Commentary

Can America’s legal system survive another week like last week?

April 11, 2023 7:00 am
judicial

The hits kept coming last week with rulings, controversial donations and more. (Getty Images)

Judge Juan Merchan, who is presiding over former President Donald Trump’s first criminal trial in New York, made a $15 campaign contribution to President Joe Biden’s presidential campaign on July 26, 2020. The inconsequential donation has opened the judge up to attacks of bias by those in the legal community. At least one former Manhattan prosecutor commented how it was a “bad look” when the news broke last Thursday

That’s right. A $15 donation is a bad look, even by some on the left. 

Just to keep the contribution in context, IssueOne.org reported in December of 2020 that $4.9 billion was spent on the 2020 Presidential Campaign by all campaigns and outside groups, averaging to about $22 per voter. 

On Wednesday, Pro Publica reported extensively on Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and a pattern of unlawful failures to disclose luxury travel accommodations and financial benefits given to him by Republican megadonor, Harlan Crow. These undisclosed gifts were a little pricier than Merchan’s measly gesture. One trip alone is estimated to have been worth $500,000. 

That’s right. There is a luxury trip to somewhere on Earth that is worth half a million dollars. I would have guessed for that kind of money, SpaceX could have sent Justice Thomas to Jupiter. 

As Gene Autry sang: “The stars at night, are big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas!” The Lone Star State’s disdain for the rule law was bigger and brighter than anywhere last week.

Abortion ruling

First, U.S. District Court Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk appears to have single handedly rejuvenated the art of venue shopping in the federal judiciary. In Amarillo on Friday, he issued his expected ruling, or overruling, of the FDA approval of the abortion drug, mifepristone. The FDA approved the drug 21 years ago, and the rate of adverse incidents from the drug’s use has been “miniscule.” 

Forget about all of that though. This judge was, or is, a known advocate for the anti-abortion movement, I mean the religious freedom movement. For the five years immediately preceding his appointment to the bench in 2019, Kacsmaryk served as deputy general counsel of the First Liberty Institute. 

The ruling is fraught with problems, also as expected, according to the Texas Tribune. Experts say the legal issues with his ruling include, “misstated science, a long-expired statute of limitations, and a lack of standing.” The plaintiffs in the case were not even patients who had used the drug and suffered any sort of complication, making the necessary claim of harm unsatisfied. 

That’s right. A known anti-abortion judge in Texas has issued a ruling designed to ban the most commonly used method of abortion, for the entire country, simply because felt like it. 

Questionable pardon

Part two of Friday in Texas was a doozy. In Austin, Daniel Perry was found guilty of murder in the killing of Garrett Foster during a Black Lives Matter demonstration on July 25, 2020. Perry had driven his car into the crowd, instigating the incident that led to him shooting Foster, who was also armed.

On Saturday, one day after the conviction, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced his intent to issue a pardon to Perry. Apparently, Abbott believes the state’s “stand your ground” law allowed Perry to kill Foster. 

That’s right. The current Texas governor believes a white man can justifiably stand his ground by driving to whatever ground he wants to call “his,” then stand and fire. 

All of this happened after what I thought would be the biggest judicial news of the week, the Wisconsin Supreme Court election. Remember that? So much has happened since then.

On Tuesday, liberal Judge Janet Prostasiewicz defeated conservative, former state Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly. Supreme Court elections are nonpartisan in Wisconsin, so how would the public know who stands for what? 

In this election, the liberal stands for a woman’s right to choose and an end to partisan gerrymandering. The conservative was on the other side of those things but didn’t want to say it out loud. The liberal won by eleven points. That margin could be called a landslide anywhere, but in Wisconsin, that’s a landslide, earthquake and tsunami. 

Aside from yet another voter response hostile toward last summer’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, it also marks the end of the era of judicial nominees claiming to be objective and impartial on issues like abortion. Good. I was getting tired of U.S. Supreme Court nominees lying about it anyway. 

That’s quite a week for the American legal system. And so many people thought the week before, when a former president was criminally indicted for the first time was a big deal. What a yawner that turned out to be. 

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Michael Leppert
Michael Leppert

Michael Leppert is an author, educator and a communication consultant in Indianapolis. He writes about government, politics and culture at MichaelLeppert.com.

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