On this day in legal history, we have another dark period in United States Supreme Court history–on November 3, 1884, the Supreme Court ruled in Elk v. Wilkins that John Elk, a Winnebago man, was not a citizen entitled to protection of the 14th and 15th Amendments of the US constitution.
Today we delve into a disheartening chapter of the United States Supreme Court annals with the case of Elk v. Wilkins, 112 U.S. 94, decided on November 3, 1884. The case centered around John Elk, a member of the Winnebago Tribe, who argued that his residence in Omaha, Nebraska accorded him citizenship under the recently adopted Fourteenth Amendment. The crux of the argument lay in the interpretation of the phrase “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” within the amendment, which Elk contended included Native Americans residing off reservations.
The Supreme Court, however, held in a 7-2 decision that Elk was not “subject to the jurisdiction” of the United States at birth merely by virtue of his domicile within the United States. The majority opinion, penned by Justice Gray, drew a sharp distinction between allegiance by birth within the territorial dominion and mere residence. It underscored the prevailing notion of the era that tribal nations held a distinct status, which placed them outside the immediate jurisdiction of the U.S., hence their members were exempt from the automatic citizenship provision of the Fourteenth Amendment.
The dissenting opinions, though obviously in the minority, recognized the grave injustice and marginalization inflicted upon Native Americans. Justice John Marshall Harlan, nicknamed “The Great Dissenter” owing to his penchant for getting the argument right in his dissents, authored a contrary opinion. The dissenters argued for a broader interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment, contending that its framers intended to extend citizenship to all persons born within the territorial limits of the United States. The case underscored the Supreme Court’s complicity in perpetuating the marginalization of Native Americans during that epoch.
The implications of Elk v. Wilkins were profound and far-reaching, fostering a climate of legal exclusivity and racial discrimination. It wasn't until over half a century later, with the enactment of the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924, that all Native Americans were granted U.S. citizenship. This case remains a bleak reminder of the judicial hurdles marginalized groups have faced in their fight for equality and recognition under the law. Through its narrow interpretation of citizenship, the Court in Elk v. Wilkins reflected and reinforced the prejudiced attitudes of its time, contributing to a legacy of disenfranchisement that took many decades to begin to undo.
After a month-long trial, Sam Bankman-Fried, associated with the FTX exchange, was found guilty of seven counts of fraud and conspiracy, following a fast deliberation by the Manhattan jury. This verdict came as a victory for Manhattan US Attorney Damian Williams, marking a significant prosecution in the crypto sphere. Bankman-Fried, once at the helm of a $32 billion valued FTX, now faces a potential maximum of 20 years in prison for each serious charge, with sentencing scheduled for March. The prosecution accused him of orchestrating a large-scale fraud, diverting FTX customer funds to an affiliated hedge fund, Alameda Research, for risky investments and personal expenditures, eventually leading to the bankruptcy of both entities.
This case underscored vulnerabilities within the crypto sector, stirring diverse industry reactions. Some saw it as a step towards a more regulated future, while others saw it as a testament to the sector's inherent flaws attracting criminal activities. Unlike other high-profile fraud cases, the verdict here was reached swiftly, contrasting notably with the eight-day deliberations in the fraud cases of Elizabeth Holmes and Bernie Ebbers. The trial revealed a complex narrative with testimonies from Bankman-Fried's close associates, all implicating him in the fraud, showcasing the human drama entwined with the legal proceedings.
Bankman-Fried’s defense portrayed him as a dedicated individual caught in a deteriorating situation, while Ari Redbord highlighted the case's significance due to the size of the fraud and Bankman-Fried's fall from grace. The conviction paints a grim picture for Bankman-Fried, whose legal team is considering an appeal, reflecting an ongoing saga of legal battles within the evolving landscape of cryptocurrency markets.
In a preliminary verdict, a California State Bar Court judge found John Eastman, an attorney for former President Trump, culpable on 11 counts of moral and legal violations, concerning his alleged conspiracy to overturn the 2020 presidential election results. This followed 32 days of testimony, with Judge Yvette Roland indicating that the case would proceed to rebuttal and aggravation phases. Eastman, earlier on, invoked his First Amendment rights, claiming his statements were made as a private citizen, not as counsel to Trump, especially concerning remarks made before the Jan. 6 Capitol raid.
Eastman, a former law professor, upheld his stance that illegalities in ballot counting and local election authorities' actions without legislative authorization invalidated the election. He also testified that Vice President Mike Pence had the authority to delay electoral ballot counting to allow states to resolve disputes, a claim refuted by Pence's and White House legal counsel. The trial, aiming potentially to revoke Eastman's license, is set to continue with closing arguments and testimonies from election officials.
Stanford University political science professor Justin Grimmer criticized Eastman's analysis methodology, particularly regarding signature rejection rates on absentee ballots in Georgia, labeling the assumptions and errors in Eastman's court filings as “ridiculous.” Grimmer, through his testimony, highlighted that 90% of the lower rejection rates were due to early ballot returns and changes in absentee ballot envelope design, discrediting Eastman's claims. His stance was supported by a National Academy of Sciences article he co-authored, debunking statistical claims challenging the 2020 election outcome.
