HPU, Mark Martin, and What If?

Former NC Chief Justice Mark Martin

Former NC Chief Justice Mark Martin

Earlier this month, just as Congress was about to convene hearings on how former President Donald Trump planned and attempted a coup, another president was proudly announcing that a Trump ally would lead his university’s new law school. That proud president is High Point University’s Nido Qubein, and his pick to take the reins of a new law school is none other than former State Supreme Court Chief justice Mark Martin. Qubein’s announcement couldn’t have been more poorly timed, and his choice of Martin couldn’t have been more inappropriate, because Martin was allegedly actively involved in helping Trump overturn a legal election and subvert the Constitution.

Both the Washington Post and New York Times stand by their stories that Martin joined the seditious Trump bandwagon early on, first by co-authoring legal briefs to help five states spread the Big Lie and seek to overturn the 2020 election, then by allegedly advising Trump himself that Vice President Pence could refuse to certify Biden electors when Congress convened on January 6.

The Charlotte Observer spoke with several legal experts who said that Martin’s actions on Trump’s behalf “undermined faith in the country’s elections, weakened its constitutional democracy, and set the stage for the January 6 mob assault on the Capitol.”

And Duke law professor Jim Coleman told the Virginian Pilot, “I think it’s quite damaging to have a former chief justice of the NC Supreme Court being associated with these positions. It calls into question how he (Martin) and perhaps others approach the law – not based on principle, but based on the result you want to achieve politically.”

The Virginian Pilot also spoke with Norm Eisen, an expert on law and ethics at the Brookings Institution, and Eisen’s rebuke of Martin was even more severe. Said Eisen, “ All the lawyers who whipped up Trump’s followers into a frenzy based on the completely baseless belief that the election had been stolen, must bear a share of the responsibility for what happened on January 6.”

Martin’s defenders say that because of attorney/client privilege, he can’t comment on his involvement with, or his advice about Trump’s attempted coup. Hogwash. Every first-year law school student knows that there is a “Crime-Fraud Exception” to privilege, which states that the exception can apply if the client is trying to further a crime, or is in the process of committing a crime. We now know from the Congressional hearings that Trump was fully advised by his own people that his subversive schemes were illegal, yet he continued to pursue a seven-point plan to overturn the election. For Martin to play any role in helping to advance Trump’s plan doesn’t make him a counselor, it makes him an accomplice.

But perhaps the most disturbing thing about Martin’s involvement in advancing the Big Lie, is just how close Trump came to staging a successful coup, and doing permanent damage to our democracy. Just imagine what kind of country this would be if Mike Pence had decided to follow Martin’s alleged advice, and reject Biden’s electors on January 6.  I shudder to think.

HPU’s law school can’t open without first gaining approval from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and, given all we know about Martin’s alleged involvement with Trump’s attempted coup, SACS should hold off on approving Qubein’s new law school until more information is forthcoming. After all, it wouldn’t be appropriate for someone to teach students about laws that he allegedly broke.


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