DEYAN RANKO BRASHICH was born in Belgrade, former Yugoslavia, and is an Op-Ed columnist for Connecticut's Litchfield County Times.  He writes the monthly Letter From America column for Romania’s Scrisul Romanesc, a literary magazine and is the Editor-at-Large for  The Country and Abroad, another literary/art magazine where he authors the Dispatch from Abroad column. He is a frequent contributor to Pecat, the Belgrade, Serbia weekly news magazine, Britić, a magazine published in the United Kingdom, Ekurd Daily, a multinational Kurdish news portal and Passport, a lifestyle quarterly. He resides in New York City and Washington, Connecticut.



Past Entries

Deyan Ranko Brashich (1940-2019)

New York, NY--Deyan Ranko Brashich, beloved husband, father, grandfather, and brother, died on August 30, aged 78. Deyan lived a long and full life, which he led with a sense of adventure and good humor.

Born in Belgrade, Yugoslavia in 1940, Deyan arrived in this country with his family in 1949 as refugees from communism. He graduated from Trinity School (NYC), Trinity College (CT), New York University School of Law, and the Hague Academy of International Law. 

Admitted to the New York Bar in 1966, he was a seasoned attorney and skilled litigator. Beginning in mid-1960’s, Deyan had a vibrant and varied career in private practice in New York City with the law firm Brashich & Finley. He was attracted to all cases, civil and criminal, which spoke to his conscience, venturesomeness, or heralded the underdog. Deyan was personally invested in the welfare of each of his clients—which included multinational businesses as well as underserved individuals in Nigeria, Liberia, Argentina, Yugoslavia, and the United States—travelling around the world on their behalf, for cases both large and small.

 Deyan will be remembered for a number of important cases: recovering purloined art—Constantin Brancusi’s The Muse; representing the politically jailed Graiver family in Argentina; and for his involvement in cases before the Supreme Court for the United States and circuit Courts of Appeal such as Schwartz v Postel, Regents v Bakke, Steelworkers v Weber, and Brashich v Port Authority of New York and New Jersey on constitutional challenges; and as lead defense counsel at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in the Hague for Momcilo Krajisnik and Stevan Todorovic, both accused of war crimes. In a historic case that attracted much notoriety, Deyan also represented Nikola Kavaja, the “Assassin Who Failed to kill Tito” and hijacker of American Airlines Flight 293. In June 1979, Deyan boarded the hijacked plane at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and negotiated the release of 135 passengers, substituted himself as hostage, and surrendered his client at Shannon, Ireland.

Deyan was also an Adjunct Professor of Law at Pace University, White Plains, NY from 1983-1989. Steadfastly proud of his Serbian heritage, Deyan was a founding member of the Serbian-American Bar Association and was decorated with the Orders of Star of Karadjordje and St. Sava (Royal, Yugoslav), as well as the Selective Service Medal (Civil, US).

One of Deyan’s passions was the written word: he authored commentaries on domestic as well as international legal topics, including in The New York Law Journal; Op-Ed essays on political, legal, and social issues of the day for his blog Contrary Views; and magazine articles covering literature and art (also an artist, Deyan’s paintings were shown in galleries in the early sixties). Deyan was Editor and Publisher of The Foothills News (CT)Editor-at-Large for The Country and Abroadand Contributing-Editor for the publications Passport (US), Scrisul Romanesc (Romania), Pecat (Serbia), Britic (UK) and Ekurd Daily (Kurdish)He also self-published three books—Letters from America: Essays with a New York State of Mind (2013), Contrary Views: Columns from the Litchfield County Times (2003-2014), and Dispatches (2017)

 His is survived by his wife, Patricia Tunsky-Brashich of New York, NY and their daughter, Arianna Evers (Tunsky-Brashich) of Washington, DC (Austin, Hudson, and Sienna). With his first wife, Catherine Sidor of Greenwich, Connecticut, he had two daughters Alexis Morledge (Brashich) of New York (Louis Sr., Louis Jr., and Alexander) and Audrey Sjöholm (Brashich) of Vancouver, BC (Christopher, Oliver, and Felix). He took great interest in the development of his grandchildren. He is also survived by his older brother, Neboysha R. Brashich of Cutchogue, New York (Prunella, Alexander, and Nicholas).

