As a former professor of law (adjunct) and in the practice of law, and writer of some note, for over 50 years, if there was ever a written legal decision that could be characterized as “blistering [but being] “polite” and “respectful” in tone and language, it was the opinion of the federal appeals court for the District of Columbia handed down earlier this week, on Feb. 6, finding Donald Trump NOT immune from criminal prosecution in any way, certainly “slicing and dicing” every reason his lawyers advanced.
As I wrote for this publication titled, “The rule of law once more prevailed” on the occasion of the $83.3 million verdict rendered against Trump in favor of E. Jean Carroll who a previous jury of Trump’s peers found had been sexually assaulted and defamed by him (the federal judge presiding over those cases called that assault nothing but a “rape”), so now do we see our legal system once more upholding the rule of law to which all our behavior must adhere, from the common place like having to pay a fine per state law or local ordinance for a traffic or moving violation, to, now, seeing that Trump as “citizen” (as the appeals panel of three distinguished jurists described him), even as a former U.S. president, is held to account for the 91 criminal indictment counts pending against him in four courthouses (D.C., New York City, Atlanta and Florida.)
Of course, Trump has a right to appeal the D.C. appeals panel decision, this time to our nation’s highest tribunal, the Supreme Court, but the panel has given him until this coming Monday, to decide whether or not to do so. The panel recognized that his claim of immunity, though all established and recognized legal pundits and experts recognized as well as this panel of three—besides the trial court that similarly denied Trump’s claim—was undertaken as a stalling tactic, and despite its merits in this writer’s view being frivolous and bogus—to avoid going to trial before the elections for his acts/omissions on 1-6. In essence, then, absent the Supreme Court taking up this case, it will revert back to the trial judge to complete any discovery and assign a trial date, perhaps by the end of summertime.
And for those who read this Opinion piece thinking the Supreme Court will take up Trump’s appeal should he (no doubt) file one, think again. The appellate decision was so thorough, complete and exhaustive, again written with words that could only be characterized as polite and respectful, giving it more credibility, that the high court may decide there is nothing more that it could, or would want to, add. Concomitantly, keep in mind that the Supreme Court heard on Thursday, Feb. 8, Trump’s appeal of the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision, knocking him off that state’s ballot as an insurrectionist, using Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. However the court decides—it looks pretty certain from oral arguments, though, it wants to keep Trump on state ballots, in so doing sidestepping the constitution as the governing document for our democracy—the high court will no doubt wind up with a fresh coat of “tarnish” atop its already diminished public perception of it as an American institution. As Chief Justice Roberts is protective and sensitive about the perception of “his” court viewed by the public, he may use his position and influence to not have the court entertain another Trump appeal where however it would also then rule, it will see added the same type coating to its veneer. Parenthetically, the first order of business for that court before deciding to accept the appeals court immunity decision is to rule on a motion to stay its decision from going into effect (called its “mandate”); it takes five members of the Supreme Court to grant such a motion, not the typical four to accept any appeal for it to hear and decide.
In the end, for those of us who are part of the electorate come November, it is best for our democracy that whoever wants our vote casts him or herself as abiding by the rule of law and not claim to the contrary as Trump has so willfully and embarrassingly done multiple times now. To repeat what the appeals panel told us in its decision, it had before it only a citizen named Trump. In this respect, he remains no different than any one of us…and that is how it must always be in a democracy. Let justice and the rule of law continue to always prevail, and with Trump, hopefully seeing a jury’s verdict in the 1-6 case against him before November, so we know whether or not we would be wasting our vote for someone convicted of a felony crime.
Miles Zaremski is a resident of the Village of Dunedin.