11th Circuit Cancels Meadows’s Emergency Hearing After State Ruling Slows Down Prosecution

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals canceled former White House chief’s emergency appeal after a ruling meant his state trial would not be expedited.
11th Circuit Cancels Meadows’s Emergency Hearing After State Ruling Slows Down Prosecution
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows waits for an interview outside the White House in Washington on Aug. 21, 2020. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Matthew Vadum

A federal appeals court abruptly canceled expedited oral arguments set for Sept. 15 in an emergency motion by former Trump aide Mark Meadows aimed at staying a federal judge’s decision to remand a racketeering prosecution to a Georgia court.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit nixed the hearing in a Sept. 14 order after lawyers for Mr. Meadows suggested it was no longer necessary in light of a new state court ruling that eliminated the possibility of him going to trial on Oct. 23.

That was a trial date originally sought for all co-defendants in the case by Fani Willis, a Democrat who is the district attorney for Fulton County, Georgia.

Some legal experts have questioned the need for the state-level trial to proceed with such haste and have said putting together a racketeering case, which by its nature can be incredibly complex, on such a compressed timetable would be difficult for both the prosecution and the defense.

Mr. Meadows, former President Donald Trump, and 17 co-defendants were indicted by a state grand jury in Fulton County on Aug. 14 over the former chief executive’s challenge to the election in Georgia.

Mr. Meadows and all the defendants in the case are accused of violating the Georgia RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) Act from Nov. 4, 2020, which is the day after the presidential election, to Sept. 15, 2022, for their allegedly illegal efforts to challenge the presidential election results in Georgia, a state that Democrat President Joe Biden ultimately won.

The emergency motion to the 11th Circuit came after federal Judge Steve C. Jones of the Northern District of Georgia ruled on Sept. 8 that he lacked jurisdiction in Mr. Meadows’s earlier motion to remove the state case to federal court.

Judge Jones was appointed in 2011 by President Barack Obama, a Democrat.

Attorneys for the former Trump aide acted out of concern that state prosecutors, who aimed for an October trial date, could end up convicting their client in state court before his federal appeals have played out.

In the underlying case, Mr. Meadows is arguing his prosecution should proceed in federal court because he is immune to state prosecution because whatever he did to aid President Trump’s efforts to contest the 2020 presidential election in Georgia, it was done in his official capacity as a federal officer, and he had federal defenses available to him.

Judge Jones rejected the federal removal motion, ruling on Sept. 8 that some of the eight overt acts Mr. Meadows was accused of in the state indictment were within the scope of his duties as a federal officer, but others were not.

Mr. Meadows’s “political activities,” such as “working with or working for the Trump campaign” went beyond “the outer limits of the Office of the White House Chief of Staff.”

The judge also expressed concern that “when questioned about the scope of his authority, Meadows was unable to explain the limits of his authority.”

Then, in a Sept. 12 ruling, Judge Jones declined to exercise his discretion to grant a stay of the order that Mr. Meadows had requested.

Mr. Meadows failed to meet any of the elements of the applicable four-prong test.

The judge wrote: He did not show he was likely to prevail on the merits of the appeal, that he would suffer irreparable damage absent a stay, that the state would not suffer substantial harm from the issuance of the stay, or that the public interest would be served by issuing the stay.

Mr. Meadows asked the 11th Circuit to grant an expedited review of Judge Jones’s refusal to stay his order, which the circuit court agreed to do on Sept. 13. Oral arguments were scheduled for the morning of Sept. 15.

Mr. Meadows had sought expedited review of his motion in part because of concerns that his case was tied to two co-defendants, pro-Trump attorneys Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro, who are scheduled for trial in state court in Georgia on Oct. 23.

And also to temporarily halt state proceedings against him while his appeal of a federal judge’s order refusing to allow his prosecution to proceed in federal court remained pending.

But in a court filing on Sept. 14, Mr. Meadows’s lawyers said the emergency motion hearing was no longer needed because Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee issued an order separating the cases of Ms. Powell and Mr. Chesebro from the other 17 co-defendants.

“Earlier today, the state court entered an order severing the case against Mr. Meadows and several other defendants from the case headed to trial on Oct. 23, 2023, making clear that he will not be brought to trial on that date.”

“The court may therefore conclude that oral argument tomorrow, Sept. 15, is no longer needed,” the former White House official’s attorneys said in the filing.

“Under this court’s order expediting the appeal, the matter will be fully briefed and ripe for a decision well before Mr. Meadows would be required to proceed to trial and ahead of the presently scheduled pre-trial deadlines.

“The sole effect of staying the Remand Order—preventing the state court from entering a judgment of conviction—is extremely unlikely to matter during the pendency of this court’s expedited consideration.

“The state court’s postponing of pre-trial deadlines also substantially alleviates the burdens on Mr. Meadows of litigating in state court pending appeal.”

The brief order canceling the Sept. 15 hearing was issued by a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals consisting of three Democrat appointees: Judge Charles Wilson was appointed by President Bill Clinton; Judges Robin Rosenbaum and Adalberto Jordan were appointed by President Barack Obama.

The appeal of Judge Jones’s refusal to hold Mr. Meadows’s trial in federal court remains pending before the 11th Circuit.