A memorial service will be held on Friday, September 27th from 3:00-5:00pm at the House of the Redeemer, 7 East 95th Street, New York. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made, in Memory of Deyan R. Brashich, to either the House of the Redeemer's Restoration Fund or to the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Sava, Restoration Fund, 20 West 26th Street, #1F, New York, NY 10011. 





To the Editor, The New York Times

New York State does not have a policy or law that prevents charging a sitting president with a crime. The Times’ own exhaustive front-page multipage investigation provides probable cause of Donald Trump’s violation of state criminal statutes – tax, perjury, suborning testimony, wire fraud etc. Why has Donald Trump not been indicted by the Attorney General or the New County District Attorney?




 Photo courtesy New York Times – Credit Julia Le Duc/Associated Press

Reading and watching the news I am outraged by the treatment of babies and children in detention facilities on our southern border. The image of a three-year-old curly headed girl with a tear stained face behind a chain link fence pops up on my television screen, alone and apparently without parent or guardian – a dangerous alien lawfully detained, no longer a threat to law and order.

This photograph, along with images of children huddled in aluminum wraps on cold, hard cement floors, came hard on the heels of an appeal by an animal rights organization seeking money to “help heal the deep physical and emotional scars that have been inflicted on them [the pets]”. “Right now, somewhere in America, there is an animal being beaten and another locked in a cage … these scared innocent animals do not realize there is hope for a better life…” Instead of kids the ad features pitiful photos of puppies and kittens behind bars and chain link fences.

The worst of the lot was the front-page New York Times photo of a drowned, dead “father and daughter … face down in the muddy water along the banks of the Rio Grande, her tiny head tucked inside his T-shirt, an arm draped over his neck …”, deaths which could have been avoided.

I am no stranger to illegal border crossings. In 1946, with our lives at stake, my mother, grandmother, brother and I fled ex-Yugoslavia seeking refuge in occupied Austria. The escape was the full nine yards, complete with a “coyote”, actually a moonlighting rural postman, who smuggled people out and smuggled contraband cigarettes back in across a border protected by mine fields and soldiers with orders to shoot at sight.

At dawn, after walking all night, our coyote pointed us to a distant military border check point flying the Union Jack. After checking in, Mom went to give our personal data to the British military, while my brother and I were treated to breakfast complete with tea, crumpets and jam – a war time treat. Then, as now, my brother and I were taken to a jail cell but the door remained open and the young soldiers made sure that than we had blankets keeping us warm while we took a nap.

The enlisted men who kept watch over us had just gone through death and war but remembered younger brothers and sisters back home. They treated us with human compassion, not like what happens today.

My other illegal border crossing was in 1954 during a visit to Niagara Falls. Now a displaced person, I was legally in the United States evidenced by a “green card” which I had promptly lost and hadn’t bothered to replace. By then I was as American as apple pie, decked out in Wrangler jeans, Keds high top sneakers and a T shirt.

With my parents strolling along the shore admiring the Japanese maple trees I followed a gaggle of tourists and a tour guard listening to his spiel about the river and the falls. They walked onto a bridge for a better look-see and I followed along. Walking back to shore we came to a subway like turnstile. As I was about to go through a fat, cigar smoking border agent asked “Hey kid, where are you going?” He shrugged when I told him I was going back to shore and asked “What’s your name kid?”

My name and my answer to “Where were you born kid?” set off alarm bells and laid bare the loss of my green card. What followed was an extensive interrogation of where I lived and went to school. The penultimate question “What’s your Principal’s name, kid?” and answer “Mrs. Tobin” proved to be good enough to let me back in to the good old USA, with a “What a dumb kid!” welcome.

What has led border patrol officers and detention guards to ignore the suffering and agony of the kids in their charge? Many have children of their own or have extended families with nieces, nephews, grandchildren of all ages – yet none have come forward to condemn and charge others and their supervisors of crimes and misdemeanors. Why?

