OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
A legal expert has warned Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis that she may be walking into a “trap” if she files an appeal to have a case moved out of her jurisdiction and into federal court.
The warning comes after former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows’ first attempt to have Willis’ charges dismissed in federal court failed, prompting him to file an appeal with the 11th Circuit Court, which is now requesting a brief from Willis on whether federal officials, in general, are eligible for such immunity as Meadows, a former Republican congressman from North Carolina, is seeking.
According to Anthony Michael Kreis, a law professor at Georgia State University, even if Willis wins the review, it will be short-lived and meaningless.
“I think this is a trap that Fani Willis should not walk into,” Kreis wrote on the X platform. “The consensus has generally been (and I think correct) that the current status of the defendant does not matter but what does matter is whether the acts that undergird the legal action are related to official duties.”
“Willis should shut this down despite it maybe giving Meadows a defeat,” continued Kreis. “First, it is a nasty kind of textualism that conservatives like and liberals should reject. Second, it introduces more unnecessary confusion and opens the door to a greater likelihood of Supreme Court review. Third, it makes little theoretical sense. If the idea of removal is to provide a neutral venue to persons employed by the gov’t or empowered by federal law from vindictive actions in state court, then the D’s current status is irrelevant. It’s about protecting federal integrity.”
Concluded Kreis: “Willis should politely decline the invitation to derail litigation and upend the removal statute.”
Former President Donald Trump is also likely to try and remove his case to federal court, according to reports, and some legal analysts believe he’s got a good shot at doing so.
Trump and 18 others have been charged with conspiring to overturn Georgia election results, but his legal team is expected to try to get his case moved out of state court and into federal court, where attorneys are likely to seek dismissal of the charges under the guise that Trump is immune because he was acting in an official capacity.
CNN legal analyst Elie Honig warned that one major flaw in the indictment is that Trump and many of his allies could try to move the trial, taking the case out of Georgia’s heavily liberal county, though former Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows’ attempt was unsuccessful.
“The other big issue – and we just said this word – is removal. Get ready for a lot of talk about removal. Mark Meadows is already trying to do this. Donald Trump will try to follow. In a nutshell, what this means is, if a federal official gets charged with a state crime that relates to that federal official’s official job duties, you can get the case removed.”
Honig argued that such duties must be “within the legitimate scope of those jobs,” adding that is “an important qualification. He [Trump and others] can get the case moved over to federal court and then potentially dismissed. So, these are really important motions. Mark Meadows has already done this, Trump is sure to follow.”
“The hard part [is] it’s a lot of work. You’re not going to be able to try all 19 at once. That’s not going to happen. And you just never know how every one of these defendants, let’s put aside Trump. Every one of these defendants, even the people we heard of, is going to mount a furious defense, as is their right to do,” Honig said.
“They all work together as one cohesive entity towards an illegal end,” Honig said. “You have the advantage to pick off some low-hanging fruit and get them to flip.”