” he said. “It could compromise the investigation itself and potentially [impugn] the reputation of any subjects of the investigation who never became targets.”

Regardless of DOJ’s intent, Trump has clearly sought to exact political benefit from the disclosure, raising it in political rallies, press conferences and other appearances over the weekend, to fuel his continued claims of large-scale voter fraud.

“If you look at the ballots — you know, they found ballots in a garbage can, and they had the name ‘Trump’ on them,” the president told reporters Saturday evening. “They were cast for Trump, and they found them in a garbage can.” 

He reacted similarly after the FBI declassified — and Barr delivered to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Thursday — new details about the creation of an anti-Trump dossier by former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele, which was used by the FBI in 2016 to obtain a warrant to surveil Carter Page a former Trump campaign aide suspected of ties to Russia.

The disclosure from the FBI indicated that Steele’s primary subsource for the dossier was once the subject of a counterintelligence investigation as a possible Russian agent, a probe that was closed in 2011. The existence of that investigation was noted by the Justice Department’s inspector general in a redacted footnote from his scathing 2019 report describing abuses and omissions by the FBI in obtaining the Page warrant.

Though the watchdog didn’t include the existence of this probe among the many omissions he attributed to the FBI, Trump quickly pointed to the now-public revelation as proof that he was targeted by a witch hunt.

 “Bill Barr can go down as the greatest attorney general in the history of our country, or he can go down as an average guy," he told Fox Business’s Maria Bartiromo recently. "It depends on what’s going to happen."

To read more CLICK HERE

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Alarming trend: Assault by vehicle at public protests on the rise

There have been at least 104 incidents of people driving vehicles into protests from May 27 through Sept. 5, including 96 by civilians and eight by police, according to Ari Weil, a terrorism researcher at the University of Chicago's Project on Security and Threats who spoke with USA TODAY this summer. Weil began tracking the incidents as protests sprung up in the wake of George Floyd's death in police custody.

There have been at least two fatalities, in Seattle and in Bakersfield, California.

Weil said that by analyzing news coverage, court documents and patterns of behavior – such as when people allegedly yelled slurs at protesters or turned around for a second hit – he determined that at least 43 of the incidents were malicious, and 39 drivers have been charged.

Most of the incidents happened in June, in the weeks following Floyd's May 25 killing, Weil said, and half of the incidents happened by June 7. While incidents continue to happen, they've trended downward since then, he said

"While these incidents were clustered in the beginning of the protest period, they continue to occur," Weil said on Twitter on Thursday. "As violent rhetoric intensifies in the lead up to the election, I worry about an uptick in these incidents."

To read more CLICK HERE

Monday, September 28, 2020

What can Senate Democrats do to slow down Barrett's confirmation?

 According to Politico, here is what Senate Democrats can do to slow down the GOP stampede to insert a new justice on the Supreme Court five weeks before a presidential election:

The “two-hour rule”

Schumer’s opening salvo last Tuesday was to invoke the rarely used “two-hour rule,” which can be used to halt all committee business after the Senate has been in session for more than two hours.

The move caught senators and aides by surprise, and it caused the cancellation of several important committee hearings — most notably, a closed Senate Intelligence Committee briefing with William Evanina, the nation’s top counterintelligence official, on the subject of election security.

Republicans quickly derided the move as a “temper tantrum” on Schumer’s part. When Intelligence Committee Chairman Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) asked for consent that his panel hold its scheduled session with Evanina, Schumer objected.

“Because the Senate Republicans have no respect for the institution, we won’t have business as usual here in the Senate,” Schumer said on the Senate floor.

While the move made no difference to Republicans’ timeline to confirm a new Supreme Court justice, it was one of several ways Democrats could disrupt the chamber’s activity.

Perhaps most importantly, when the Judiciary Committee holds its series of confirmation hearings for Barrett in October, the sessions will almost certainly last longer than two hours. Democrats could then invoke the two-hour rule to halt the hearing for the rest of the day.

Slow down legislative business

The Senate can finish up its work on a bill or a nomination quickly with the agreement of all 100 senators. But that rarely happens, and McConnell and Schumer often spend their days haggling over floor time to reach a consent agreement.

On Thursday, Democrats refused to give consent for the Senate to quickly pass a government funding bill, requiring McConnell to file cloture and set up a final vote possibly for as late as Wednesday, just hours before the Sept. 30 deadline. The move also prevents senators up for reelection from campaigning while they tend to Senate business next week.

“Right now I think they're just trying to throw a wrench into anything we do,” Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) told reporters. “Obviously it's retribution for the decision on the court, and they just want to be difficult. I don't know why. It doesn't make sense to me either to bring everybody back next week when we could finish this today.”

Object to recess

When the Senate concludes its business for the day, it requires the consent of all 100 senators. Any one lawmaker can object to recessing.

Democrats could force the chamber to remain in session even when Republicans want to close up shop for the day or for a couple of weeks in October to allow vulnerable incumbents to head home and campaign for reelection in the final stretch before November. Still, even if the Senate doesn’t formally recess, individual senators could still leave Washington.

Deny a quorum

In order to conduct business, the Senate requires a quorum, or a majority of senators to be present. Any one senator can move to require a quorum call. If just a few Republicans are absent for any reason, Democrats could boycott the quorum call, effectively preventing the Senate from doing business.