The answer is to be found in the disproportionate distribution of wealth. On December 22, 2018, just before the Holidays, the United States government shut down and remained shut for 35 days. While the government “shut down” it continued to operate with the mail delivered, air traffic controllers manning radar screens and Social Security payments made. Government employees reported for work and performed their jobs. They just didn’t get paid.

With 78% of the United States work force living paycheck to paycheck there were no strikes or job actions. Workers swallowed their pride, kept their heads down, took their lumps and covered the most pressing of expenses with high interest credit cards, defaults and the $400 rainy day fund the average worker has squirrelled away and reported for work. Any other alternative would put them and their dependents at risk.

The choice was clear: do you ignore the plight of the kids in you care or are your kids and their survival of paramount importance? Clearly survival trumps the right thing to do. 



Photo courtesy of the National Archives - Soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division escort students into Central High in Little Rock, Ark. 1957. 

This is for those of you who still believe that public protest will carry the day, for the multitudes that have marched against “Brexit”, for the “yellow vests” that have taken to the streets of Paris, for  the “enough is enough” crowd demonstrating in Belgrade, for the “pink pussy” hats of Washington, DC, for the “women’s day” crowd in Istanbul, for all of those who still believe and dream, this one’s for you.   

The normal operation of the legislative arm of government has ground to a shuddering halt because President Trump has ordered his Cabinet, in fact all of the executive branch to ignore congressional requests for testimony, for information and to defy any subpoenas for past and present members of the Administration.

Constitutional scholars and legal experts are engaging in nitpicking exercises of augury, interpreting statutory law and precedent to reach a desired course of action - achieving a political result to their liking. Personal prejudice and political gain should be set aside. The time has come to “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead”. Call his bluff, says I - let me give you a primer.   

Do you remember the black girl who wanted to go to Central High School, not the “separate but equal” one across town - the one for all the other pickaninnies - in Little Rock, Arkansas? That was in 1957 when Governor Orval Faubus predicted that “blood would run in the streets of Little Rock” if African-Americans teenagers attended the city’s racially pure all-white high school.

In 1954 the Supreme Court struck down “separate but equal” in Brown v Board of Education. Three years later black teenagers registered to go to the all-white Central High. In response Governor Faubus called out the Arkansas National Guard. This military deployment was to prevent “the bloodshed” and preserve the peace. In reality the deployment was to “prevent black students from entering [Central High] due to claims that there was ‘imminent danger of tumult, riot and breach of peace’”.

Not to be cowed, President Eisenhower called Governor Faubus’ bluff. The President signed Executive Order 10730 putting the National Guard under federal jurisdiction. National guardsmen, with drawn weapons and live ammunition, were ordered to support integration and protect the newly registered students. The good old boys backed down, integration and some semblance of the promise of equality was somewhat triumphant.

What does that have to do today’s political impasse, you ask. At issue is the measured exercise of constitutional power, an exercise that is devoid of politics and deal making, that unfolds in full view of the public and is carried live and unfiltered on national television.

Let me walk you through my recommended course of action: Title 28 United States Code 6103 requires that “upon written request from the Chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means the Secretary shall furnish such committee with any [Federal Income Tax] return … specified in such request…”

On April 3, 2019 Richard Neal, the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee sent a demand to the Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Charles Rettig for six years’ worth of Donald Trump’s tax returns. The same demand was made of his boss Steven Mnuchin, the Secretary of Treasury. All he got was an “I’m thinking about it” response from Mnuchin.

Chairman Neal should convene the Committee and hold an up or down vote on the issuance of subpoenas to Mnuchin and Rettig with compliance demanded within 48 hours. Should the tax returns be not promptly and timely delivered he should convene the Committee and hold a second up or down vote to hold the two men in contempt of Congress.

If the politically correct course of conduct of “cover my ass” and obfuscation is followed the next step would be a referral of the contempt for enforcement by the Department of Justice and the Attorney General - that would be tantamount to surrender of power and subservience to a co-equal branch of government.

