Mark Steyn – “The American ‘Justice’ System is Evil”

Mark Steyn – “The American ‘Justice’ System is Evil”

Many people don’t want to come to grips with America’s broken-down justice system; many prefer to believe Donald Trump may have a problem, but nobody else.

The reality is much worse, and it must be addressed.  Mark Steyn explains how and why.


Trump Unbonded

~A dissatisfied US reader, Neil Johnson, wrote the other day to chide me for “constant bitching about the legal system (which is accurate but so what?)”

So what? Well, it’s costing you your country, that’s what. And don’t start prancing around waving that constitution at me. A constitution is meaningless in a land without law: ask the Soviets about all their pretty-sounding paperwork. Politics itself is meaningless: cable pundits and radio hosts can yak about polls and policies all they want, but Democrats are pre-litigating the election because they’re pretty confident it’ll work for them. As I wrote a month ago, after (Democrat) Judge Engoron’s decision to fine the (Republican) presidential nominee close to half–a-billion dollars:

This Judge Wankeron is taking it to a whole new level. It’s not very difficult, after all, to ramp up the judgment to a number it would be impossible to get a bond for.

And so it has proved. Barbara Broccoli can get herself a new Bond, but not Donald J Trump. Headline from The Daily Mail:

Donald Trump can’t secure $454 million bond in the New York fraud case: Lawyers say it’s impossible to come up with the cash.

I don’t doubt it – and I’m only on the hook for a lousy million. Still, that’s enough of a personal stake in this subject to make me one of very few commentators to have foreseen where all this was headed for Trump. The defendant is appealing the judgment but, if he can’t get a bond, collection of the half-billion begins before the appeal is heard – so, in the event that he were to win, good luck getting it back from the State of New York. His team had been negotiating with Chubb, but that ended last week, presumably after Attorney General Letitia James had a quiet word with the chief exec in the darkened alley behind corporate HQ: Nice little insurance operation you got here; shame if anything were to happen to it.

By the way, if you’re wondering which of the bewildering array of Trump cases this one is, it’s the “civil” “fraud” suit in New York, in which Ms James (currently pursuing in another nakedly political prosecution) alleged the head of the Trump Organisation had (stand well back) exaggerated the value of his assets to would-be lenders. As I wrote after the verdict:

That rogue judge Arthur F Engoron has demanded Trump cough up [$350 million] – for a ‘crime’ which has no known victims and no identifiable proceeds. Confiscating (with interest) close to half-a-billion dollars for no good reason is certainly unusual, even by the standards of US ‘justice’.

There are words for states whose ruling parties ding the opposition leader with an arbitrary half-billion-dollar fine seven months before the election, and they’re not “constitutional republic of limited government”.

Ah, but “so what?” Unlike most Americans, Trump is sitting on zillions in prime real estate. Oh, wait…

Multiple bond companies decline to ‘accept hard assets such as real estate as collateral,’ they noted, and will ‘will only accept cash or cash equivalents (such as marketable securities).’ The firms would likely charge 18 per cent up front, another staggering sum and one Trump would not be able to get back even if he prevailed on appeal.

So as things stand:

A state appeals court judge ruled last month that Trump must post a bond covering the full amount to pause enforcement of the judgment, which is to begin on March 25.

That’s this coming Monday. Bailiffs at Trump Tower?

Rudy Giuliani’s tab is $148 mil plus interest – which these days is kind of mid-range for defendants connected to Trump – and it’s likewise impossible for him to come up with a bond for anything close to that. A kindly bankruptcy judge took pity on the formerly beloved “America’s mayor” and gave him leave to appeal so long as he found somebody else to pay his legal fees – which may be trickier than it sounds, given that his lawyers are already suing him for a seven-figure sum in unpaid legal bills.

Will Trump find a similarly sympathetic judge? Not so far:

His lawyers previously proposed posting a $100 million bond, but appeals court judge Anil Singh rejected that.