Points of order and motions to adjourn

Any senator can raise what is dubbed a “point of order” to ask the presiding officer a procedural question. If the senator disagrees with the presiding officer’s ruling, he or she can appeal it and trigger a roll call vote, requiring senators to spend time voting on the objection. Democrats could theoretically do several of these in a row, which could stall proceedings for hours, even days.

They can also force a series of votes on motions to adjourn or to recess, further occupying valuable floor time and delaying the Senate’s business.

To read more CLICK HERE

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Trump's nominee: Scalia’s ‘Judicial Philosophy Is Mine, Too’

Judge Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court, has compiled an almost uniformly conservative voting record in cases touching on abortion, gun rights, discrimination and immigration, reported The New York Times. If she is confirmed, she would move the court slightly but firmly to the right, making compromise less likely and putting at risk the right to abortion established in Roe v. Wade.

Judge Barrett’s judicial opinions, based on a substantial sample of the hundreds of cases that she has considered in her three years on the federal appeals court in Chicago, are marked by care, clarity and a commitment to the interpretive methods used by Justice Antonin Scalia, the giant of conservative jurisprudence for whom she worked as a law clerk from 1998 to 1999.

But while Justice Scalia’s methods occasionally drove him to liberal results, notably in cases on flag burning and the role of juries in criminal cases, Judge Barrett could be a different sort of justice.

“There may be fewer surprises from someone like her than there were from Justice Scalia,” said Brian T. Fitzpatrick, a former law clerk to the justice and a law professor at Vanderbilt University. “She is sympathetic to Justice Scalia’s methods, but I don’t get the sense that she is going to be a philosophical leader on how those methods should be executed.”

One area in which almost no one expects surprises is abortion. Mr. Trump has vowed to appoint justices ready to overrule Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion. Groups opposing abortion have championed Judge Barrett’s nomination. And her academic and judicial writings have been skeptical of broad interpretations of abortion rights.

Judge Barrett will doubtless tell senators that the Roe decision is a settled precedent, as she did when Mr. Trump nominated her to the appeals court in 2017. And the Supreme Court may not hear a direct challenge to Roe anytime soon, preferring instead to consider cases that could chip away at abortion rights.

But when the day comes, many of Judge Barrett’s supporters are convinced that she will not flinch. Justice Scalia wrote that the Constitution has nothing to say about abortion and that states should be allowed to decide the question for themselves. There is no reason to believe Judge Barrett disagrees.

Overruling a major precedent is no small undertaking, of course. But Judge Barrett has indicated that some precedents are more worthy of respect than others. 

To read more CLICK HERE

Saturday, September 26, 2020

GateHouse: A ship without a captain, compass or rudder

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
September 25, 2020

As the winds of war swirled in Europe in 1938, a back-bencher in the British House of Commons gave a fiery speech denouncing the closed minds of the burgeoning totalitarian regimes of central Europe.

During a session in Parliament, an aging politician stood up and said, “You see these dictators on their pedestals, surrounded by the bayonets of their soldiers and the truncheons of their police ... yet in their hearts there is unspoken fear. They are afraid of words and thoughts.”

He exclaimed, “A little mouse of thought appears in the room, and even the mightiest potentates are thrown into panic.”

The words of that aging politician, Winston Churchill, could easily be invoked today. As President Donald Trump campaigns for reelection, he rails against any thoughts or words that examine his or the nation’s failures. He paints protesters as un-American and educators who study racial injustice as “Marxist” radicals who hate America and are revising history.

On the stump Trump suggests any criticism of the United States, even of slavery, is unpatriotic. According to the Washington Post, Trump’s rhetoric stands in sharp contrast to American leaders such as former President Barack Obama, who “spoke more frankly of the nation’s shortcomings, painting it as a country constantly striving to perfect itself.”

According to TIME, most Americans concur with Obama. According to a recent Pew Research Center poll, 71% of registered voters agreed with the statement that “it makes the U.S. stronger when we acknowledge the country’s historical flaws.”

Trump is fearful of that “little mouse of thought.” On Constitution Day, according to the New York Times, the president focused much of his speech on what he called “left-wing rioting and mayhem” which are, according to Trump, the direct result of decades of left-wing indoctrination in our schools,” adding that “it’s gone on far too long.”

UCLA historian Gary Nash told TIME, revisionist history is a sign of a healthy democracy. “Why in a democratic society shouldn’t we be looking at history, warts and all? If we show only a smiley-face history we’re just mimicking what kids learn in authoritarian regimes,” he says. “As long as historical research is still valued, there will always be revisions to history.”

Bill Moyers wrote on his blog Moyers on Democracy that since Trump’s inauguration, “a handful of writers have urged Americans to heed history’s lessons on resisting tyranny in all its forms.”

One such writer is Thomas Ricks. His book, “Churchill and Orwell: The Fight for Freedom,” examines the writings of Winston Churchill and George Orwell, tracing how both came to recognize and resist abuses of power and political propaganda.

During an interview with Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air in 2017, Gross read the last line of Ricks’ book, ”(T)he fundamental driver of Western civilization is the agreement that objective reality exists, that people of goodwill can perceive it and that other people will change their views when presented with the facts of the matter.”

