This Day in Legal History: President Lincoln Offers Amnesty to Confederates
On this day in legal history, December 8 marks a significant moment during the American Civil War era. In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln initiated a groundbreaking approach towards reconciliation and reconstruction of the nation torn by civil strife. He issued a Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction, extending an olive branch to those who had participated in the Confederate cause. This proclamation invited all Confederate citizens, except for certain excluded classes, to swear allegiance to the United States and its Constitution, thereby offering them a chance to reintegrate into the Union.
However, the initial rollout of this amnesty program encountered logistical and administrative challenges, particularly regarding the process of administering the oath of allegiance. To address these complications, President Lincoln released a subsequent proclamation on March 26, 1864. This second directive expanded the authority to administer the oath, allowing any commissioned officer, whether civil, military, or naval, in the service of the United States to do so. Furthermore, it extended this authority to officials in territories not actively involved in the insurrection, provided they were legally qualified to administer oaths.
It's noteworthy that while these proclamations opened the door for many Confederates to rejoin the Union, they explicitly excluded certain groups. These included military prisoners and individuals detained for offenses against the United States. However, an interesting exception was made for Confederate deserters, who were permitted to volunteer for the oath and thus become eligible for amnesty.
This dual-proclamation strategy by Lincoln was a pivotal step in the United States' journey towards healing and unification after the Civil War, reflecting a balance between justice and mercy in a period marked by deep national divisions.
Seven states, led by Ohio, have filed a lawsuit against the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) challenging its Transfer Eligibility Rule as anti-competitive. This rule restricts student athletes from competing for a year if they transfer between Division I schools. The lawsuit, filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia, alleges that the rule violates Section 1 of the Sherman Act, which prohibits trade restraints. West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, one of the participants in the lawsuit, criticizes the rule for its minimal connection to academic or athletic amateurism and argues that it harms both college athletes and consumers.
The lawsuit was prompted, in part, by the NCAA's denial of a transfer waiver for athlete RaeQuan Battle, who sought to play basketball for West Virginia University after transferring from Montana State University. The NCAA's transfer rules require student athletes to obtain permission for transfers, usually only granted under specific circumstances like health or urgent needs.
The complaint argues that the transfer rule unfairly restricts players' mobility and opportunities, ironically under the guise of protecting their welfare. It prevents athletes from optimizing their own welfare by making them choose between immediate ineligibility and transferring to a better-suited school.
Additionally, this lawsuit is among several recent legal challenges against the NCAA. These include lawsuits by student athletes over fair compensation for their name, image, and likeness, and by NCAA volunteer coaches alleging a conspiracy to avoid paying them. Recently, college athletes gained class action status in a lawsuit against the NCAA for denying compensation for the use of their likenesses, potentially leading to damages up to $4.5 billion. Another class action in California challenges the NCAA's cap on athlete compensation.
The Los Angeles trial court system is experimenting with an artificial intelligence (AI) tool designed to redact minors' personal information from court records. This initiative, led by Accenture PLC, involves using AI to identify and remove sensitive data such as social security numbers, addresses, and medical information from minors' case files. This is part of an effort to enhance privacy and efficiency in handling court documents.
Los Angeles Superior Court Presiding Judge Samantha Jessner supports the use of AI for good, believing that this tool can improve efficiency in managing similar tasks. Currently, the court employs software akin to Microsoft Word's find-and-replace feature, requiring manual input by court staff.
Fordham University School of Law Associate Professor Chinmayi Sharma sees potential in this AI tool to alleviate long wait times and backlogs, particularly in family court proceedings. However, the tool is still in development, and it's uncertain whether the Los Angeles Superior Court will ultimately implement it.
The Court Technology Services division plans to manage access to the tool. Clerks will feed documents into the system for redaction, and logged-in users will be able to view the redacted documents. The staff will review these redactions to ensure accuracy.
Sharma notes that human oversight is crucial, as the tool's suggestions are subject to final approval by a person. If errors are identified, documents can be taken down, corrected, and republished.
Concerns exist regarding potential AI biases, especially since AI models often perform better with data associated with more represented demographics like white people. However, if the AI relies solely on court documents for training, which more accurately reflect the court's demographics, the likelihood of bias might be reduced.