I remind Nancy Pelosi and Chairman Neal that the United States Capital Police was established in 1828 to protect Congress and its institutions and carry out its lawful mandates. Revamped in 1867, the Capital Police, now more than 1,800 strong, is the only federal law enforcement force under the direct control of Congress and responsible to the Sergeants at Arms of the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Capital Police has the “authority to make arrests and otherwise enforce the laws of the United States” for crimes committed in the designated area known as the Capital Grounds which includes the both Houses of Congress. [2 USC 1967]

Need I remind Nancy Pelosi, Adam Schiff, Jerry Nadler, Elijah Cummings, Maxine Waters and others that the act of contempt occurs on Capital grounds when a person refuses to honor a lawful Congressional mandate. The Committee issuing the subpoena or other lawful order issues a contempt citation and the person cited, in this case Mnuchin or Rettig is arrested by the Sergeant-at-Arms and “brought to the floor of the Camber, held to answer charges by the presiding officer, and then subjected to punishment as the chamber may dictate [usually imprisonment for punishment reasons, imprisonment for coercive effect, or release … ]". In exercising this power, the Capital Police has been charged with enforcing the laws of the United States – it can arrest both Mnuchin and Rettig and hold them subject to Congress’ inherent contempt authority.

Before you yell “Whoa, Nellie!”, let me assure it has been done before. In 1934, a former Assistant Secretary of Commerce was held in contempt and found his sorry ass jailed for 10 days in punishment. The Supreme Court ruled Congress’ action just, proper and constitutional, see Jurney v MacCracken, 294 US 125 (1935).

So, Congress, stop being a wimp, bite the bullet, call his bluff and take him and his toadies down.




Roy Cohn with client Donald Trump in 1984. Photo courtesy Bettmann/Getty Images

The much-anticipated Special Counsel Mueller’s report of his two-year investigation hit the newsstands this week. Politicians, historians, reporters and just plain folks spent hours agonizing of what was there and what was not. There was “there” that was just plain wrong and there was “there” not put in proper context. The little noticed or commented upon Roy Cohn vignette was, however, spot on.

The report speaks of a testy exchange between President Trump and Don McGahn, his White House Counsel. Trump “asked McGahn about notes he had taken of their meetings”. 

"Lawyers don't take notes. I never had a lawyer who took notes," Trump said, according to the report. McGahn told him he took notes because he's a ‘real lawyer’ and it is important to create a written record”. 

"I've had a lot of great lawyers, like Roy Cohn. He did not take notes," Trump said, referring to the controversial attorney who worked for Senator Joseph McCarthy and who ended his career in disgrace, disbarred.”

For once Trump was right. Roy Cohn never took notes. He was a malevolent genius. He had a full state and federal law library imbedded in his brain. He never forgot a fact or a figure, that is until his final days when he was dying of aids and overcome by cocaine.

How do I know? Because I was there, Charlie - I was on the receiving end of that malevolent mind in three cases, the last one a dispute over the purchase price of Constantin Brancusi’s The Muse, losing all three – one on the merits, and two because the fix was in.

Years later I was waiting for the elevator in the grand marble lobby of the Foley Square Courthouse on Centre Street on my way to argue a case before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals when Roy Cohn breezed in with his entourage of legal acolytes. This was the courthouse where he made his bones – the conviction and subsequent execution of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg.

He ignored me and we all boarded the elevator to the courtroom on the 18th floor. The elevator was still manned by a live operator and as we slowly ascended Roy turned to an assistant and asked for the briefs and the nature of the case on appeal.

After a brief exchange he started speed reading the briefs, apparently for the first time. He kept reading as he walked into the antechamber, the waiting room. Within minutes we were called into that grand wood paneled courtroom where so much law and history had been made.

Even though this was not my first time before the Second Circuit I was nervous, my mouth was dry. Not Roy, he kept reading the briefs and then finished with a long yawn.

Roy’s case was the first to be called. He strode to the dais and without a break argued his case, complete with cases references and citations – a veritable tour de force. He brooked no shit from one of the judges who made a faulty reference to a statute. He quoted verbatim the correct language daring the judge to chastise him at his peril. I sat there with mouth agape at the sheer virtuosity of this bravura performance picked on the fly in a manner of minutes.

Donald Trump was right – Roy Cohn did not take notes; he didn’t have to.