Ricks replied, ”(T)his is the essence of Western society and, at its best, how Western society operates.” He continued, ”(Y)ou can really reduce it to a formula. First of all, you need to have principles. You need to stand by those principles and remember them. Second, you need to look at reality to observe facts and not just have opinions and to say, what are the facts of the matter? Third, you need to act upon those facts according to your principles.”

Facts, principles and action are essentially absent among today’s leaders - our nation is a ship without a captain, compass or rudder.

Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. His book “The Executioner’s Toll, 2010” was released by McFarland Publishing. You can reach him at and follow him on Twitter @MatthewTMangino

 To visit the column CLICK HERE

Friday, September 25, 2020

Federal government carries out 7th execution as election looms

The 14th Execution of 2020

The U.S. government executed Christopher Andre Vialva on September 24, 2020 for a 1999 Texas double murder, reported the Texas Tribune.

Vialva’s death was scheduled to be the seventh federal execution this year after a push by President Donald Trump’s administration to restart the federal death penalty after a 17-year hiatus. Since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty nationally in 1976, only three men on federal death row were executed before 2020. Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, was executed in 2001, and two executions in 2001 and 2003 stemmed from Texas murders.

Vialva was pronounced dead at 6:46 p.m. Eastern, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. It was the first federal execution for a Texas case this year, and the 40-year-old was the first Black man killed in the 2020 federal executions, which are taking place during a pandemic. In Texas — the state that by far executes the most people — several executions have been taken off the calendar due to the new coronavirus, resulting in what is expected to be the lowest number of state executions in one year in nearly a quarter-century.

Vialva was convicted in the slaying and robbery of an Iowa couple when he was 19. He and others, including his co-defendant and fellow death row inmate, Brandon Bernard, carjacked Todd and Stacie Bagley on their way home from church, according to court records. The couple was kept in the trunk while the young men tried to pull money from the victims’ bank accounts and pawn a wedding ring. Eventually, Vialva shot both of the victims in the head while they were in the trunk, and Bernard set the car on fire, the records state.

The crime was deemed a federal crime, not a state one, because the killing occurred on a secluded part of the Fort Hood U.S. Army post in Killeen. This year, Fort Hood has been heavily scrutinized as at least nine soldiers have died in suicides, homicides and accidents.

The Trump administration aimed to restart federal executions last year, when it set five executions for December 2019 and January 2020 in cases in which men had been convicted of murdering children. The government planned to use pentobarbital, the same lethal drug Texas uses in its routinely held executions. Court fights over the lethal injection procedure and the drug’s potential painful effects delayed the executions, but the first federal execution since 2003 took place in July in Terre Haute, Indiana.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr said in a 2019 statement that “we owe it to the victims and their families to carry forward the sentence imposed by our justice system.”

To read more CLICK HERE


Thursday, September 24, 2020

AG Barr denies oversight access to Congress

The Department of Justice sent a stunning letter to the House Judiciary Committee, refusing to bring the assistant attorney general and Bureau of Prisons director to testify as the committee had requested, because—according to the department—when Barr testified in July the committee used its time to “air grievances,” reported Slate. Since the Democrats did not stick to the script, the DOJ argues, the hearing did not serve a “legitimate legislative purpose,” and DOJ decided it was in its right to ignore any future request.

That’s not how oversight has ever worked. Barr’s unilateral declaration—that any attempt by Congress to question him or his officials is illegitimate—is just the latest effort to place the executive branch above its constitutional obligations. The administration has spent recent years refusing to comply with congressional subpoenas for executive documents, most notably during the impeachment inquiry, but the refusal to even appear is a complete rejection and dismantling of oversight altogether. This latest effort calls for the only possible proportionate response: William Barr should be impeached.

Under standard congressional oversight, as it has gone for generations, witnesses appear before the committee and then—for better or worse—they are left to the whims of whatever Congress wants to discuss. Just ask former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who testified for 11 hours in 2015 while Republicans demanded she respond to inquiries about their latest conspiracy theories. Or look at the recent hearing with large tech companies, which Republicans used to float wild accusations about censorship of conservatives in social media.

To read more CLICK HERE


Wednesday, September 23, 2020

The federal government carries out sixth execution of 2020

The 13th Execution of 2020

Over previous 56 years, before President Trump, the federal government had executed just three people — all in the early 2000s. Prior to this year there had been a 17-year hiatus in federal executions, reported The Associated Press.

William Emmett LeCroy, 50, was pronounced dead on September 23, 2029 at 9:06 p.m. EDT after receiving a lethal injection at the same U.S. prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, where five others have been executed in 2020.

Lawyers had asked President Trump in a petition to commute LeCroy’s sentence to life in prison, saying that LeCroy’s brother, Georgia State Trooper Chad LeCroy, was killed during a routine traffic stop in 2010 and that another son’s death would devastate their family.

The execution began nearly three hours later than scheduled as LeCroy's lawyers made an ultimately failed, last-minute bid to convince the U.S. Supreme Court to issue a stay.

As a curtain rose across glass windows separating witnesses from the death chamber, LeCroy lay strapped to a cross-shaped gurney, with IVs in his forearms and hands. He kept his eyes fixed firmly on the ceiling, not turning to look toward witnesses. The witnesses included the father and fiancé of Joann Lee Tiesler, whom LeCroy raped and stabbed to death 19 years ago, Justice Department spokesperson Kerri Kupec said in a statement.

