Checks And Balances

There’s a reason Donald Trump has been focused on the selection and seating of highly partisan judges with little to no judicial experience. When he is sued over his autocratic actions, and the cases are heard by competent judges currently on the bench, he loses. Bigly.

The courts are part of that “checks and balances” thing the Founders were so hung up on.

The Washington Post considered Trump’s “win-loss” ratio, and Ed Brayton (Dispatches from the Culture Wars) commented on the report.

The Washington Post looks at the track record of legal challenges to Donald Trump’s policies, especially in regard to changing Obama-era regulations and issuing executive orders, and finds that he’s losing those cases in court at an astonishing, but predictable, rate.

It’s clear from the Post’s report that Trump and his cabinet of incompetents lost a number of cases simply because they ignored relevant laws prescribing the process that had to be followed.

Federal judges have ruled against the Trump administration at least 63 times over the past two years, an extraordinary record of legal defeat that has stymied large parts of the president’s agenda on the environment, immigration and other matters.

In case after case, judges have rebuked Trump officials for failing to follow the most basic rules of governance for shifting policy, including providing legitimate explanations supported by facts and, where required, public input…

“What they have consistently been doing is short-circuiting the process,” said Georgetown Law School’s William W. Buzbee, an expert on administrative law who has studied Trump’s record. In the regulatory cases, Buzbee said, “They don’t even come close” to explaining their actions, “making it very easy for the courts to reject them because they’re not doing their homework.”

Somehow, “homework” isn’t a word one associates with Trump, or with the Keystone Kop assortment of cabinet officials he has appointed. Usually, the “win rate” for government in these sorts of cases is about 70 percent. But as of mid-January of this year, a database at the Institute for Policy Integrity at the NYU Law School shows Trump’s win rate at about 6 percent.

Actually, that’s not bad for someone who clearly isn’t familiar with even 6% of the Constitution, and who has exhibited 0% knowledge of the rules and norms governing the office he holds.

Ed Brayton, as usual, cuts to the heart of the issue:

There’s a simple reason this is happening and it goes back to the old proverb that a fish rots from the head down. Trump could not possibly care any less about pesky things like legal protocols and requirements. He thinks if he just bellows out “I want this done,” it gets done. Following proper legal procedures is for the little guy, the plebes, the rabble, not for narcissistic wannabe dictators who are used to getting their way.

The only way Trump, McConnell and today’s GOP can game the system going forward is by corrupting the judiciary. And on that, their progress should terrify us all.


  1. On the day when the majority of citizens realize that they cannot obtain justice from the courts, that is the day when real revolution begins.

  2. Theresa, T

    Thanks for mentioning the word “revolution”. This country is moving towards one if things don’t change dramatically and very soon. Corporate wealth has taken ownership of state legislatures to abolish regulations and taxes and they have been working diligently to do the same at the federal level.

    While a few of the extremely wealthy are beginning to admit that wealth inequality has gone too far, they don’t really want things to change much to improve the lives of those who have been cheated out of a chance at making a living wage. They have no intention of ever giving up any of the power or wealth that they stole from good hard working people.

    They just think that things could be tweaked a little to offer slightly better paying jobs to people and this would keep the crowds from eventually revolting and coming after the plutocrats that have turned them into slaves.

  3. I have never received justice in any court situation; including divorce courts, small claims court and protective order court situation. My trust in our judicial system evaporated decades ago; working in the Marion County Municipal Court Probation Department for more than five years, I saw “up close and personal” the travesty of the court system at the criminal level. I have no reason to expect otherwise at this time in the federal court system all the way up to the Supreme Court and the religious based overload of judges.

    “The only way Trump, McConnell and today’s GOP can game the system going forward is by corrupting the judiciary. And on that, their progress should terrify us all.”

    We watched for 8 years as the Republican Senate and House ruled the Obama administration with checks and balances always in their favor. We now watch as McConnell and the remaining Republicans in the Senate tip the checks and balances in Trump’s favor as we pay for Trump’s drain on our tax budget with his golf trips, whims and imagined emergencies.

  4. All this time… and people just sit and opine about what is HAPPENING before their eyes and complain I see it every day almost all day. I have a phone I have a computer – I have representatives and Senators – and I use them maybe if more people would we would not be in the situation we find ourselves in (at least that is the logical assumption.) But it continues, I know within myself that when djt was not called out for meeting with the Russian Envoy in the Oval Office of the People’s House, and disallowed the American press, that it was all over. You can tout your degrees (anyone who would argue this!) you can tell me about how you are soooo involved… but I will require one answer from you: WHY is he, a traitor, a vindictive wannabe dictator and the people who are surrounding him and appointed by him – allowed to continue? And don’t tell me it is a Constitutional thing! Right now I will tell you to your face; it is a DUMBASS THING. And that ignorance will be this nation’s end.

