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Authored by Jonathan Turley,

Many of us have expressed alarm at the politicization of the criminal justice system in New York by figures such as Attorney General Letitia James and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

It now appears that New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin is angling to get into the lawfare frenzy.

The conviction of Trump on 34 felonies has either thrilled or repelled citizens. For many of us, it is a sign of the degradation of our legal system. Even the chief CNN legal analyst has acknowledged that Bragg contorted the law to bring the recent case against former President Donald Trump in an unprecedented prosecution.

Yet, the use of the legal system for political purposes is clearly popular in New York where people were literally dancing in the street outside of the courthouse after the recent verdict against Trump. Now Platkin’s office has announced that it is “reviewing” whether to pull the liquor licenses for Trump golf clubs since he is now convicted of felonies in New York. It appears that lawfare is nothing if not intoxicating for Democratic politicians.

According to an article in the Hill, the New Jersey Attorney General’s Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control is “reviewing the impact of President Trump’s conviction” on his liquor licenses for the Trump National Golf Club in Colts Neck, Lamington Farm Club, and Trump National Golf Club Philadelphia in Pine Hill.

The latest effort is based on a vague standard governing crimes of “moral turpitude” under New Jersey law:

No license of any class shall be issued to any person under the age of 18 years or to any person who has been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude. A beneficiary of a trust who is not otherwise disqualified to hold an interest in a license may qualify regardless of age so long as the trustee of the trust qualifies and the trustee shall hold the beneficiary’s interest in trust until the beneficiary is at least the age of majority.

A “crime of moral turpitude” is a familiar, though dated, standard in American law. I teach the standard in torts as one of the traditional “per se” categories for slander under the common law. It was generally used to denote conduct of immorality or serious offenses to norms of society. New Jersey defines it as including “any offense that carries the possibility of one year in jail and involves acts of baseness, vileness, or depravity in the private and social duties which a man owes to his fellowmen, or to society in general.

Even the New Jersey Alcoholic Beverage Control handbook notes that in “some instances, it may be unclear whether a conviction involves an element of moral turpitude.” Yet, Trump has a way to bringing clarity for his critics whenever they must chose between politics and principle.

For most of us, it is hard to see how falsifying business records would constitute “acts of baseness, vileness, or depravity in the private and social duties which a man owes to his fellowmen, or to society in general.”

However, for democrats, it seems that any act by Trump is by definition base, vile, and depraved.

The piling on of investigations and charges by Democratic officials has reinforced Trump’s long narrative of a weaponization of the legal system against him and his supporters. Polling shows that most citizens view some of these cases as political prosecutions and that they are having diminishing impact on voter preferences. Yet, they remain thrilling for democratic voters who lionize prosecutors who come up with novel or unprecedented avenues to hammer Trump or hit his businesses. It does not seem to matter that removing the liquor licenses of these clubs can endanger thousands of jobs of citizens or chill other businesses in considering investments in New York or New Jersey.

In the end, the effort is hardly surprising. Lawfare is like binge drinking: the excess is the very measure of its success.


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