LeCroy's spiritual adviser, Sister Barbara Battista, stood a few feet away inside the chamber, her head bowed and reading softly from a prayer book.

Asked if he had any last words, LeCroy responded calmly

LeCroy had said last week he didn’t want to play into what he called the “theater” surrounding his execution and so might not make a full statement in the minutes before he died, Battista told The Associated Press earlier Tuesday.

When a prison official leaned over him Tuesday night and gently pulled off LeCroy’s face mask to ask if he had any last words, LeCroy responded calmly and matter-of-factly. His last and only words were: “Sister Battista is about to receive in the postal service my last statement."

LeCroy kept his eyes open as someone out of his view in an adjacent room began administering the lethal injection of pentobarbital. His eyelids grew heavy while his midsection began to heave uncontrollably. After several more minutes, color drained from his limbs, his face turned ashen and his lips tinted blue. After about 10 more minutes, an official with a stethoscope entered the chamber, felt LeCroy’s wrist for a pulse and then listened to his heart before officially declaring him dead.

Another execution, of Christopher Vialva, is scheduled Thursday. He would be the first African American on federal death row to be put to death in the series of federal executions this year.

Critics say the Justice Department's resumption of federal executions this year is a cynical bid to help Trump claim the mantel of law-and-order candidate leading up to Election Day. Supporters say Trump is bringing long-overdue justice to victims and their families.

LeCroy broke into the Cherrylog, Georgia, mountain home of Joann Lee Tiesler on Oct. 7, 2001, and waited for her to return from a shopping trip. When she walked through the door, LeCroy struck her with a shotgun, bound and raped her. He then slashed her throat and repeatedly stabbed her in the back.


LeCroy had known Tiesler because she lived near a relative’s home and would often wave to her as he drove by. He later told investigators he’d come to believe she might have been his old babysitter he called Tinkerbell, who LeCroy claimed sexually molested him as a child. After killing Tiesler, he realized that couldn’t possibly be true.

Two days after killing Tiesler, LeCroy was arrested driving Tiesler’s truck after passing a U.S. checkpoint in Minnesota heading to Canada.

Authorities found a note LeCroy wrote before his arrest in which he asked Tiesler for forgiveness, according to court filings. “You were an angel and I killed you,” it read. “I am a vagabond and doomed to hell.”

"Today justice was finally served. William LeCroy died a peaceful death in stark contrast to the horror he imposed on my daughter Joann,” the victim’s father, Tom Tiesler, said in a statement.

He had been contemplating death in the days leading up to the execution

“I am unaware that he ever showed any remorse for his evil actions, his life of crime or for the horrific burden he caused Joann’s loved ones," the statement read.

A few hours before the execution, Battista, waiting near the prison, held a bag of caramel chocolate that she said was LeCroy’s favorite. In conversations with him in the days leading up to the execution, she said he had been contemplating his likely death and sounded resigned.

“He said, ‘You know, once we were not and then we are and then we are not,’” she said. “He was reflective. He didn’t seem agitated.”

LeCroy joined the Army at 17 but was soon was discharged for going AWOL and later spoke about an interest in witchcraft that began during a previous stint in prison for burglary, child molestation and other charges.

He had ruminated for days before the slaying about how Tiesler was Tinkerbell and that assaulting her would reverse a hex she put on him. After he cut her throat, he went to Tiesler’s computer to search for books about witchcraft, court filings said.

He was convicted in 2004 on a federal charge of carjacking resulting in death and a jury recommended a death sentence.

LeCroy's lawyers had unsuccessfully tried to halt the execution and argued that his trial lawyers didn’t properly emphasize evidence about his upbringing and mental health that could have persuaded jurors not to impose a death sentence. Their last-minute appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was also rejected.

To read more CLICK HERE


Tuesday, September 22, 2020

RBG the 'the unlikeliest radical'

David Cole wrote in The New York Review of Books, with the exception of Thurgood Marshall, no Supreme Court justice did more to realize the Constitution’s promise of “equal protection of the law” than Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Where Marshall, as director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, succeeded in dismantling Jim Crow segregation, Ginsburg, as the first director of the ACLU Women’s Rights Project, persuaded the Supreme Court that women and men, long treated differently under the law, must be accepted as equals.

Neither acted alone; they carried the torches of the civil rights and women’s rights movements, respectively. Their courtroom arguments were buoyed by broader political currents. But both achieved far-reaching, historic changes in constitutional law. And both did it incrementally, through careful, painstaking work, aimed at appealing to those not already with them. As Ginsburg said, “Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”

In the last years of her life, Ginsburg became an unlikely celebrity. RBG T-shirts, mugs, earrings, bobblehead dolls, workout gear, and books all became best-sellers. In 2018, both a documentary, RBG, and a Hollywood feature film, On the Basis of Sex, appeared, to popular and critical acclaim. Chief Justice John Roberts quipped, at the unveiling of a portrait of Ginsburg, that his children asked him why he, too, didn’t have a rapper’s moniker. She deserved every bit of the praise. One of only nine women in a class of about five hundred at Harvard Law School, she broke many barriers, and her work made it possible for young women today to take for granted that they cannot be denied admission, jobs, or other benefits simply because of their sex. That’s radical.

