Appeals court rejects Mark Meadows’ bid to move his Georgia case out of state court

A federal appeals court on Monday rejected an effort by former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to move his Georgia election interference case out of state court.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a judge’s ruling from September that said Meadows had not demonstrated that the alleged conduct that prompted his prosecution was related to his official duties in the Trump administration.

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Former Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., during a forum on “House and GOP Conference rules for the 118th Congress, ” at the FreedomWorks office in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 14, 2022.Tom Williams / CQ Roll Call via AP file

The court’s decision is a blow to Meadows, who in August sought “prompt removal” of his case from state court citing a federal law that allows U.S. officers to move civil actions or criminal prosecutions in state court to a federal venue if the alleged actions were taken “under color” of their government office.

The appeal was heard by Chief Judge William Pryor, an appointee of President George W. Bush, and circuit judges Robin Rosenbaum, an appointee of President Barack Obama, and Nancy Abudu, who was appointed by President Joe Biden.

Pryor wrote in the opinion that the law “does not apply to former federal officers, and even if it did, the events giving rise to this criminal action were not related to Meadows’s official duties.”

An attorney for Meadows did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Fulton County District Attorney’s Office declined to comment.

U.S. District Judge Steve C. Jones previously ruled against Meadows. “The Court concludes that Meadows has not shown that the actions that triggered the State’s prosecution related to his federal office,” the judge wrote.

Meadows asked the appeals court on Friday to overturn that ruling.

Meadows, former President Donald Trump and 17 others were indicted in August on felony charges in Georgia related to alleged attempts to keep Trump in office after his election loss to Joe Biden in 2020. Four of the original 19 have since pleaded guilty, while the rest, including Meadows, have pleaded not guilty.

The probe was launched by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis.

The indictment, which cites Trump’s phone call urging Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” the votes needed to claim victory in the state, accuses Meadows, Trump and others of unlawfully soliciting Raffensperger on Jan. 2, 2021.

In his appeal, a lawyer for Meadows argued that his client was not required “to establish the outer limits of his office, he merely has to establish the nexus to his duties.”

“Mr. Meadows’ colorable federal defense here, at least at the most basic level, is a federal immunity defense,” George Terwilliger told the three-judge panel during oral arguments.

Meadows testified in federal court this year that his duties as White House chief of staff were effectively without limits because he often acted as Trump’s proxy. The three-judge panel did not agree.

“Simply put, whatever the precise contours of Meadows’s official authority, that authority did not extend to an alleged conspiracy to overturn valid election results,” Monday’s ruling read.

Meadows, a former congressman from North Carolina who now lives in South Carolina, has repeatedly fought efforts seeking his testimony as it related to his conduct during the final weeks of Trump’s presidency.

He previously tried to avoid testifying before the grand jury in Willis’ probe but, after losing court battles, was compelled by an appeals court to testify.

Meadows also rebuffed a subpoena for testimony from the House Jan. 6 committee and was referred to the Justice Department for a criminal contempt of Congress charge. The Justice Department declined to prosecute him.