Mark Meadows, former Chief of Staff for President Donald Trump, is one of the 19 defendants criminally charged in Fanni Willis' 2020 election case in Fulton County, Georgia. Since being charged, Meadows has been attempting to remove the case against him to federal court on the basis that any actions he is alleged to have taken in the indictment were performed in the course of his federal employment and, therefore, do not fall within the state court's jurisdiction.
Meadows lost that bid at the trial court level in September when United States District Court Judge Steven C. Jones concluded "that Meadows has not shown that the actions that triggered the State’s prosecution related to his federal office," and that "Meadows’s alleged association with post-election activities was not related to his role as White House Chief of Staff or his executive branch authority."
Meadows appealed that ruling to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, and the court heard oral argument in the matter on Friday. In a rather quick turnaround (for appellate rulings), the court issued its Order on Monday, denying Meadows' request.
In a swift ruling issued just three days after oral arguments, the three-judge panel ruled that former federal officials — as opposed to current ones — are ineligible to move their charges.
Meadows had hoped to move courts to assert immunity from the indictment, a tactic that could’ve imperiled Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’s (D) prosecution of other co-defendants, too, including former President Trump.
But even if the law governing such transfers, a process known as removal, did extend to former officials, Meadows cannot leverage the statute because he did not establish he was acting in his official role, the judges ruled.
Here's an added twist to the ruling: Although the court ruled that the removal statute does not apply to former federal officials, it also urged Congress to act to amend that statute so that it does in order to avoid future "nightmare scenarios."
By finding that former federal officials are ineligible to move courts, Monday’s ruling also is likely to doom similar efforts being mounted by four other co-defendants in Trump’s case: the three so-called “fake electors” charged and Trump Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark. Their attempts are moving on a slower timetable.
Although all three judges agreed, the two Democratic appointees on the panel wrote a separate opinion urging Congress to amend the removal statute so it applies to former officials.
Judge Robin Rosenbaum, joined by Judge Nancy Abudu, warned of a hypothetical in which more than a dozen states could try to prosecute top administration officials over policy disagreements. The officials would have no guarantee that a federal court would hear their defenses after leaving office, Rosenbaum noted.
“This nightmare scenario keeps me up at night,” she wrote.
“In my view, not extending the federal-officer removal statute to former officers for prosecutions based on the official actions during the tenure is bad policy, and it represents a potential threat to our republic’s stability,” she continued. “Of course, my role as a judge does not allow me to rewrite laws to fit my view of what’s wise. Rather, I must faithfully interpret the laws as they are written. So today I join the Majority Opinion because it does that.”
Meadows may opt to appeal the 11th Circuit decision to the Supreme Court. The court's full decision can be read below.