Michael Flynn files a new action in a court of appeals about the motion to dismiss and the appointment of an “amicus curiae”


By Robert Willmann

Yesterday afternoon, Gen. Michael Flynn (ret.) filed a new legal action in the federal Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit asking the appellate court to issue an order directing that three things happen in the trial court.  First, the cancellation of the appointment of an outside lawyer who is to argue against the government's motion to dismiss the case and advise about whether a contempt of court proceeding should occur about possible perjury by Flynn.  Second, the government's request be granted to dismiss the criminal case.  And third, that the case be transferred to a judge different from Emmet Sullivan, who is currently presiding in the trial court.

The filing is a petition or an application for a writ of mandamus.  It is a new mini-lawsuit that starts in a court of appeals and is not an appeal out of a trial court while a case is still underway in the trial court.  When specifically authorized by law, you can appeal to a court of appeals while a case is going on in the trial court, and it is called an "interlocutory appeal".  But this is a new legal action asking that a court of appeals order a trial judge to do some specific thing.  As you might expect, the requirements to ask for a writ of mandamus make it a very limited and narrow doctrine.  Otherwise, people would be asking a court of appeals to intervene constantly whenever they did not like the ruling of a judge while a case was pending in the trial court and before it ended there.  A writ is a type of court order. 

The mandamus doctrine in federal court has three parts:  the petitioner must have no other adequate means to attain the relief he desires; the petitioner must show that his right to the writ is clear and indisputable; and the court in the exercise of its discretion, must be satisfied that the writ is appropriate under the circumstances [1].  The mandamus doctrine in Texas is more open and flexible and has two parts:  the petitioner has no adequate remedy by appeal for the trial court judge's alleged error; and the trial judge showed an abuse of discretion, violated a legal duty, or made a void order.  Although the doctrine may be phrased differently in states around the country and in federal court, the different versions establish the same basic concept.

Since a court of appeals does not conduct trials, an application for a writ of mandamus has to be supported by some proof, which consists of exhibits attached to it.  This request is 44 pages long, and the exhibits, as an appendix, total 93 pages.  Here is the entire filing, as one document in the pdf computer file format–


Flynn's petition cites two appellate court opinions that provide the best support for his position.  The Fokker Services B.V. case stated strongly that the executive branch's decisions on what to charge and to dismiss are within its discretion, and a motion to dismiss by the government should not be denied unless it is part of a game of harassment against a person by bringing charges and then dismissing them, and then charging the person again and dismissing the case, repeatedly.  That game would harass a defendant and prevent a trial at which the right against double jeopardy would attach.  A unanimous U.S. Supreme Court opinion from two weeks ago directly disapproves of a situation similar to Judge Sullivan's order appointing John Gleeson to be an outside "amicus curiae" (friend of the court), who can also inject a new issue into the case [2].

At this time, Judge Sullivan has not yet denied the government's motion to dismiss the prosecution. That may be an item that is debated.  The argument may be made that he has not yet stepped on the discretion of the executive branch to charge or dismiss criminal cases; he might theoretically end up granting the motion to dismiss.  However, the facts in this case show that if he denies the motion to dismiss, a mandamus order would be justified against his ruling, as was discussed in the Fokker Services B.V. opinion.  And Flynn can argue that he has no other "adequate" means to relief if he has to wait to be sentenced to prison before he can ask for a writ of mandamus that should properly be granted under existing law.

The exhibits to Gen. Flynn's petition are as follows.

The first exhibit is a transcript of the sentencing hearing of 18 December 2018 that went off the rails and was continued into the future.  Flynn had pled guilty on 1 December 2017. The transcript is 51 pages and the court reporter's index is 11 pages; the exhibit is on pdf pages 47-109.

Exhibit 2 is the notice by former "Watergate Prosecutors" that they intended to file an amicus curiae brief. It is on pdf pages 110-119.  These papers are not in the trial court clerk's public file because Judge Sullivan ordered that they not be.  But copies were given to Flynn's lawyers as required in court cases, so they are included as an exhibit to this application for a writ of mandamus.

Exhibit 3 is the order of Judge Sullivan from 12 May 2020 that kicked off this latest twist in the case over bringing in outside lawyers to give opinions about what should happen. 

Exhibit 4 is the order that appointed John Gleeson to be the person to argue against the government's motion to dismiss, and, further, for him to suggest whether a criminal contempt of court proceeding should be started against Flynn for perjury. The exhibit is on pdf pages 122-124. 

The last exhibit is 12 pages of some government motions to dismiss and orders granting dismissals in other criminal cases.


