Minimum Competence - Daily Legal News Podcast
Minimum Competence
Legal News for Fri 2/23 - Zuck Wants Out of Suit, So Does Trump, and Launch of a Judicial Clerkship Database

Legal News for Fri 2/23 - Zuck Wants Out of Suit, So Does Trump, and Launch of a Judicial Clerkship Database

On today's episode, Zuckerberg's bid to dodge personal liability in child addiction suits, the launch of a judge clerkship database and Trump wants his charges dismissed (doesn’t everyone?).
Mark Zuckerberg and Donald Trump running from a courthouse, pencil sketch

This Day in Legal History: W.E.B. DuBois is Born

On this day in legal history, February 23 commemorates the birth of W.E.B. DuBois in 1868, a seminal figure in the realm of civil rights and one of the founding members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). DuBois was not only instrumental in the creation of the NAACP but also served as a beacon of intellectual and social advocacy, championing the rights and advancement of African Americans throughout his life. His scholarship, particularly his seminal work "The Souls of Black Folk," challenged the pervasive racial injustices of his time and offered a compelling narrative that underscored the importance of civil rights, social justice, and equality.

DuBois's advocacy extended into the legal sphere, where his efforts helped to lay the foundation for future legal challenges against segregation and discrimination. He was a proponent of using legal action as a means to achieve civil rights, influencing key figures and strategies in subsequent civil rights movements. His international work, including his role in the Pan-African Congresses, aimed at garnering global support against racism and imperialism, highlighting the interconnectedness of the struggle for justice worldwide.

Moreover, DuBois's commitment to education and political activism paved the way for future generations of African American lawyers, scholars, and activists. His insistence on the right to education and political participation for African Americans contributed to the desegregation of schools and expanded voting rights, themes that would find their echoes in landmark legal decisions throughout the 20th century.

Through his life, W.E.B. DuBois exemplified the power of combining scholarly research with activism. His legacy is not just in the organizations he helped to found or the immediate legal battles he influenced, but also in his enduring impact on the strategies and philosophies of the civil rights movement. His birthday serves as a reminder of the ongoing struggle for equality and the importance of relentless advocacy and intellectual engagement in pursuing social justice.

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta Platforms Inc., is aiming to be exempt from personal liability in lawsuits alleging that social media platforms have addicted children. These lawsuits, currently pending in a California federal court, target not just Meta but also Zuckerberg individually. The core of these legal challenges involves accusations that Zuckerberg ignored warnings about the dangers of Instagram and Facebook to minors, choosing instead to misrepresent the safety of these platforms publicly. Plaintiffs argue that Zuckerberg, as the prominent figure of Meta, bears a direct responsibility to be truthful about the risks posed to children's health by the company's platforms.

The lawsuits leverage a notable quote from Spider-Man comics to underline their argument: "With great power comes great responsibility," criticizing Zuckerberg for not adhering to this principle. Zuckerberg's defense hinges on the assertion that his role as CEO does not inherently make him personally responsible for the company's actions. His legal team further contends that any statements he made are protected under the First Amendment, arguing there was no obligation for him to disclose internal safety findings.

The litigation against Zuckerberg forms part of a broader wave of legal action targeting social media companies, with over a thousand lawsuits filed in various courts. These cases accuse companies like Meta, Google, TikTok, and Snap of contributing to mental health issues among young users. The outcomes of these cases could have significant implications, potentially setting precedents for holding high-ranking executives personally liable for their companies' actions.

In addition to these suits, Zuckerberg faces personal liability in a separate case related to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, highlighting the ongoing legal challenges for social media executives over their platforms' impacts and their personal roles in company practices. The legal scrutiny extends beyond the courtroom, with social media's influence on youth mental health and its role in spreading harmful content drawing critical attention from lawmakers and the public alike.