What kind of schmuck thinks a New York judge is going to be satisfied with a nine-figure sum? I have been before this particular appellate court myself, and with rather more success than Trump seems likely to enjoy. But that was five years ago, and even as recently as 2019 the rules were different. US legal scholars who’ve gone along with the pretence that all you have to do is let the proceduralist folderol play out and eventually some semblance of justice will prevail are beginning to get that something fundamental has changed. Jonathan Turley:

In New York, the legislature changed the statute of limitations to allow Trump to be sued while New York Attorney General Letitia James effectively ran on a pledge of selectively prosecuting him. She never specified any particular crime, just promising to bag Trump.

Ultimately, James used a law in an unprecedented way to secure an absurd penalty of roughly half a billion dollars, even though no one lost a dime because of the Trump loans.

So the New York legislature changed the law in order to get Trump? Isn’t that like a bill of attainder by any other name? Which is forbidden by (please, no tittering) the US Constitution.

Yeah, good luck with that. The Catch 22 is that, in order to appeal the confiscation of half-a-billion dollars, you have to put up a bond for half-a-billion dollars. Why is that? Well, it’s to discourage frivolous appeals. As usual, American “justice” provides all the wrong incentives. As Trump and Rudy and I have all learned in recent weeks, the real problem is frivolous judgments.

Would you mind if I waved a constitution? No, not the American one. In an idle moment before embarking on The Mark Steyn Caribbean Cruise last month, I looked up the constitutions of all our ports of call. The Cayman Islands Constitution (2009):

An appeal shall lie as of right to the Court of Appeal from any final determination of any issue by the Grand Court under the Bill of Rights, and an appeal shall lie as of right from the Court of Appeal to Her Majesty in Council.

“Her Majesty in Council” is a fancy term for the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London – the highest court in His Majesty’s Dominions. The appeal “shall lie as of right” – ie, no half-billion-dollar bond. The Jamaican Constitution (1962, revised 2015) is a wee bit more restrictive:

An appeal shall lie from decisions of the Court of Appeal to Her Majesty in Council as of right in the following cases:

(a) where the matter in dispute on the appeal to Her Majesty in Council is of the value of one thousand dollars or upwards or where the appeal involves directly or indirectly a claim to or question respecting property or a right of the value of one thousand dollars or upwards.

So, if the ruling party in Jamaica were to drag the Leader of the Opposition into the dock and stick him with a fine of nine hundred dollars, he’s all out of luck appeal-wise. But, if it’s, say, $1,200, have at it – and without any need for a bond of $1,200 plus $37.45 in interest.

If you enjoy pretending that America holds free and fair elections just like they do in Denmark or Lesotho, you may be excited to see that Trump is ahead in all the battleground states. But the Democrats are deadly serious about prosecuting him, deadly serious about gaoling him, and deadly serious about torturing judicial norms to advance those goals. I take it as read that they wouldn’t be averse to driving him to suicide, as they have done with so many January 6th “insurrectionists“: the caprices of American “justice” are a grim burden. Still, it’s a good thing this is not a competitive primary season, because (as someone in a mere brace of lawsuits) I have no idea how a chap would go stumping in diners and at county fairs while frantically trying to land a bond for half-a-bil, keep all his cases straight, and watch his various beleaguered lawyers copping pleas to Fani Willis.

As I wrote a month back:

The manifest perversion of justice represented by this New York decision is so brazen that the US Supreme Court really should step in and end it now. But they won’t, will they?

What’s the usual line? The Chief Justice dislikes getting the court into “controversy”? On the other hand, he’s happy to send Trump officials to prison:

Mr Navarro is appealing his conviction, but the DC judge ordered him to serve his sentence anyway, and Chief Justice Roberts went along with it. So, even if the poor bloke wins on appeal, he’s lost: he’s been “incurably harmed”, as the lawyers say.

America’s “justice” system is evil: listen to my interview with Conrad Black re his own travails and all their pre-echoes of what’s now being applied to Trump and others. But, when the ruling party weaponises an already rotten system against its only political opposition on the scale Letitia James et al are doing, there is a point at which one must conclude the state itself is evil. In After America, I quote Jonathan Swift:

They have his soul who have his bonds.

Trump can’t get a bond, and, watching this travesty of “law” lurch on, one feels increasingly it is America’s soul that’s captive.