`Historic Justice, PB and J6, Hanging Juries, ACLU Stops Congress

Big day in the justice system. Here are four news stories that will reverberate for years.

First, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson was confirmed to the Supreme Court. 116th justice to be confirmed. She’s the 6th woman to ever be on our highest court, the 3rd Black person. 

It’s a big deal that she’s not white, male, and heterosexual. That’s the usual nominee and most likely judge you’ll meet whenever you randomly end up before a court . . . or not so randomly. Just for a gander, there are 9 states that have openly LGBTQ justices sitting on their state supreme courts. 

I have heard so much debate that veers into awkward criticism here in rural Illinois transfixed and at times obsessed with race, gender, and sexual orientation, it is worth exploration as a topic on its own. These aspects of our identity have been weaponized and politicized for specific reasons. Let’s not throw this hot potato today, and move onto the other judicial news of the day. Diversity on the courts is a big issue.

A Proud Boys leader cooperating with an investigation into the Jan 6 insurrection plead guilty to conspiracy, potentially landing him in prison for 6 years. Charles Donohue has been in jail since March 2020, and admits to being part of the leadership group that planned the assault on Capitol Hill. The purpose was to stop the certification of the Electoral College vote.

There is no direct line to President Trump, however. More will hopefully uncover all of the 6 degrees of January 6th. Remember, Trump’s White House illegally removed presidential records possibly containing classified material. The DOJ barred any release of these records to the public until it has reviewed the documents for clearance.

In other judicial news, a jury has acquitted two men and deadlocked on two others involved in the plot to kidnap and assassinate Governor Gretchen Whitmer. The jury believed there was enough reasonable doubt created in defense claims about entrapment and radicalization by FBI informants. 

The outcome of this case could expose the trend-lines that have been skewing toward more hung juries since the 90s. If a diehard Trump supporter ends up on a jury deciding a case involving Trump or January 6th, what are the chances that they will agree to a guilty verdict with the other jurors? 

It’s a real concern when considering filing charges. Remember the Bundy family? They were found not guilty after armed takeover of a wildlife refuge that went on way too long. A Georgia militia was found guilty two of five counts back in the 90s. I think we’re in new era of our judicial system. We will explore the implications together as a nation.

This decision should be no shock to the Department of Justice, or to any of us. However, it’s not like any politician touts their defeats. In 2010, 9 people were arrested in multiple states for seditious acts. It was the last time sedition was trotted out as a charge prior to January 6th. It was tossed out by the judge as well. In fact, these defendants ended up pleading to federal weapons charges. The Stone case had much more meat on the bones, as well.

The Hutaree wanted to “prompt a response by law enforcement” by “commit[ing] some violent act.” Maybe they would kill a police officer at a traffic stop. Maybe they would “lur[e] a member of law enforcement with a false 911 emergency call and then kill[] him or her.” Maybe they would kill a police officer’s family. 

Jacob Schulz

That brings us to another bit of judicial news regarding Trump. NY Attorney General Letitia James asked for Trump to be held in contempt for not producing documents that her office has requested and the courts had ordered to be turned over by the beginning of March. Trump and his children still haven’t sat down for depositions, either. It’s possible, Trump is trying to beat the clock until the 2022 midterms are over so he can announce his candidacy for President in 2024, and then call the investigation politically motivated.

I believe any such case is doomed in the court system for obvious reasons. No jury is likely to ever reach a unanimous consensus of guilt or innocence on Trump . . . ever. Not without some real cherry picking of the court, which would not be a jury of Trump’s peers. If Trump did have a jury of his real peers they would throw him away immediately, as his reputation amongst real estate moguls is worse than it is amongst 2024 Democratic hopefuls waiting for Vice President Harris to announce her plans.

Finally, the ACLU stepped into Congressional negotiations involving Russian assets seized after its invasion of Ukraine. President Biden and a bipartisan movement in Congress wanted to sell the assets and use the forfeited money to fund efforts to rebuild Ukraine after the war is over. The ACLU claimed this violated Russia’s due process, which, if challenged in court, could have thrown out the entire aid package, giving Russia a legal win over Congress and Biden. 

Lawmakers are working on creating a second option. Usually, forfeited assets must be connected to a criminal act before being sold. There is no precedent for such an action. However, it is a welcome opportunity to show the innovation within American democracy if they are able to find a constitutional approach to taking forfeiture of Russian assets and funneling the resulting funds into restitution for their crimes in Ukraine. 

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