But she was about the unlikeliest radical you’d ever meet. Shy to the point of awkward in personal interactions, she spoke quietly but with evident conviction and integrity. She picked her words carefully, whether in briefs, arguments, questions from the bench, dissents, or conversations.

As a justice, too, she refrained from bomb-throwing. On a court dominated by conservatives, she frequently found herself in dissent. But unlike some of her more rhetorical colleagues—in particular, Justice Antonin Scalia—her dissents did not aim barbs at the majority, but instead coolly, painstakingly, and effectively dissected the ruling’s errors, and often placed her emphasis on areas of agreement and avenues the majority decision left open.

RBG achieved real change. She entered the law at a time when men wielded virtually all political and economic power, women were barely taken seriously in the legal profession or by the law itself, and the statute books were shot through with sex-based laws. She used her skills to elevate the status of women in the United States forever. The world she has left behind was transformed by her work. But at every turn, she pursued change methodically, with care and attention to her own imperative that one must always seek to bring others along. Her career illustrates that one can be radical and incrementalist at the same time; indeed, as she argued, it may be the only way to achieve enduring change.

She wasn’t always cautious, of course. In 1972, she made her first argument before the Supreme Court in a case challenging a federal rule that granted automatic spousal benefits to wives of members of the military, but not to husbands of women who served in the few positions then open to them. Facing the nine male justices, Ginsburg closed her argument by quoting the suffragist and abolitionist Sarah Grimké:

In asking the Court to declare sex a suspect criterion, amicus urges a position forcibly stated in 1837 by Sarah Grimké, noted abolitionist and advocate of equal rights for men and women. She spoke not elegantly, but with unmistakable clarity. She said, “I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.”

In response, Chief Justice Warren Burger, sounding a bit at a loss, could muster only “Thank you, Mrs. Ginsburg.” The court ruled in her favor, 8-1.

To read more CLICK HERE

Monday, September 21, 2020

All you need to know about Attorney General Barr

Here is all you need to know about America’s chief law enforcement officer. Attorney General Bill Barr’s Constitution Day speech to a gathering organized by Hillsdale College provides a interest insight into the man who is enforcing our nation’s law.

 Here are list of some of Barr’s weird spontaneous responses to questions according to the blog Lawfare:

  • The attorney general came out not merely against mail-in voting but against all multi-day voting, fretting that “We’re losing the whole idea of what an election is;”
  • He disparaged American education about World War II, contending that many people reduce the war effort to the internment of Japanese Americans and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki;
  • He complained about people believing that coronavirus policy decisions should be “dictated by science,” arguing that science doesn’t answer the key trade-off questions;
  • He criticized the press as not merely partisan but as “more ignorant” than it used to be, saying he would be “more tolerant of [the bias] if they were more informed people. But they’re not;”
  • And he denounced “these so-called Black Lives matter people,” who—he declared—are “not interested in black lives. They’re interested in [using] props—a small number of blacks who are killed by police . . . to achieve a much broader political agenda.”
To read more CLICK HERE

Saturday, September 19, 2020

GateHouse: Reexamining ‘Mockingbird’ after 60 years

Matthew T. Mangio
GateHouse Media
September 18, 20202

This year marks the 60th anniversary of Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Published in 1960, the book is a literary classic that won Lee a Pulitzer Prize. The film adaptation earned Gregory Peck an Academy Award.

The story takes place during the Depression in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama. The narrator’s father Atticus Finch, a lawyer and state legislator, is appointed to represent Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a white woman. Many scholars have studied the implications of Lee’s work. “To Kill a Mockingbird” is one of the most read literary works in American history with over 30 million copies sold. The book has been cited for its influence on the civil rights movement and the character of Atticus Finch has been lauded as the model father, as well as possessing the integrity and temperament for which all lawyers should aspire.

In this time of racial tumult some have taken a closer look at the character of Atticus Finch. While we remember Finch as a heroic figure who stood up to racism and tried to save the life of a black man in a racist southern town, Finch tolerated racism and even made excuses for it.

Just like President Donald Trump, who said that violent white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia were “good people,” Finch lauds the “character” of racists in Maycomb. A decade ago, Malcolm Gladwell wrote about Finch in the New Yorker.

Gladwell examined Finch’s thoughts about Walter Cunningham, a Maycomb man who attempted to lynch Tom Robinson, “Cunningham, Finch tells his daughter, is ‘basically a good man,’ who ‘just has his blind spots along with the rest of us.’”

In a recent essay for the website Electric Literature, Sandra Schmuhl Long reminds us of a conversation Finch had with his son about their neighbor Mrs. Dubose - who screamed racial slurs at his (Finch’s) children daily after learning that Finch would defend Tom Robinson - (she) is a “great lady” and “the bravest woman I ever knew.”

“To Kill a Mockingbird” examines a number of significant issues (race, gender, poverty, domestic violence, courage and cowardice) through the lens of a rural southern criminal justice system. The legal system of Finch’s mid-1930s and even Lee’s of 1960 are, in some ways, very different than today’s - and, unfortunately, in some ways very similar.

Racism continues to permeate the criminal justice system. If this country is ever truly to eradicate racism, making excuses for, or holding in esteem men and women who openly spew hate, must stop. While Finch stood up for justice he did not stand up to his neighbors.