The upcoming aggravation phase will see election professionals providing evidence against Eastman, emphasizing the harm caused by false claims of election fraud, including harassment of election officials and undermined public trust. Eastman will have an opportunity to rebut evidence before the post-trial briefing deadline on Nov. 22. Judge Roland will then have 90 days to issue a decision, subject to appeal, with the California Supreme Court making the final judgment on disciplinary actions against Eastman.
Nascar, along with Rev Racing, a team it supports for developing female and minority drivers, has been accused of exhibiting bias against white men amid its diversity initiatives, according to claims by America First Legal, a conservative legal group led by former Trump adviser Stephen Miller. Miller, you will remember, is the gent that went after Kellogg’s, accusing them of making Pop-Tarts gay. His group has approached the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to investigate the alleged "illegal discrimination against White, male Americans" by Nascar and Rev Racing. Over the recent year, America First Legal has leveled accusations against numerous companies, like Morgan Stanley, Major League Baseball, McDonald’s, and Starbucks, asserting that their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs are discriminatory.
The EEOC has not yet publicly responded to these requests from America First Legal, which if pursued, could potentially place the agency in a challenging position of scrutinizing corporate measures intended to diminish workplace discrimination. The conservative group argues that the DEI initiatives by Nascar and Rev Racing, which include a "diversity driver development program," "diversity pit crew development program," and a "NASCAR diversity internship program," infringe on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibits discrimination based on race and sex.
These programs initially stated they were designed for women and ethnic minorities but were amended on September 1 to express a focus on applicants from "diverse backgrounds and experiences," as per the information in the letter from America First Legal to the EEOC. Despite this change in phrasing, the group contends that Nascar and Rev Racing persist in executing unlawful hiring practices under the guise of a "diverse backgrounds and experiences" rebranding. As of now, a spokesperson for Nascar has not provided a comment regarding these allegations.
Eric Trump is anticipated to undergo further questioning in a New York fraud trial concerning the Trump Organization's alleged inflation of asset values to obtain favorable terms from lenders and insurers. Despite his claims of being unaware of the financial estimates of various assets under scrutiny, evidence presented in court suggests Eric Trump was part of the decision-making process regarding asset valuations. Judge Arthur Engoron has already established that fraudulent inflation occurred, with the trial now focusing on determining the penalties. New York Attorney General Letitia James is advocating for substantial penalties, including up to $250 million in fines and a prohibition on the Trumps owning companies in New York.
Eric Trump has denounced the allegations, accusing James and Engoron of political bias, which has resulted in a $15,000 fine for violating a limited gag order. The trial, expected to run through December, is part of multiple legal challenges faced by the Trump family, amidst Donald Trump's efforts to secure the Republican presidential nomination for the upcoming election, despite facing 91 felony charges across four separate criminal cases. The trial has also featured testimonies from other key figures, including Michael Cohen and Donald Jr., both shedding light on the inner workings of the Trump Organization's asset valuation processes during Donald Trump's presidency.
On November 2, attorneys representing Rudy Giuliani, former New York City Mayor and personal lawyer to former President Donald Trump, appealed to the Washington, D.C., Board of Professional Responsibility to dismiss a recommendation aimed at disbarment concerning his involvement in a lawsuit challenging the 2020 election results in Pennsylvania. Giuliani's lawyers argued his role was minor in the suit which sought to nullify numerous votes in Pennsylvania. John Leventhal, Giuliani's attorney, mentioned the lawsuit was inherently flawed, and Giuliani had little scope to enhance it upon his involvement.
In July, a committee proposed Giuliani's disbarment, citing violations of two legal ethics rules associated with the "frivolous" lawsuit. It highlighted Giuliani's unsubstantiated allegations of widespread voter fraud. Hamilton "Phil" Fox, leading the D.C. disciplinary office, stressed that a lesser sanction than disbarment would be "virtually meaningless," criticizing Giuliani for showing no remorse.
In the hearing, board members queried if the lack of sanctions by federal judges, who had dismissed Giuliani's lawsuit earlier, should be considered. Fox responded that the professional rules in discussion do not necessitate a prior judicial misconduct finding. Barry Kamins, another lawyer for Giuliani, found it concerning that the committee seemed to overlook Giuliani's past achievements, although board chair Bernadette Sargeant questioned if these accomplishments enabled him to pursue a frivolous lawsuit.
The nine-member board plans to deliver its opinion later, with the D.C. Court of Appeals having the ultimate authority on disciplinary decisions regarding D.C.-licensed lawyers. This development is part of Giuliani's broader legal challenges, as he alongside Trump and other attorneys, faces criminal charges in Georgia's Fulton County for purportedly assisting in efforts to overturn the election results, charges to which Giuliani has pleaded not guilty.