Dennis Aftergut
Dennis Aftergut

Dennis Aftergut has won cases of significance in the United States Supreme Court and the California Supreme Court. He is a former federal prosecutor and Chief Assistant City Attorney in San Francisco. During his tenure with the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office, he was named a “Lawyer of the Year” by California Lawyer Magazine for his work defending San Francisco’s Equal Benefits Ordinance. Mr. Aftergut is the co-founder of Oak Hill School and the Coalition to Preserve, Protect & Defend, a nonprofit organization devoted to upholding the rule of law.

Columns by Dennis Aftergut
Justice Alito’s Modified, Limited Hangout

Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut discusses Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s refusal to recuse himself from a case involving Donald Trump’s claim of immunity related to the January 6th Capitol riot, despite flags associated with the insurrection being flown at Alito’s properties. Mr. Aftergut argues that Alito’s non-denial denials and failure to condemn the violence on January 6th raise serious questions about the appearance of impropriety and the Court’s legitimacy, suggesting that Alito should recuse himself to maintain public trust in the institution.

A Message from Bellwether Pennsylvania Elections: Issues Other Than Abortion Are Winners, Too!

Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut argues that mainstream media’s failure to cover certain substantive news stories, such as local election results and their implications, can lead to a lack of awareness about issues that significantly affect the future of democracy. Mr. Aftergut encourages citizens to influence media coverage by voicing their desire for real news through letters to editors and social media, thereby contributing to a more informed public discourse.

Four Key Takeaways From Trump’s Civil Fraud Testimony Monday

Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut argues that former President Trump’s courtroom behavior in the civil fraud case in New York, marked by attacks on judicial figures and the legal process, indicates his anticipation of a lost case and a strategy focused on delay through appeals and political posturing to his base. Furthermore, Mr. Aftergut suggests that Trump’s tactics on the stand, which include deflecting blame and refusing to answer questions directly, aim to serve his political narrative rather than address the substantive legal claims against him.

Law Firms Should Not Be Hiring Election Deniers. One Just Did.

Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut criticizes the law firm Boies Schiller Flexner for hiring Mark Brnovich, the former Attorney General of Arizona, as a lateral partner, citing Brnovich’s prominent role in misleading the public about election fraud. The author argues that such a hiring decision tarnishes the law firm's reputation and undermines the legal profession's responsibility to uphold truth and democratic values.

Five Ways Mike Johnson Will Help Make Hakeem Jeffries Speaker in 2025

Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut argues that the election of Rep. Mike Johnson as Speaker of the House by House Republicans will likely harm the GOP in upcoming elections. Mr. Aftergut describes at least five reasons, including Johnson’s staunch anti-abortion stance, his role in perpetuating election denialism, his lack of experience in national fundraising, and various policy positions that could alienate swing voters and jeopardize the GOP’s chances in 2024.

What the First Guilty Plea in Trump’s Georgia Prosecution Tells Us About DA Willis’s Strategy

Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut discusses Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’s legal strategy in her case against Donald Trump and various co-defendants for an alleged conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election. Mr. Aftergut observes that Willis seems to be focusing on securing guilty pleas from less central co-conspirators to strengthen her case against major defendants like Trump, Rudolph Giuliani, and Sidney Powell, while potentially offering lesser charges to those willing to cooperate and testify, thereby avoiding the risk of revealing too much of her case before a full trial.

The Answer to the Judge’s New Question in Mark Meadows’s Removal of his Georgia Indictment

Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut argues that in deciding whether Mark Meadows’s case should be tried in federal court, the judge should apply a “totality of the circumstances” test—which would result in the case being remanded to state court. Mr. Aftergut points out that this approach would weigh all of Meadows’s actions, rather than focusing on a single official act, thereby accommodating competing legal and social values.

Georgia Defendant Kenneth Chesebro Got His Speedy Trial Date; He May Soon Lament Not Being Careful About What He Wished For

Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut comments on the Fulton County indictment process involving Donald Trump and 18 others, including Kenneth Chesebro, who allegedly created the “fake elector” scheme. Mr. Aftergut explains the possible strategies by the prosecutor and defense, focusing on how Chesebro’s now-severed trial could pave the way for other prosecutions in the case, and provides insights into the evidence against him, emphasizing that a conviction in his trial could offer momentum for cases against Trump and other defendants.