[1]  United States v. Fokker Servs., B.V., 818 F.3d 733 (D.C. Cir. 2016), an opinion from the federal Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

[2]  United States v. Sineneng-Smith, No. 19–67 (U.S. May 7, 2020), a U.S. Supreme Court opinion.


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7 Responses to Michael Flynn files a new action in a court of appeals about the motion to dismiss and the appointment of an “amicus curiae”

  1. Keith Harbaugh says:

    Something I don’t understand:
    If Sullivan’s actions are contrary to the two precedents that Powell cited, Fokker and S-S,
    surely he knew that as well, I would think.
    Is that not so?
    There must be something else going on here.

  2. exiled off mainstreet says:

    How the courts handle this filing will reveal whether the rule of law still obtains in the US

  3. blue peacock says:

    Keith – yes, I too believe something else is going on.
    EOM – we’ve had a two-tier justice system as well as “lawless” law enforcement & intelligence setup for sometime. Rule of law like much else has become just a rhetorical slogan. My experience with the judiciary some years back was when I contested a traffic ticket. After I presented evidence including photographs of the location and began questioning the cop who started to become very flustered as I had him pinned that from the location he claimed to have been, he could not have seen me, the judge quickly intervened and told me that he knows the cop and he’s holding me guilty. Justice in the USA.

  4. Jack says:

    Keith and blue peacock,

    DC Circuit directs Judge Emmet Sullivan to respond to Mike Flynn’s appeal challenging his refusal to immediately dismiss prosecution at Barr Justice Department’s request. New order from appeals court:

    We may find out if there was “something else” in Judge Sullivan’s response to the DC Circuit court.

  5. Deap says:

    New speculation Obama was out to get Flynn for not supporting Obama’s key legacy accomplishment – the Iran deal. Was this also part of the unilateral Iranian demands – trotting out Michelle Obama to “celebrate the Iranian holiday Nowruz at this very critical time – April 9, 2016?
    One last chance for Michelle to yammer “diversity is our strength” and Iran is our friend, though she looks like she was forced to phone this message in. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ihZwzLRHTDg Meanwhile, Obama’s real legacy was unfolding in the dark recesses of his adminitration under his full direction and knowledge: Get Gen Flynn – seek and destroy.
    April 9, 2016 – Donald Trump will be the GOP nominee, with Gen Flynn’s help. Interesting timing for this oh so sincere Obama message of Iranian-US friendship.

  6. Terence Gore says:

    “So “getting” someone to lie, if that’s “the goal” (as admitted in the released FBI administrative notes on the Flynn case), is actually very easy. If the green light is now on to use T 18 USC 1001 law in this manner, the sky’s the limit. The FBI could lock up the world. In one of the released emails, FBI attorney Lisa Page shows how rare prosecution under 1001 is by writing:
    “I have a question for you. Could the admonition re 1001 be given at the beginning of the interview? Or does it have to come following a statement which agents believe to be false? Does the policy speak to that? (I feel bad that I don’t know this but I don’t remember ever having to do this! Plus I’ve only charged it once in the context of lying to a probation officer.)””

  7. Jim says:

    There is no longer any doubt why AG Barr, among many reasons, appointed US Attorney John Durham as special counsel to investigate the Bob Mueller Special Counsel Corruption, and that entire operation.
    As the enemies of Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn really do want Barr’s scalp, too.
    This was just filed in the appeals court this morning, viz. the Mandamus writ matter — where petitioners — “The Watergate Prosecutors” label Barr and the DOJ, directly or indirectly: “corruptly motivated prosecutors”:
    [[The Watergate Prosecutors also bring a unique perspective to this mandamus proceeding. Flynn’s prosecution was commenced, and his conviction (in the form of a guilty plea) was secured, by the office of a Special Counsel appointed to ensure an appropriate degree of independence, after the Acting Attorney General determined that such an appointment would be “in the public interest.”]]
    Independence from the rule of law, I’m sure they meant to say, NOT.
    This sorry collection of jackasses are the antithesis of anything to do with civil rights, civil liberties, rule of law; and are claiming without irony they are doing this in the name of that.
    Orwell: “A society becomes totalitarian when its structure becomes flagrantly artificial: that is when its ruling class has lost its function but succeeds in clinging to power by force or fraud.”
    The gap, dislocation, between concrete reality and symbolic [or imagined] reality [the land of make-believe] is what irony can attempt to express, connect, define and expose.
    Absurdity: when the dislocation irony identifies is complete

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