He tolerated racism, and we found out in 2015, with the controversial posthumous publication of Lee’s “Go Set a Watchman,” Finch himself was a racist. He cavorted with racists and expressed racist views.

In “To Kill a Mockingbird,” after Robinson’s conviction, Finch and his son, Jem, discussed the real or perceived flaws of the criminal justice system. Jem told Finch, “Lots of folks have been hung - hanged - on circumstantial evidence.” Finch responded, “I know, and lots of ‘em probably deserved it, too - but in the absence of eyewitnesses there’s always a doubt, sometimes only the shadow of a doubt. The law says ‘reasonable doubt,’ but I think a defendant’s entitled to the shadow of a doubt. There is always the possibility, no matter how improbable, that he’s innocent.”

For people of color, racism in the criminal justice system goes far beyond the finding of guilt. Racism is present from the moment an investigation ensues until a sentence is imposed and beyond.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” is a timeless classic. Every critical reading provides new insight into its characters and more importantly into the struggle to understand hate. It was clear in 1960 that Lee condemned racism, but 60 years later her work forces us to confront the evil of merely tolerating racism.
Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. His book “The Executioner’s Toll, 2010″ was released by McFarland Publishing. You can reach him at and follow him on Twitter @MatthewTMangino.

 To visit the column CLICK HERE

Friday, September 18, 2020

PA Supreme Court opens the way to ballot drop boxes for election 2020

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court extended the deadline for accepting mail ballots and will allow voters to submit their ballots through drop boxes and removed , reported NPR.

The decisions come less than two months before Election Day and as a flurry of election-related lawsuits continue to pile up around the country.

In dozens of cases, parties, campaigns and other groups are trying to sort questions about voting that have cropped up because of the pandemic. Courts are being asked to clarify murky areas of election law that will be exacerbated by the millions more mail ballots that will be cast this year. The questions include whether a ballot must be received by or postmarked by Election Day, must there be a witness for a mail-in ballot, what standards are being used to judge a voter's signature and whether drop boxes can be used to return ballots instead of relying on the postal service.

2020 is the first year Pennsylvanians have the option to vote by mail without needing to specify a reason. The Pennsylvania Department of State says nearly two million people have already asked for mail ballots for the upcoming election — and that figure is expected to grow.

"This is a victory that will help ensure that every eligible voter will more easily be able to cast their ballot and have it counted fairly," Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, wrote in

Mail ballots will now be accepted if they are received by 5 p.m. on the Friday after the election and were either postmarked by Nov. 3 or there is no evidence to suggest they were sent after Election Day. Previously, mail ballots had to be received by 8 p.m. on Election Day.

During the state's June primary, tens of thousands of ballots arrived after the cutoff due to postal service delays and election officials scrambling to manage the deluge of mail ballots because of the pandemic. The Pennsylvania Democratic Party and the state's Democratic secretary of state filed suit to extend the deadline.

"While [the timeline] may be feasible under normal conditions, it will unquestionably fail under the strain of COVID-19 and the 2020 presidential election, resulting in the disenfranchisement of voters," Justice Max Baer, a Democrat, wrote for the majority.

Though the decision will enfranchise more voters — it will also mean that a final vote tally will take longer to certify. Under current Pennsylvania law, clerks cannot begin counting mail ballots until Election Day.

More Democrats are expected to vote by mail than Republicans, in part because President Trump for months has seeded doubts, without any evidence, about the integrity of mail ballots.

The ruling to give the legal green light to drop boxes is another win for the Democrats. The Trump campaign filed a lawsuit in federal court to stop their use — but that case was paused while state courts weighed in.

To read more CLICK HERE


Thursday, September 17, 2020

AG Barr calls career prosecutors "headhunters"

Attorney General William Barr during a recent speech alluded to his past statements that the investigation into Russia interference in the 2016 election had been improperly initiated by career department employees who could not accept the results of the race, reported the New York Times. That assertion has been disproved by a Republican-led Senate intelligence panel and the Justice Department’s inspector general.

“I’d like to be able to say that we don’t see headhunting at the Department of Justice, but that would not be truthful,” Mr. Barr said. “It is a temptation sometimes to go after people rather than crimes.”

“Advocating for clear and defined prohibitions will sometimes mean we cannot bring charges against someone whom we believe engaged in questionable conduct,” he said. “But that is what it means to have a government of laws and not of men. We cannot let our desire to prosecute ‘bad’ people turn us into the functional equivalent of the mad emperor Caligula.”

To read more CLICK HERE

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Mangino interviewed on WKBN-TV

Watch my interview on WKBN-TV regarding the Pennsylvania Federal Court ruling that Gov. Wolf's emergency orders are unconstitutional.

To watch the interview CLICK HERE

Report finds 54% of exonerations the result of official misconduct

Official misconduct contributed to the false criminal convictions of more than half of innocent people who were later exonerated—54 percent—according to a press release touting a comprehensive report released by the National Registry of Exonerations, of the University of California Irvine Newkirk Center for Science & Society

As calls to reimagine the nation’s criminal justice system grow, these new data underscore the need for more discipline and professionalism by police and prosecutors. 

