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
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.

To Become Speaker, McCarthy Undercuts Law, Order, and Country

Harvard Law professor emeritus Laurence H. Tribe and former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut argue that newly elected House Speaker Kevin McCarthy chose ambition over law, order, and country. Professor Tribe and Mr. Aftergut describe how Speaker McCarthy’s concessions to the radical Republicans put us over the brink and seriously endanger democracy.

Why 2022’s Last Election-Denier Loss Matters

Former Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger and former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut explain why the victory of Kris Mayes over Republican election-denier Abe Hamadeh in the race for Arizona Attorney General is so important to the entire country. Mr. Harshbarger and Mr. Aftergut provide four reasons Mayes’s victory is crucial and how it illustrates why every vote matters.

Merrick Garland Stays on Offense Against Trumpist Violence

Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut comments on Monday’s news that the January 6 committee approved criminal referrals for former President Donald Trump, John Eastman, and others. Mr. Aftergut argues that consistent prosecution and conviction of those who engage in political violence—not only those who participated on January 6, but also those who have done so afterwards—are vital to deterring future disorder.

How Pro-Choice Advocates Are Protecting the Rule of Law

Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut points out that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, in which it eliminated the constitutional right to abortion recognized in Roe v. Wade invigorated pro-choice activists to overturn abortion bans and enact more protections for women. Mr. Aftergut argues that this engagement will serve the rule of law by helping to avoid the widespread disobedience that threatens it.

Kari Lake, Trump’s Election-Denial Darling, Sticks with a Losing Script

Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut describes how unsuccessful Arizona governor candidate Kari Lake is following Donald Trump’s script for election denialism. Mr. Aftergut describes the four steps former President Trump followed in his attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election and predicts that courts will reject Kari Lake’s attempts to do the same.

Three Reasons the Midterms Were Good for Courts

Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut describes three pieces of news from Tuesday’s elections that Americans who value the Constitution should celebrate. Specifically, Mr. Aftergut highlights the defeat of key state gubernatorial election deniers, the continued confirmation of federal court judges, and the affirmation by voters of their faith in the evidence-based work that courts do.