The New Trump Florida Trial Date Is Sensible. It Also Leaves Us in the Dark About What Judge Aileen Cannon Learned

Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut comments on today's announcement that federal district court judge Aileen Cannon set a May 2024 trial date in Donald Trump’s trial for obstructing justice and unlawfully taking and retaining national security documents at Mar-a-Lago after he left office. Mr. Aftergut points out that Judge Cannon “split the baby” by choosing a date between the proposals of Special Counsel Jack Smith and Trump’s lawyers but argues that the decision reveals little about whether she will treat Trump more favorably than other criminal defendants.

Judge Doughty’s Aberrant First Amendment Decision Sows Distrust in the Law

Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut highlights two points about the federal district court’s July 4 decision blocking the Biden administration from communicating with social media companies—points which, Mr. Aftergut argues, underscore the decision’s risk of sowing great mistrust in law. Mr. Aftergut contrasts the apparent “judge shopping” that put the case before a Trump-appointed judge with the even-handed approach of Special Counsel Jack Smith, and he points out the opinion’s glaring omission of an especially relevant precedent.

Five Under-the-Radar Stories to Keep Faith in Our Democracy

Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut comments on five stories you might have missed that inspire continued faith in the functioning of our democracy. Mr. Aftergut suggest that when anti-democratic developments occur, citizens in a free society should never underestimate our ability to get things back on track by flexing our collective, pro-democracy muscle.

Why Jack Smith Might Bring a Second Trump Indictment in D.C.

Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut comments on the recent news that Judge Aileen Cannon has been assigned to the federal grand jury indictment of Donald Trump. Mr. Aftergut explains the possible outcomes if Judge Cannon does not recuse herself from the case and what Special Counsel Jack Smith might have in mind.

CNN Turns Propaganda Organ. We Don’t Have to Put Up With It.

Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut critiques CNN’s “Town Hall” program Wednesday night, which commentators have described as an “infomercial” for Donald Trump to air his unsupported claims. Mr. Aftergut points out the role that media plays in legitimizing authoritarianism and calls upon CNN viewers to “vote with your remote” and send CNN a message that it should stop enabling a former President who tried to overturn the Constitution.

Trump’s Nonsensical Letter to Congress Attacking the DOJ’s Mar-a-Lago Case Shows He Has No Defense

Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut comments on the 10-page letter from lawyers of former President Donald Trump to Rep. Mike Turner, chair of the House Intelligence Committee. Mr. Aftergut points out that Special Counsel Jack Smith has significant evidence that contradicts many of the claims in the letter, and the weakness of the letter suggests Trump has no viable defense against the likely obstruction charge.

First, “Let’s Corrupt All the Lawyers”: Trump’s Pathway to Autocracy

Harvard Law professor emeritus Laurence H. Tribe and former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut comment on an order last week by Judge Beryl Howell of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ordering former Trump lawyer Evan Corcoran to answer questions he had declined to answer in January before Special Counsel Jack Smith’s grand jury. Professor Tribe and Mr. Aftergut point out that lawyers are uniquely positioned to either defend democracy against tyranny or facilitate its downfall; Judge Howell’s order reaffirmed the DC district court’s commitment to the rule of law as our shield against tyranny.

“Pro-Lifers” Choose Death

Amherst professor Austin Sarat and former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut comment on recent news that Republican legislators in four Southern states have proposed legislation that would make abortion a capital offense in those states. Professor Sarat and Mr. Aftergut point out the hypocrisy and cruelty of so-called “pro-lifers” advocating the death penalty for those who seek—and those who assist others in seeking—an abortion.

Trump Lawyer Jenna Ellis Snatches Shame from the Jaws of Redemption

Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut comments on the public censure of Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis for her misrepresentations on Fox News and elsewhere regarding the outcome of the 2020 Presidential Election. Mr. Aftergut points out that now, thanks to Jenna Ellis, we have a discipline case on the record against a lawyer whose only misconduct was in misleading the public in the public square.

The College Board Fails History by Caving to Ron DeSantis

Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut comments on the decision by the College Board, which certifies Advanced Placement (AP) high school curricula, for acquiescing to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis by revising the curriculum in African American History. Mr. Aftergut argues that, by acceding to DeSantis’s bullying, the College Board has short-changed freedom of thought for the next generation of high school students and has helped erode our pluralistic future.