This report is by far the most thorough study ever of official misconduct by police, prosecutors and others in criminal cases in the United States. It is the only such study based on a comprehensive database of cases of wrongly convicted defendants: the first 2,400 exonerations recorded in the National Registry of Exonerations. 

Prosecutors and police officers committed misconduct at comparable rates: prosecutors in 30 percent of exonerations, police in 34 percent. (Except in federal cases, where misconduct by prosecutors was two-and-a-half times as common as misconduct by police—especially among federal white collar crime exonerations, where it’s more than seven times as common.) 

The Report details the different types of misconduct that are committed at successive stages of criminal cases, from initial suspicion through conviction:  

Witness Tampering, which leads to false accusations, mistaken identifications and other false evidence.

Misconduct in Interrogations, which produces false confessions.

Fabricating Evidence, including forensic fraud, and planting drugs on innocent people.

Concealing Exculpatory Evidence that could clear the defendant, which occurred in 44% of cases, more than any other form of misconduct.

 Misconduct at Trial, including perjury by police and lying by prosecutors. 

“Official misconduct damages truth-seeking by our criminal justice system and undermines public confidence. It steals years—sometimes decades—from the lives of innocent people. The great majority of wrongful convictions are never discovered, so the scope of the problem is much greater than these numbers show,” said University of Michigan Law Professor Emeritus Samuel Gross, the lead author of the report and Senior Editor of the National Registry of Exonerations. 

Overall, exonerated Black defendants were slightly more likely than white defendants to be victims of official misconduct—57 to 52 percent.  That difference, however, is much larger for drug crimes, 47 to 22 percent; and for murder cases, 78 to 64 percent—especially those with death sentences, 87 to 68 percent. In 2017, the National Registry of Exonerations released a study of the role of race in wrongful convictions and found that innocent Black people were more likely to be wrongfully convicted than whites and spent more time in prison before being exonerated, among other findings

There’s no one remedy for official misconduct in criminal cases because it’s not one problem but many. The report recommends new procedural rules, such as recording all interrogations and lineups, that would improve evidence gathering generally and also reduce misconduct. “Most of the rules we need are in place. We need enforcement—but also adequate resources to do a good job, supervision, and especially leadership. We need to change entrenched work cultures,” said Professor Gross. 

Most exonerations happen many years after conviction, so it’s too early to tell from these data whether there’s been an overall change in the rate of official misconduct over the last two decades (except for Federal white collar prosecutions, where misconduct has clearly increased). But there have been decreases in a few specific types of misconduct, including violence in interrogations and forensic fraud. 

To read the full report CLICK HERE

The National Registry of Exonerations is a joint project of the University of California Irvine Newkirk Center for Science & Society, the University of Michigan Law School, and the Michigan State University College of Law. It provides detailed information about every known exoneration in the United States since 1989—cases in which a person was wrongly convicted of a crime and later cleared of all the charges based on new evidence of innocence.


Tuesday, September 15, 2020

New report examines racial bias and the death penalty

In a press release, the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) released, “Enduring Injustice: the Persistence of Racial Discrimination in the U.S. Death Penalty.” The report provides an in-depth look at the historical role that race has played in the death penalty and details the pervasive role racial discrimination continues to play in the administration of capital punishment today.

“The death penalty has been used to enforce racial hierarchies throughout United States history, beginning with the colonial period and continuing to this day,” said Ngozi Ndulue, DPIC’s Senior Director of Research and Special Projects and the report’s lead author. “Its discriminatory presence as the apex punishment in the American legal system legitimizes all other harsh and discriminatory punishments. That is why the death penalty must be part of any discussion of police reform, prosecutorial accountability, reversing mass incarceration, and the criminal legal system as a whole.” Ms. Ndulue previously served as the NAACP’s Senior Director of Criminal Justice Programs and as a capital appeals lawyer. 

“Racial disparities are present at every stage of a capital case and get magnified as a case moves through the legal process,” said Robert Dunham, DPIC’s Executive Director and the report’s editor. “If you don’t understand the history — that the modern death penalty is the direct descendant of slavery, lynching, and Jim Crow-segregation — you won’t understand why.

With the continuing police and white vigilante killings of Black citizens, it is even more important now to focus attention on the outsized role the death penalty plays as an agent and validator of racial discrimination. What is broken or intentionally discriminatory in the criminal legal system is visibly worse in death-penalty cases. Exposing how the system discriminates in capital cases can shine an important light on law enforcement and judicial practices in vital need of abolition, restructuring, or reform.” 

The report documents the historic role of the U.S. death penalty as an instrument of social control. During slavery, capital punishment was a tool for controlling Black populations and curbing rebellions. After the Civil War, public officials promised legal executions as a means to discourage lynchings. As lynchings decreased in the early 20th century, executions began to take their place in circumstances that earlier would have drawn a lynch mob. Across the South, African-American men were condemned and executed for the alleged rape or attempted rape of white women or girls. No white man was ever executed for raping a Black woman or girl. 

