Minimum Competence - Daily Legal News Podcast
Minimum Competence
Fri 6/23 - ChatGPT Lawyer Wrist Slap, BDO Goes Corp, SCOTUS Rules Against Navajo, Huge Fees for Meta Privacy Suit and Titan Sub Liability

Fri 6/23 - ChatGPT Lawyer Wrist Slap, BDO Goes Corp, SCOTUS Rules Against Navajo, Huge Fees for Meta Privacy Suit and Titan Sub Liability

We have the ChatGPT lawyer getting a wrist slap, BDO going corporate, SCOTUS rules against Navajo for water, huge legal fees for Meta privacy suit and the question of liability for the Titan sub.

On this day, June 23rd, in legal history, the Taft–Hartley Act was enacted over the veto of then President Harry Truman. 

The Taft–Hartley Act, also known as the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, is a US federal law that imposes limitations on labor unions. It was passed by the 80th Congress and became law on June 23, 1947, despite President Harry S. Truman's veto. The act was a response to a wave of strikes in 1945 and 1946. Although it was introduced by Republicans, it received significant support from Democrats in Congress.

The Taft–Hartley Act amended the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 and introduced new restrictions on union activities and unfair labor practices. It banned practices such as jurisdictional strikes, wildcat strikes, secondary boycotts, closed shops, and monetary contributions from unions to federal political campaigns. The act also allowed states to enact right-to-work laws, which prohibit union shops.

The law emerged during the early years of the Cold War and required union officers to sign non-communist affidavits. The strike wave and Republican control of Congress in the mid-term elections of 1946 created a favorable environment for the passage of the act. Republican Senator Robert A. Taft and Congressman Fred A. Hartley Jr. introduced separate measures to curb union power and prevent strikes. Eventually, a compromise bill combining elements from both measures was enacted.

President Truman vetoed the Taft–Hartley Act, considering it a threat to free speech. However, Congress overrode his veto with support from both Democrats and Republicans. Despite Truman's opposition, he invoked the act on several occasions during his presidency.

Union leaders from the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) campaigned for Truman in the 1948 election, hoping for a repeal of Taft–Hartley. Truman won the election but failed to fulfill the promise to repeal the law. Additionally, labor's attempt to defeat Republican Senator Robert A. Taft in Ohio in 1950 was unsuccessful, highlighting the limitations of labor's political power.

Overall, the Taft–Hartley Act remains in effect, shaping labor relations in the United States by imposing restrictions on unions and their activities.

Two Manhattan lawyers have been fined $5,000 by a federal judge for submitting a court brief generated by ChatGPT that contained fabricated quotes from non-existent cases. In addition to the fine, they are required to send the sanctions opinion to the actual judges that ChatGPT falsely attributed the fake opinions to. The lawyers may face further disciplinary action from the New York State Bar Association due to their use of ChatGPT. The judge found that one of the lawyers knowingly made false statements to the court and that both lawyers persisted with the fake cases despite doubts about their accuracy. The extensive news coverage of the case and the imposed fines are expected to serve as a deterrent against similar misuse of ChatGPT in the future. The lawyers' conduct has been criticized for abandoning their responsibilities and failing to verify the cases they cited. The episode has wasted time, harmed their client's case against Avianca Airlines, and potentially damaged the reputation of the judges associated with the fake opinions. The lawyers may face a reprimand or censure from a state bar discipline proceeding, but the negative publicity alone is likely to discourage similar misconduct by others.

We talk about this at some length on my other podcast, with co-hosts Jacob Schumer and Jason Ramsland. The name is Esquiring Minds, it's our latest episode, and there is a link in the shownotes. 

Fake ChatGPT Cases Costs Lawyers $5,000 Plus Embarrassment

Esquiring Minds E20

BDO USA LLP, the sixth-largest accounting firm in the US, has announced its plans to convert from a partnership to a professional services corporation based in Delaware. The conversion, set to take effect on July 1, will result in the firm being known as BDO USA P.A. According to the firm, this change in structure will provide advantages that will support its ongoing growth and transformation. 

By transitioning to a corporate structure, BDO will be able to make faster decisions and streamline its tax structure, among other benefits. Partnerships often face challenges when it comes to making strategic decisions, as they typically require extensive consultation and can impede agility. Moving to a corporate structure will also reduce the tax burden on retained earnings, simplify tax compliance for partners, and facilitate the attraction of investment capital. The shift is expected to enhance BDO's operational efficiency and competitive position within the industry.

BDO to Convert to a Corporation, Replacing US Partnership (2)

The US Supreme Court has ruled against the Navajo Nation in their efforts to secure water in the drought-affected southwest region. The court's 5-4 decision reversed a lower court ruling that allowed a lawsuit by the Navajo Nation over Colorado River water to proceed. The Navajo argued that the federal government had an obligation to assist them in accessing water under a peace treaty that promised a "permanent home" and the provision of necessary resources. However, the majority decision, led by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, stated that while the 1868 treaty reserved water for the Navajo Reservation, it did not impose a requirement on the US to take proactive measures to secure water for the tribe. Kavanaugh emphasized that the judiciary's role was not to update laws and allocate water resources. The ruling was seen as disappointing by the Navajo Nation, but the split vote gave them some encouragement. They plan to continue pursuing efforts to obtain quantified water rights in Arizona. The case highlights the challenges of allocating water resources in the arid regions of the American West during times of drought.

Supreme Court Rejects Navajo Nation Bid to Secure Water (3)

Plaintiffs' lawyers involved in a data privacy lawsuit against Meta Platforms, the parent company of Facebook, have requested more than $181 million in legal fees as part of a $725 million settlement. The lawyers, representing plaintiffs in the case, argued that the requested fees, amounting to 25% of the settlement fund, are in line with similar cases of comparable size. They stated that the settlement is the largest data privacy recovery and the largest private settlement ever reached by Facebook. The lawsuit, which originated from the Cambridge Analytica scandal, has been ongoing for nearly five years, with class counsel dedicating over 149,000 hours to the case. The final approval hearing for the settlement is scheduled for September 7.

Plaintiffs lawyers in Facebook data privacy case seek $181 million in fees | Reuters

Legal experts suggest that liability waivers signed by passengers aboard the submersible that was lost during a dive to the Titanic wreck may not protect the vessel's owner from potential lawsuits by the victims' families. Although the passengers are believed to have signed waivers, judges can reject them if evidence of gross negligence or undisclosed hazards is presented. The validity of the waivers would be compromised if there were aspects of the vessel's design or construction that were withheld from passengers or if it was knowingly operated despite being unsuitable for the dive. The applicability of the waivers will depend on the causes of the disaster, which are still under investigation. Families could potentially seek damages from OceanGate or other parties involved in the submersible's design or construction if negligence is proven. OceanGate could file a limitation of liability action, but it would need to prove no knowledge of potential defects, which is challenging. If OceanGate fails in such a case, families could pursue negligence or wrongful death lawsuits. The central questions would revolve around what OceanGate knew about the vessel's safety and what passengers were informed about it. Previous allegations of safety lapses made by a former employee and concerns expressed by industry leaders about the vessel's safety could potentially be cited by plaintiffs during the discovery process.

Titanic sub victims' families could still sue despite liability waivers

Minimum Competence - Daily Legal News Podcast
Minimum Competence
The idea is that this podcast can accompany you on your commute home and will render you minimally competent on the major legal news stories of the day. The transcript is available in the form of a newsletter at