  5. I think Mitch McConnell is the true villain in this piece. He absolutely knows what he’s doing to the Constitution, and he is gleefully pursuing this course of action. For a brief moment, I thought we might have a decent Republican when John Kennedy asked tough questions of some early nominees, leading them to withdraw from consideration. Lately, he has fallen in line. If I may borrow a phrase from a noted orator, “Sad!”

  6. What were the popular Trump mantras? Lock Her Up and Crooked Hillary.

    Top mantras today:

    Crooked Donald! Lock Him Up!
    Crooked Donald! Lock Him Up!
    Crooked Donald! Lock Him Up!

  7. The point is made that the executive and legislative branches have been compromised by such as the Trumps, Ryans and McConnells, but now that the House is in the hands of Democrats we are beginning to see some badly needed oversight, a process totally absent when Republicans controlled both houses – and just in time before our tinhorn wannabe dictator makes the legislative function irrelevant – and all with the judiciary as our last line of checks and balances defense. It appears our democracy has survived for the time being, thanks not to Republicans who apparently wanted to approve a dictatorship, but to the judiciary.

    The good news is that I fully expect to have Democrats retain the House and take over the Senate and the Oval Office in 2020, at which time we will finally be able to say we barely saved our democracy, legislate new protocols aimed at executive misconduct, and have a House and Senate objectively engage in executive oversight of executives of all political stripes in the future.

    It is not enough to foil Trump’s attempt to become a dictator; we must see to it that no future tinhorn wannabe can succeed as well, whatever the then political climate, all in consonance with Franklin’s aside when asked after the 1789 parley what the convention had wrought and he answered “We have given you a republic, if you can keep it.” Let’s keep it, whatever our party affiliation, since keeping the democratic values and institutions intact that have followed the 1789 Constitutional Convention should not be a matter not of politics but rather constitutional housekeeping, and I here note that much of it was a fashioned response to the dictator of that day, one King George.

    We need no King Donald to undermine the Founders’ post-Enlightenment insights in that great document. To do > win the next election at every level, as Sheila would say, bigly.

  8. Well we can lament all the damage President Agent Orange, Pastor Pence and McConnell have done. There will be no checks and balances until this wrecking crew is tossed.

    Biden seems to have tripped up with his “feel good” hands. As Max Berger has written:
    In 2020, many Democrats are looking for an electable candidate who can defeat Trump. But electability isn’t about moderation; it’s about motivation. The election will not be decided by “swing voters” who are unsure about whether they should vote for Trump or a Democrat. It will be decided by “marginal voters” – people who will vote for Democrats if they’re motivated to vote at all.

    There is no the slightest indication that Joe Biden could motivate voters. He has been chameleon his entire career. He is of course the choice of Corporate Democrats.

    The DNC – Corporate Democrats – clearly do not want Sanders, Warren or Gabbard to have a voice. I am sure they would want to tamp down AOC, but do not have the nerve to do so – Yet. I am just so delighted to read about AOC stuffing the GOP constantly.

    If you want a real revolution, you have to vote for the candidate that can bring it. We do not need someone who is afraid of a Progressive Agenda and dances around.

  9. Someone mentioned using their representatives in Washington–in Indiana, we don’t have any representation of the people. They are all pretty much Koch goons with Messer as the lead puppet.

    I’m with JoAnn on our judiciary system today–in Delaware County it’s embarrassing. I had a small claims case thrown out for not hiring a lawyer. I didn’t need one because the evidence spoke for itself. The judge clearly didn’t want the evidence to become public knowledge. As a mayoral candidate told me a month ago, “It was fixed.”

    The same judge worked behind the scenes to grease the theft of Muncie Community Schools by Ball State. His wife was a school board member. Wasn’t she elected by the people?

    The PEOPLE realize they don’t count and they don’t have representatives in this country and the revolutions have been underway for a couple of years now. The Oligarchs and their owned politicians are now decrying socialism in the USA. Why?

    Democratic Socialists are winning elections with the intent of putting power back in the hands of the people. AOC is a phenom but Chicago just elected 6 DSA’s. It’s a revolution at the polls.

    The Oligarchs and their puppets are scared to death because of the momentum this movement has in the USA. Trump even mentioned it at his SOTU address and all GOP and the majority of Dems gave him a standing ovation when he said, “The USA will never become a socialist country.”

    I guess those standing and applauding forgot that we still have elections in this country. With a well-informed voter, anything is possible.

  10. Loss of an honest judicial system is not just the loss of an honest judicial system. It is also the loss of hope, for hope is based on a true and honest judicial system.

