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Courts Won’t Save Us

Courts Won’t Save Us


Wednesday’s Supreme Court decision to hear Donald Trump’s absurd immunity case is disheartening. Among rationale observers there is little doubt about the lack of merit to the appeal. Many believe it is evidence of a Court in service of Trump’s ambitions, choosing to be complicit in the delay tactics that Trump is employing in all his legal cases. I’m not so sure of that motive on the Court’s part, but no person can argue the point either way other than through pure speculation.

Dismay, anger and confusion consume the commentariat as lawyers and political analysts opine constantly. There are two primary concerns: Why did they take the case in light of the apparently sound, thorough opinion of the Court of Appeals? And, why did they delay the start of arguments until April 22? Assuming they affirm the extant ruling, the timeline going forward from that point makes a pre-election trial highly improbable. (If they overturn the lower court, Trump’s immunity will set a precedent that has unimaginable hazards. I proceed from the view that affirming this ridiculous iteration of immunity is beyond the mischief capacity of even this Court, and that’s saying something!)

So why did they take the case, given the airtight reasoning of the Court of Appeals? I doubt the intent is to directly enable the pathological narcissist who is claiming immunity. I hold the entirely speculative opinion that even the most rabid conservative justices – Alito, Thomas, Gorsuch . . . – are bright enough to see that he is manifestly unfit for office.

There is some merit to the argument that Trump’s reelection would allow Alito and Thomas to retire, knowing the Court would retain a Christian Nationalist majority. And the ethically compromised jurists would then be free to openly enjoy the lavish beneficence of conservative billionaires, although that golden well might dry up when the quid pro quo is unavailable. If I were a conservative billionaire, I could find far more useful and enjoyable travel companions than a retired, self-loathing Black man and his insurrection-abetting spouse. Gratuitous, but true.

So, why? I believe that the Justices, perhaps including some or all of the liberal minority, see this case as so pivotal in American history that it should have the SCOTUS stamp on it for posterity, even if it is a rubber stamp on a cleanly decided Appeals Court decision

While that may be a minority opinion on those questions, the next minority opinion is a doozy.

I believe delaying the Washington, D.C. insurrection case may be better than expediting the case.

A great many legal experts view the case as the most difficult that Trump faces. It is unquestionably the most serious, but the legal complexities are daunting. The charges are without precedent and the potential defenses are more plausible than in the other cases. I don’t suggest that you or I would find them convincing, but the possibility of a jury seeing reasonable doubt is quite real.

If the trial concluded before the election and Trump was “exonerated,” even because of a juror or two, his claims of persecution and witch hunt would be vindicated. That is a real risk. If he were to be convicted, an appeal is absolutely certain, preventing any satisfying closure. The seductive fantasy of the Orange Man in an orange suit is . . . well . . . just a fantasy, at least before November.

Either way, despite the understandable frothing on the political left, the delay, the possible outcome, and the proceedings themself will have no material impact on the presidential election.

There is no seismic shift in the offing. Those of us with a modicum of sense and perspicacity already know the facts. We watched the speech, we watched the attack, we read the texts, we already knew the dismal inclinations and history of the man. No person in her right mind would view an acquittal and say, “Damn! He’s innocent. I think I’ll just go right ahead and vote for Donald now.”

And a conviction would not convince the brain-scrambled MAGA zealots to suddenly see the errors of their affections. It would just be more “evidence” of the malice of the dark state and they would double-down on their delusional worship.

Best, I believe, to let the facts sit with the rational electorate and not risk a trial that would not move the needle in a positive direction anyway.

The preservation of democracy will not be found in the jury box. It can only come from the ballot box.


Steve Nelson
Steve Nelson is a retired educator, author, and newspaper columnist. He and his wife Wendy moved to Erie from Manhattan in 2017 to be near family. He was a serious violinist and athlete until a catastrophic mountain bike accident in 2020. He now specializes in gratitude and kindness.

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