D.C. Memo: Blackwell likely headed for federal bench

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WASHINGTON — Jerry Blackwell, an attorney who represented the state of Minnesota in the case against Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, said to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that he grew-up in a house without running water and an outsidehouse at the back.

These senators voted on Thursday to send Blackwell’s confirmation for a seat at the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota for a full vote to the Senate. The St. Paul-based court handles federal cases from all over the state.

“Of all of the judges that I put forward, I feel more strongly for this one than I have ever felt,” stated Sen. Amy Klobuchar. She had, along with fellow Minnesota Democrat Senator Tina Smith, championed Blackwell’s candidacy. Klobuchar said that Blackwell’s mother had told her that her son never lost a civil case during nearly 35 years of practicing law.

The senator stated, “He will make us proud.”

Bipartisan support was given to Blackwell’s motion to move his nomination forward. Sens. Sens. Eight Republicans voted against it, while another GOP member, Senator Thom Tillis from North Carolina, “passed.”

Blackwell, who hails from Kannapolis (N.C.), gave an in-depth account of his childhood at a Judiciary Committee hearing at the end July. Blackwell told lawmakers his father was a truck driver and he had a 10 th-grade education. His mother, who died at 15 years, worked in a textile factory.

Blackwell stated, “Most people I knew in my formative year were working class people.” “We didn’t know anyone in my area who went to college.”

Blackwell stated that “there will be a wide spectrum of humanity that will appear in court also, and I am grateful for having had a wide background in dealing with people.”

Blackwell also spoke of another impressive fact to the senators: “I was for many years a Prince lawyer.”

Blackwell is a corporate attorney. He was tapped by Keith Ellison, Minnesota Attorney General, to assist in the prosecution against Chauvin. Chauvin killed George Floyd while kneeling on him for nine minutes. Blackwell was a volunteer in the Chauvin case.

Blackwell was asked by Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Blackwell replied, “I believe in some ways law enforcement were heroes of the (Chauvin] trial,” saying that many officers “testified to the poor policing they witnessed.”

Thursday’s Judiciary Committee vote almost guarantees Blackwell’s nomination. Although a Senate vote has not been scheduled for the nomination, it may be held before Congress recesses in October to allow lawmakers to run for office.

Blackwell earned both his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.

Blackwell Burke is his founding partner. He has been with the company since 2006. Blackwell Igbanugo was his Minneapolis partner from 2000 to 2006. Blackwell has also been a partner in several law firms. He is the founder of the Minnesota Association of Black Lawyers as well as the Twin Cities Committee on Minority Lawyers in Large Law Firms.


Fischbach and Emmer push for a national ban on abortion

Senator Lindsey Graham (Republican from South Carolina) launched a political bombshell this week, by introducing a bill to the Senate that would ban most abortions after 15-weeks. The House introduced a similar bill, which was co-sponsored by the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus – Reps. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and Michelle Fischbach (R-7 th).

Rep. Tom Emmer (R-6 th) is also a sponsor for the House bill, the “Protecting Pain Capable Unborn Children From Late-Term Abortions Act”.

Many Republicans were shocked by the legislation to federalize the nation’s abortion law. They had previously defended the Supreme Court’s decision Roe V. Wade, which allowed state legislatures to decide abortion policy state-by-state.

Republicans in both houses were split by the introduction of these bills, which have no chance of passing in either the Senate or House of Congress controlled by Democrats.

“I believe most of the members in my conference prefer that it be dealt with at state level,” stated Mitch McConnell (R-Ky), Senate Minority Leader.

Steve Scalise (Republican House Minority Whip), said that “We have to win majority before we have this discussion.”

Minnesota Reps. Brad Finstad and Pete Stauber, R-1 ST. R-8 and th are not co-sponsors with the GOP of legislation to restrict abortion nationwide. The offices of the lawmakers did not respond to inquiries about their positions on the bills. Many of their GOP colleagues dodged reporters’ questions this week on the subject.

The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe has provided Democrats with an opportunity to raise funds and may have helped some Democratic candidates. A number of states also reported an increase in female voter registrations following the Supreme Court’s decision.

Some Republicans worry that intensifying the fight against abortion will distract from the party’s efforts to focus on the economy and crime. Some GOP strategists believe that the bill’s introduction will encourage the Republican base to vote in the November mid-term elections.


Minnesota legislators scrutinized for stock trading

Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Speaker, stated that she plans to introduce legislation this month to limit stock trades by members in Congress that could create real or apparent conflicts of interest.

Pelosi’s announcement was made one day after the New York Times published an analysis this Week that revealed that between 2019-2021, 97 senators and representatives or their immediate families had reported trades in stocks, bonds, or other financial assets that could be influenced by committees that they were on.

This list also included Dean Phillips, D-3 rd_, and Angie Craig, D-2 nd. Tina Smith, D.Minn.

Craig’s son, a college-aged male, traded Ford shares and Lyft shares in 2019, while Craig was a member the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Craig, who sold all her individual stocks prior to joining Congress in 2019, said that she wasn’t aware that her son was trading stocks. She supports a ban on stock trading and ownership by members of Congress and their immediate families.

“As a mother, I would be grateful for my son’s inability to trade or own stocks. Craig stated that he is a member and working to pass legislation to make him listen to his mother.

Smith’s husband, who is a long-time investor in medical devices companies, was a shareholder in two insulin equipment manufacturers when Smith joined Congress in 2018. Although Smith has advocated for insulin that is more affordable, she said that her husband has invested in two insulin equipment makers.

The Times stated that “the impact that cheaper insulin would make on the two companies which make equipment to treat diabetes patients is not clear.”

Phillips, Minnesota’s wealthiest congressional member, was also a member the House Financial Services Committee. He bought and sold bonds and stocks issued by more than two dozen banks, including Wells Fargo, while the New York Times stated.

The Times was told by a spokesman that Phillips had not directed trades since his election and hired a law firm in January 2020 to transfer his stocks into a blind trust. The transfer of most stocks took until July 2021. As of August, Phillips was still trying to move assets into new blind trusts to meet congressional requirements.

The STOCK Act requires Congress members to report the purchase or sale in less than 45 days any stock valued over $1,000. However, dozens of legislators have violated this deadline. Critics, including Smith, Phillips, and Craig, claim that the law’s transparency efforts are not sufficient to protect lawmakers from conflicts of interests or appearances of conflict of interest.

Phillips and Ilhan Omar (D-5 th), Craig and Betty McCollum (D-4 _th) are co-sponsors the TRUST in Congress Act. This bill would require members and their families to create qualified blind trusts for assets.

Negotiations are currently underway over a House package that would provide federal funds for local police enforcement. Moderates, especially those of tough races, embrace the bill, but progressives and members from the Congressional Black Caucus aren’t happy with it.

Omar, who was challenged by a Democrat for his support for the police in the primary, is now among those trying to reach a deal that all Democrats can like, Jeremy Slevin, a spokesperson, said.

Slevin stated that Congresswoman Omar was working with the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the CBC to find a way for some of the parts of the package to be included.

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