The clock is ticking for Trump's prosecutors

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The clock is ticking for Trump's prosecutors

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Welcome back, Deadline: Legal Newsletter readers. After some raucous weeks in the legal world of Donald Trump, this one featured some serious … waiting. That’s because the Supreme Court still hasn’t ruled on the former-president-turned-sneaker-salesman’s immunity gambit or his ballot eligibility appeal.

The federal election interference case remains on hold pending SCOTUS action. It’s been more than a week since the briefing completed in Trump’s bid to keep the case paused while he presses his far-fetched immunity claim. Why haven’t we heard yet? I explored the question here. The bottom line is that the justices have several options before them for handling this litigation, and dissenting justices could be gumming up the works.

The high court did announce opinions this week, but not in Trump v. Anderson, the dispute over his presidential eligibility. Alas, the justices only issued rulings in regularly argued cases from earlier this term, over double jeopardy in a Georgia murder case and a maritime insurance contract dispute

The court also heard arguments in four appeals, including an important hearing over pollution regulation. The environmental case may be headed toward a predictable outcome, with NBC News’ Lawrence Hurley reporting that the court’s GOP appointees “seemed to be leaning toward blocking a Biden administration policy aimed at reducing air pollution that crosses from one state to another and creates harmful smog.”

In one case, Alito fumed that prospective jurors who said homosexuality is a sin couldn’t sit in judgment at a lesbian’s trial.

On top of opinions and arguments, the high court issued an order list, which, as usual, consisted mostly of rejecting pending petitions — including a denial that effectively upheld sanctions against MAGA lawyers. But the routine document also provides a snapshot of the justices’ views on various issues. It was there that we got to read Samuel Alito’s latest gripes. In one case, he fumed that prospective jurors who said homosexuality is a sin couldn’t sit in judgment at a lesbian’s trial. In another, joined by fellow Republican appointee Clarence Thomas, Alito railed against his colleagues’ refusal to take up a closely watched challenge to a Virginia high school’s admissions policy. But only two of the six conservative justices who gutted affirmative action in higher education last year were eager to jump into that one. Remember, it takes four votes to grant review. 

And while the federal election subversion case is on hold, Trump’s New York state criminal case is still set to be the first to see trial, later next month. In the other state case, Judge Scott McAfee in Georgia is mulling whether to disqualify Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis. Check out Katie Phang’s piece arguing that the judge’s decision should be an easy one in the prosecution’s favor (for another view, see this take from a Georgia defense lawyer). And Trump has now filed pretrial motions in the classified documents case — including yet another (likely loser of a) presidential immunity claim. The Florida federal case is approaching a crucial juncture that could determine whether and when special counsel Jack Smith’s other prosecution might actually go to trial — and, perhaps, whether Judge Aileen Cannon stays on the case.  

Next week, the justices wrap up the February argument sitting, with hearings on the First Amendment and social media, firearms regulation and more. Will they decide any of the Trump-related matters we’ve been waiting for? We’ll be watching. And mark your calendars for Friday — with arguments set in Georgia over Willis’ disqualification, and a scheduling conference in the classified documents case that could clarify the trial date in Florida.

Have any questions or comments for me? I’d love to hear from you! Please email deadlinelegal@nbcuni.com for a chance to be featured in a future newsletter.

Jordan Rubin

Jordan Rubin is the Deadline: Legal Blog writer. He was a prosecutor for the New York County District Attorney’s Office in Manhattan and is the author of “Bizarro,” a book about the secret war on synthetic drugs. Before he joined MSNBC, he was a legal reporter for Bloomberg Law.

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