Racial bias persists today, as evidenced by cases with white victims being more likely to be investigated and capitally charged; systemic exclusion of jurors of color from service in death-penalty trials; and disproportionate imposition of death sentences against defendants of color. The report provides compelling evidence of racial bias in the modern death penalty, including:

  •          A 2015 meta-analysis of 30 studies showed that the killers of white people were more likely than the killers of Black people to face a capital prosecution.
  •          A study in North Carolina showed that qualified Black jurors were struck from juries at more than twice the rate of qualified white jurors. As of 2010, 20 percent of those on the state’s death row were sentenced to death by all-white juries. 
  •          Since executions resumed in 1977, 295 African-American defendants have been executed for the murder of a white victim, while only 21 white defendants have been executed for the murder of an African-American victim. 
  •          A 2014 mock jury study of more than 500 Californians found that white jurors were more likely to sentence poor Latinx defendants to death than poor white defendants. 
  •         Exonerations of African Americans for murder convictions are 22 percent more likely to be linked to police misconduct. 

ToTo read the report CLICK HERE 


Monday, September 14, 2020

'Law and Order' emerges as important campaign issue

COVID 19 seems to be the crucial issue in the 2020 presidential election. But the other issue that’s dominated the news in recent months — the combination of police violence, racial injustice, peaceful protests and rising crime in many cities — is gaining traction and is more politically complicated, reported the New York Times. It has the potential to hurt both Trump and Biden, in different ways. And so far, Biden has not managed to send voters a persuasive message that protects his vulnerabilities.

Perhaps the most surprising finding from the poll was this: In the four swing states — Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire and Wisconsin — a larger share of voters said “addressing law and order” was a more important campaign issue to them than said “addressing the coronavirus pandemic” was.

On first glance, these law-and-order concerns may still seem to help Biden. More voters trust him to do a better job on several related issues — including violent crime, unifying the country and handling the protests — than trust Trump. But it’s not quite that simple.

Remember: Most Americans have already made up their minds about the election. Their answers to poll questions about which candidate they trust on specific issues are almost meaningless at this point. The bigger issue is how undecided and uncommitted voters feel.

Biden’s problem is that, on the broad issues of crime and policing, he appears to have a larger group of soft supporters — people who could flip — than Trump does. As Nate Cohn, a Times reporter who helped oversee the poll, told me, “There is definitely some Biden support with worry about crime.” Those worries span Black, Latino and white voters.

To read more CLICK HERE

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Saturday, September 12, 2020

GateHouse: Racial bias in traffic stops, searches, arrests and punishment

 Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
September 11, 2020

On a typical day, police pull over 50,000 drivers - more than 20 million people a year. “Police have enormous discretion in making traffic stops,” Farhang Heydari of the Policing Project at the New York University School of Law told The Crime Report. “If you’re driving, it’s impossible not to break a traffic law - there are so many of them.”

However, there is a racial bias in police stops. People of color are more likely to be the subject of traffic stops, a phenomenon known as “driving while Black.”

An analysis of data collected by local police departments on millions of traffic stops over the last several years, conducted by ABC News, shows that Black drivers or pedestrians were more likely to be stopped by police than white drivers or pedestrians in several major U.S. cities. This was calculated after accounting for the demographics of the cities and counties those police departments serve.

In some cases the stops turn deadly. Philando Castile was shot to death, in his vehicle, by police in St. Paul, Minnesota, during the summer of 2016. According to ABC News, between 2002 and 2016, Castile was stopped 52 times by police, according to a complaint filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, resulting in 86 minor traffic offenses totaling $6,588 in fines and fees.

This year, across the river in Minneapolis, George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, was killed after being pulled from his vehicle. The video of a white police officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck for seven minutes and 46 seconds while Floyd was handcuffed, lying face down and begging for his life, incited unrest in cities across the country.

In Minneapolis, Black drivers were five times more likely to be stopped by police than white drivers. In almost every major city examined by ABC News, the analysis shows at least some disparity in traffic stops. In some cities, those disparities were significant. In Chicago and San Francisco, Black drivers were four times more likely to be stopped. And in Philadelphia and Los Angeles, Black drivers were about three times more likely to be stopped.

North Carolina was the first state in the nation to mandate the collection of traffic stops data. Frank R. Baumgartner, Derek A. Epp and Kelsey Shoub, authors of “Suspect Citizen,” wrote in The News and Observer, that Black drivers are much more likely to be pulled over. In North Carolina, city by city, “we also found that in almost every case, across the state, Blacks constitute a much higher share of the traffic stops than of the local population.”

After a stop, 2.35% of white drivers are searched, compared to 5.05% of Black drivers and 4.74% of Hispanics. According to the authors, “This means that blacks are subjected to about twice the odds of being pulled over, and then after that more than twice the odds of being searched.”

Once people of color are arrested, and they are arrested per capita more frequently than whites, the punishment is more severe. According to a report commissioned by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice and carried out by Harvard Law School, Blacks make up 6.5% of Massachusetts’ population but account for 17.1% of criminal cases. Latino people make up 8.7% of the population and 18.3% of cases.

According to the CommonWealth, among those being sentenced to prison, black and Latino defendants received sentences that were, on average, 168 and 148 days longer than sentences given to white defendants.

According to the data, this is about much more than driving while Black - it is about racial bias in stopping vehicles, searching vehicles, arresting people, as well as, punishing people of color.

Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. His book “The Executioner’s Toll, 2010” was released by McFarland Publishing. You can reach him at and follow him on Twitter @MatthewTMangino.

To visit the column CLICK HERE