David Evan Harris, a scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, emphasizes the need for public scrutiny, bias testing, and transparency regarding the vendor. He also stresses the importance of considering the overall ecosystem surrounding the tool, including user interface ease and staff workload.
Sharma warns of the risks of over-reliance on the AI system by employees, drawing parallels to law firm associates who might trust AI-generated sources without thorough verification. This highlights the need for careful checks even as AI assists in the redaction process.
Donald Trump is launching an appeal that could reach the Supreme Court, representing his best chance to avoid a trial next year over criminal charges related to his attempts to overturn the 2020 election. Legal experts suggest that the appeal might not succeed on its merits but could delay the trial, allowing Trump to continue his campaign against President Joe Biden. His lawyers are appealing a ruling by a federal judge in Washington, D.C., which rejected Trump's claim of immunity from prosecution for actions taken while president.
The trial is scheduled to begin in March, but this appeal could significantly postpone it. Trump's legal team has requested to halt all proceedings before U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan while the appeal is pending. Special Counsel Jack Smith's office has accused Trump of consistently attempting to delay and disrupt the trial.
Trump faces charges of defrauding the United States and obstructing Congress through schemes to halt the transfer of power after losing the 2020 election. He has pleaded not guilty and argued that prosecuting former presidents for official actions would weaken the presidency, an argument dismissed by Judge Chutkan.
The timeline for the appeal process is uncertain. The D.C. Circuit court could expedite its review, possibly maintaining the current trial schedule. However, if the appeals process is prolonged and the Supreme Court decides to hear the case, the March trial date becomes highly unlikely, potentially delaying the case for months.
Trump's appeal strategy could impact his simultaneous criminal prosecutions in other cases. Any significant delay could affect the timing of these trials, especially as the 2024 election approaches. Trump has consistently denied all charges, labeling them a "witch hunt."
Gene Levoff, Apple's former top corporate lawyer, has been sentenced to probation after pleading guilty to U.S. insider trading charges. U.S. District Judge William Martini in Newark, New Jersey, handed down a sentence of four years of probation and 2,000 hours of community service. Additionally, Levoff was ordered to pay a $30,000 fine and forfeit $604,000, the amount he gained illegally through insider trading.
Levoff admitted to six counts of securities fraud, each of which could have carried a maximum 20-year prison term and a $5 million fine. His lawyer, Kevin Marino, expressed satisfaction with the sentencing, considering it fair and appropriate.
Prosecutors revealed that Levoff used his positions at Apple, including corporate secretary, head of corporate law, and co-chair of a committee reviewing the company's financial results, to make illegal trades. He gained $604,000 from trading over $14 million between 2011 and 2016, exploiting confidential information and ignoring Apple's "blackout periods" that prohibit trading before financial results are publicized.
Levoff was also responsible for enforcing Apple's insider trading policy, which he violated. Apple, headquartered in Cupertino, California, terminated Levoff in September 2018, five months before he faced criminal charges.
A lawsuit has been filed in a Chicago federal court against major video game developers, including Activision Blizzard Inc., Epic Games Inc., Roblox Corp., and other companies, alleging that their games have led to addiction in a 9-year-old. The child, identified as D.G. in the complaint, reportedly suffers from severe emotional distress, diminished social interactions, loss of friends, poor hygiene, and withdrawal symptoms such as rage and anger due to playing games like Fortnite, Call of Duty, and Grand Theft Auto for six to eight hours daily.
The lawsuit claims that video game addiction is a national epidemic affecting youth, driven by feedback loops, reward systems, and microtransactions in games. These microtransactions allow users to spend real money on in-game perks, exploiting psychological mechanisms and neuroscience, particularly impacting vulnerable groups like minors.
D.G. plays across various platforms, including Xbox, PS4, iPhone, and Android devices. The complaint also points to patents owned by the gaming companies that allegedly encourage in-game spending, thereby deceiving and harming children while benefitting the companies financially.
The Entertainment Software Association, a video game trade group, responded to the lawsuit, stating that the industry prioritizes positive experiences for players and provides tools for managing gameplay aspects. The trade group argues that billions of people globally enjoy video games healthily and responsibly, and claims to the contrary are not fact-based.
The lawsuit also names Apple Inc., Google LLC, Microsoft Corp., and Nintendo of America Inc. as defendants.