    To illustrate: A million perfect laws are meaningless if the rule of law is missing or replaced by the rule of legal tender. Pass any law you prefer in any legislative body in the USA, and it shall be worthless as long as the rule of law is missing.

    This may be what Obama meant by “The Audacity of Hope” — it ain’t going to do us any good, but if you’re audacious enough to hope, be my guest…and flip the democratic lever. At least, we democrats will flail at the problem and give a momentary start to republicans before they and the power they buy squashes us like bugs.

    Hope, to be true hope, must be founded on truly hopeful situations, especially in the judicial system, not on blind faith in spite of a truly hopeless situation.

    In old Japan, if things had gotten this out of hand, people from Taketomi to Rausu would be falling on their swords, not falling back on blind hope.

  11. The Trump “family” is clearly modeled after the mafia, and for the same reasons. They are an ORGANIZED CRIME FAMILY running rackets and flouting the rule of law. The Republicans have fallen in line with this operation for the sole purpose of getting elected to satisfy their corporate masters. These creatures, fronted by Mitch McConnell, are the Gangs of America.

    This ideology has NEVER accepted true democracy or even a democratic republic. It began in England in the 16th century, was transferred to the American colonies and partially defeated by the Revolution. The Republican party has allowed the comeback for the Lords v. Serfs method of government. They have managed to get their “don” in place and are running roughshod over the Constitution and every shred of decency this country once possessed.

    Why hasn’t a true patriot stepped up to the plate? I can’t say what I want to say here.

  12. Trump has inadvertently done us a favor by demonstrating, every day, that the democracy we thought was so robust is in fact fragile and vulnerable. If we don’t elect enough Democrats to shore up our teetering form of government, the Russians will find themselves a candidate who is both willing to shred the Constitution and able to follow through, unlike this current hooligan. Our hallowed institutions such as the Justice Department and the Judiciary and the Senate must be coerced by legislation to fulfill their Constitutional responsibilities instead of ceding all power to the president. Senators who lean way from supporting America and toward cooperating with outside enemies must be censured. My limited imagination is unable to conceive of how this would be accomplished other than through term limits. Competence, not seniority, is what should determine leadership in our legislature. And we need to nullify the ability of the president to appoint yes men and sycophants to cabinet positions and other crucial jobs.

    Thanks, Donald. You may be total trash in your conversation and personality and values and lack of knowledge and leadership and parenting skills, but you’ve made an important point.

  13. It’s easy and fun to Trump bash daily and pretty easy to do as well as being satisfying. We patriots are revolting. I don’t want to diminish any of it because it’s a necessary catharsis but wars take years, not months, so we are stuck with the problem for many news cycles.

    But we can choose to end it as democracy intends it be ended. We have this year to decide collectively as patriots who are the candidates best able to transition from today, with politics as wrecked as we describe here every day, to a viable free future. It will be a very tough job and Obama’s don’t grow on trees.

    But next year the rubber meets the road so to speak. We have to unite behind our choice. We have to work on to inspire marginal voters. We have to resist the siren song of Republican fake news reciting imaginary achievement over the previous four years, but more importantly imaginary faults in our choices to lead us out of the swamp that DJT and tribe made ever so worse.

    The States United once again.

  14. mnunchin,again , questioned on his transfer of a company prior to getting married, (film company) and back again after confiment,and married. whats new? any politician who doesnt get rich while in office, is honest? jugdes in the corner for corruption,if one word changes a argument,then a judge sees fit, per law,to grant judgement. selected by the senate, as a con job for thier needs? obviously, the American people are not,interested. otherwise there would be a protest,en masse. occupy washington?.
    capital punishment: the more capital
    the less punishhment

    inmate # 176498890

  15. I am shocked, angrily shocked, sickeningly shocked, to read in this blog how many educated people cling to the worthless hope that a democratic sweep in 2020 will solve things. It won’t. Nothing will…until we find a way to stop the influence of money, blackmail, guns and poison. We could elect 500 Jesus Christs to Congress and one more to the presidency, and in less than a month they would all be bought or blackmailed or shot or poisoned to the point at least where no super-majority could enact and enforce meaningful change. It is that terrible truth that we must change or die. Those who merely cheer hard for a movement to prove the popularity of their candidate and their policies will get nothing out of it but the thrill of thinking their candidate and their policies are popular. Whoopee!!!

  16. That, Pete, is why there will be no real progress unless we address this absence of justice and hope. And that will not be done by changing speed laws or sexual assault laws or child protection laws or environmental protection laws…not when my money and my corporation can buy me off when I’m in trouble. Until we acquire the guts and the tourniquets to end that advantage, progress will only be cosmetic. That may satisfy some, especially those who fear conflict and are willing to keep on with the charade, but it doesn’t satisfy me.

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