Mark Zuckerberg Wants Out of Social Media Addiction Lawsuits

The Legal Accountability Project is launching a Centralized Clerkship Database in March, aimed at providing prospective law clerks with insights into judges they may work for, based on hundreds of surveys from former clerks. This initiative, spearheaded by Aliza Shatzman, who founded the group after a negative clerking experience, seeks to "democratize information" about the often opaque and rumor-driven process of selecting clerkships. The database, accessible to those who register and pay a $20 subscription fee, offers a platform for sharing candid experiences, aiming to break the traditional silence surrounding clerkships, especially those marked by negative or neutral experiences. 

Shatzman emphasizes that the database addresses a critical need for transparency in the clerking process, where young lawyers and law students can find themselves in vulnerable positions due to the significant power imbalance between them and the judges they serve. Over 800 responses have been collected for the database, with respondents given the option to remain anonymous or be named, provided their identities can be verified to ensure the integrity of the information shared.

The platform not only allows for the sharing of experiences but also serves as an accountability tool, highlighting the behavior and management styles of judges, thus potentially influencing future clerking decisions. It represents a significant step towards transparency in the judiciary by allowing prospective clerks to make informed decisions based on the experiences of their predecessors.

Judge Clerkship Database to Launch With Hundreds of Testimonials

Former U.S. President Donald Trump has requested a federal judge to dismiss the criminal charges against him, which accuse him of mishandling sensitive national security documents after leaving office. Trump's legal team argues that the prosecution is flawed, challenging the appointment of Special Counsel Jack Smith, claiming a conflict with U.S. laws on presidential records, and stating that the main charge is vaguely defined. Trump, who faces a 40-count indictment in Florida for retaining classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago resort, has pleaded not guilty. His defense includes claims of presidential immunity, stating that the allegations are based on decisions made during his presidency. Prosecutors have dismissed Trump's immunity claim as "frivolous," highlighting that the charged conduct occurred after he left office. With a trial set for May, Trump has sought a delay, while his lawyers also intend to argue for dismissal based on claims of selective prosecution and prosecutorial misconduct. The case's progression may be affected by Trump's ability to appeal against a potential denial of his immunity claim, as seen in other legal challenges he faces.

Trump moves to dismiss charges accusing him of mishandling classified documents | Reuters

This week’s closing theme is by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and brought to us thanks to the Internet Memory Foundation (formerly the European Archive Foundation) which is a non-profit foundation whose purpose is archiving content of the World Wide Web. It supports projects and research that include the preservation and protection of digital media content in various forms to form a digital library of cultural content.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, born on January 27, 1756, in Salzburg, Austria, is revered as one of the most prolific and influential composers in the history of classical music. His extensive body of work encompasses a wide range of genres, including symphonies, operas, concertos, and chamber music, reflecting both his genius and the breadth of his contributions to the musical world. Mozart's ability to meld intricate harmonies with the expressive depth and the innovative complexity of his compositions has made his music timeless, resonating with audiences centuries after his death.

One of Mozart's most beloved compositions is the "Serenade in G Major," K. 525, popularly known as "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" ("A Little Night Music"). Composed in 1787, this serenade is notable for its lively, joyful melodies and its elegance, embodying the quintessential characteristics of the Classical era. The first movement, "I. Allegro," in particular, stands out for its memorable opening motif and the graceful interplay of musical lines, showcasing Mozart's mastery in crafting themes that are at once sophisticated and accessible.

"Romance," the second movement of "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik," is a serene contrast to the vivacity of the first, offering listeners a moment of calm and introspection. This movement exemplifies Mozart's skill in creating music that speaks to the human experience, weaving melodies that capture a wide range of emotions within a single composition. The piece's enduring popularity attests to its universal appeal and the genius of its creator, who, even in a work intended as light evening entertainment, could touch the depths of the human soul.

Mozart's legacy extends far beyond his compositions; he is a symbol of artistic perfection and the eternal beauty of music. "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik," with its blend of elegance, clarity, and emotional depth, serves as a perfect introduction to Mozart's oeuvre, offering a glimpse into the mind of a composer whose works have defined the classical canon and continue to inspire musicians and music lovers around the world.

Without further ado, Mozart’s second movement of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik

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