Friday, February 10, 2017

Lawyer Up

In Shakespeare's Henry VI, when the rogue, Dick the Butcher, says, "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers," what he is suggesting is not that lawyers are corrupt scoundrels that must be done away with.  Rather, Butcher, the henchman for the rebel leader, Jack Cade, was suggesting that Cade could become king if the lawyers -- and the rule of law -- could be swept away.

Trump, like Dick the Butcher, would like to get rid of the lawyers too -- the entire judiciary branch, if he could get away with it.  As the most litigious person ever to become president, Trump is quite familiar with the court of law -- whether suing or threatening to sue those who have had the temerity to cross him or being sued for his shady business operations.  Cases number in the thousands.  (This explains his knee-jerk tweet -- emphasis on the jerk -- after the Ninth Circuit's ruling:  "SEE YOU IN COURT")  But critically, the legal system for Trump is no longer merely a cost of doing business.  It has become an impediment to his quest for unfettered power.

Trump's puerile reaction to a federal judge's issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) that stopped what is euphemistically called a "travel ban" -- referring to him as a "so-called judge" and stating that he would be to blame for a terrorist attack -- showed an utter disregard for the independence of the judiciary.  This was borne out in the argument his counsel made before the Ninth Circuit in seeking a stay of the TRO -- that the president has virtually unlimited power when it came to national security decisions.  Thankfully, the court pushed back -- denying the request for a stay and rejecting the terrifying proposition that a president's “national security concerns are unreviewable, even if those actions potentially contravene constitutional rights and protections.”

With the craven Republican majority in Congress abdicating all responsibility to be a check on the executive branch, it is up to the courts -- and the lawyers bringing suits in the courts -- to confine a president who clearly has no boundaries.  And, so far, the lawyers have been heroic -- bringing over 50 lawsuits against Trump for his policies and his business practices.  There have been many challenges related to the travel ban, and others regarding the massive conflicts of interest stemming from Trump's refusal to divest himself from his business empire.  Trump has also been sued for directing the withholding of funds from sanctuary cities.  

As Trump tries to undermine every institution that gets in his way and tear down all dissent to his rule -- whether claiming that any critical news item or negative poll is fake news or trashing judges that don't rule in his favor, the Ninth Circuit's decision, refusing to reinstate the travel ban, was huge.  It was a reminder that Trump can be stopped, that there are judges with integrity who won't be bullied, and that lawyers, so often the butt of jokes -- as far back as Shakespeare -- have an essential role to play.


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