Trump and Those Tax Returns

May 14, 2016

Timothy L. O’Brien wrote I Saw Trump’s Tax Returns. You Should, Too for Bloomberg News on May 12. Mr. O’Brien knows something about the Donald and his tax returns. He called Mr. Trump a millionaire in his book, TrumpNation, which prompted Mr. Trump to sue him for libeling him by understating his wealth.* Details are in What Really Gets under Trump’s Skin? A Reporter Questioning His Net Worth, written by Paul Farhi for the Washington Post. (The case was dismissed, but not before Mr. O’Brien got to see returns, subject to a confidentiality order.)

Mr. O’Brien does provide a succession of comments from Mr. Trump about the returns. (Aside: Can anyone truly fathom how irritating another four-plus years

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Thoughts About United States v. Texas

April 18, 2016

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument earlier today in United States v. Texas, No. 15-674. Texas and 25 other states sued the federal government to prevent the implementation of deferred-action regarding certain undocumented immigrants.

Lyle Denniston has an excellent overview of the case and the oral argument in Oral Argument: Search for a Fifth Vote on Immigration at SCOTUSblog. And, of course, Nina Totenberg is always worth reading and listening to; her piece, with a byline shared with Eyder Peralta for NPR, is On Obama’s Immigration Actions, Supreme Court Seems Sharply Divided.

The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. The judge who heard the case, Andrew Hanen, was tailor-made

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Dis the Constitution

April 17, 2016

I’m about to dis the U.S. Constitution. It’s a Constitution I swore to support on October 17, 1981 and implicitly, on each and every one of the following 12,602 days. To be clear, given that I live in Arizona, a state which seems hell bent on challenging Kansas for Most Effed Up State trophy, I support the U. S. Constitution so long as it remains in place.

Many years ago I got involved in a case in which my client took over a business in bankruptcy. The operator spent too much time explaining the company’s very advanced totally inadequate accounting system. A few years later a small law firm tried to hire me and, in the process, bragged on its

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No on Proposition 123 … And More

April 11, 2016

Arizona faces a Constitutional amendment—Arizona Education Finance Amendment aka Proposition 123—which addresses school funding next month. And the entire nation finds itself in the midst of what might be called a democratic revolution, as “the people” have decided not to go along/get along, at least in the Republican Party. I have some thoughts.

In the early part of the last century, many states—especially those in the West—adopted direct democracy overlays, on top of the federal and state representative democracy models. In Arizona, our Constitution included initiative, referendum, and recall processes. The initiative process allowed the people to make laws by obtaining lots of petition signatures and placing a proposed law on the ballot. Referenda provide the people—again with petition

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Evenwel v. Abbott – The Decision

April 5, 2016

My primary piece on Evenwel v. Abbott, No. 14-940, One-Person/One Vote. Really?, ran on December 7, 2015. (It also discussed Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, No. 14-232, which has not yet been decided.)

Yesterday, in an 8-0 decision, the Court affirmed the decision of a three-judge panel, holding that Texas need not have state legislative redistricting maps based on voters, as opposed to people. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the opinion for the Court. Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito concurred in the judgment.

The decision represents good news for Democrats and those who believe many voices should be heard. But it’s not especially bad news for the other side.

For decades, legislative districts have

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Open Primaries

March 22, 2016

For many years—decades, probably—the notion of open primaries has fascinated me. Why, I have wondered, should someone who chooses not to be affiliated with a particular party, or any party, get to choose that party’s candidate for any office?

The Grand Old Party aka the Republican Party raised this issue in Ravalli Republican Central Committee, etc. v. Linda McCullough, Secretary of State of Montana, etc., before the U.S. Supreme Court. And it’s about damn time it has happened. Here’s the Emergency Application for Injunction, and here is Lyle Denniston’s analysis, Montana GOP Challenges Cross-Over Voters, at

Frankly, I’m shocked, shocked by the fact that issue has never been addressed by the U.S. Supreme Court. Political parties are

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Judge Merrick Garland

March 16, 2016

Justice Antonin Scalia died on February 13, 2016. On March 16, 32 days later, President Barack Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to replace him. Judge Garland is the Chief Judge of the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. He has been a judge on the DC Circuit since 1997.

Judge Garland is a highly distinguished jurist. He enjoys bipartisan support and affection, on his Court and in the United States Senate. In particular, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) like him very much. Here’s what Senator Hatch said on Friday, March 11: “[He] could easily name Merrick Garland, who is a fine man.” He also said, once, that there was no question about Judge Garland being

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Make-a-Will Month and Estate Planning

February 29, 2016

Make-A-Will Month starts tomorrow. Yes, it’s a bit of a contrivance, advanced by the Planned Giving Roundtable (now called the Partnership for Philanthropic Planning) and championed by nonprofits, but the month provides an opportunity to think about estate planning and getting your affairs in order.

I’ve shared pieces about estate planning on several occasions. (Click on Probate and Estate Planning under Categories on the right side of your screen for links.) Today, I want to address some myths about estate planning, probate, and end of life issues. Some have been mentioned before but here are my Great Eight (in reverse order):

  • My Power of Attorney Has Me Covered. A power of attorney is cheap, and it has its
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Justice Antonin Scalia

February 18, 2016

At Monday’s Philosopher’s Guild meeting, RF posed the question: Can a person be good and still take pleasure in someone’s having passed? I said yes, at least with respect to a public person. I mourn the loss of life and feel sad for family and friends. Soon after, the public persona takes over. With an appropriate amount of respect, the person becomes fair game.

So, history will judge Antonin Scalia, and the verdict will likely be mixed, and will come after a long while. For me, though, three negative attributes stand out. They are: (1) The originalism conceit; (2) An abysmal lack of judicial demeanor; and (3) A lack of evident empathy. (For an insider’s take, read after I wrote

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Jefferson Wins … and We’re Effed!

February 12, 2016

Reverent references to the Founding Fathers drive me nutso. Yes, they established a more perfect union, but they rarely agreed about anything. Disagreements are what what we ought to expect from bright, ambitious, contentious men, so when modern day references turn the Founding Fathers into a monolith, it should not go unnoticed.

How bad is it? Almost half-term Governor and full-time nitwit Sarah Palin said her favorite Founding Father is “all of them.” Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski liked Abraham Lincoln (1809 – 1865) best. And these references are just silly. Certain Supreme Court justices believe in originalism, a principle which claims for itself the obligation and ability to determine what the words in the Constitution meant

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