Minimum Competence - Daily Legal News Podcast
Minimum Competence
Legal News for Fri 5/17 - SCOTUS Upholds CFPB Funding, Cohen Testimony Bolstered by Evidence, US Airline Lawyers Make $ and MSFT Appeals $242m Patent Verdict

Legal News for Fri 5/17 - SCOTUS Upholds CFPB Funding, Cohen Testimony Bolstered by Evidence, US Airline Lawyers Make $ and MSFT Appeals $242m Patent Verdict

We have the Supreme Court's decision on CFPB funding, Michael Cohen's testimony against Trump bolstered by evidence, high pay for U.S. airline lawyers, and Microsoft's appeal of a $242M patent verdict
Norway, pencil sketch

This Day in Legal History: Constitution of Norway Signed

On this day, May 17, in 1814, the Constitution of Norway was signed, marking a pivotal moment in the country's history. This significant event established Norway as an independent kingdom, following centuries of union with Denmark. The constitution was drafted at Eidsvoll by the Norwegian Constituent Assembly, composed of prominent figures who were determined to assert Norway's sovereignty and democratic principles.

The document drew inspiration from both the United States Constitution and the French Revolution, emphasizing individual rights, separation of powers, and a parliamentary system. It remains one of the oldest constitutions still in use today, symbolizing Norway's commitment to democracy and freedom.

The signing of the constitution laid the groundwork for Norway's future political development, even though it initially faced challenges. Shortly after its adoption, Norway entered into a union with Sweden, which lasted until 1905. Despite this, the constitution was largely preserved and served as a foundation for Norwegian governance during the union period.

Today, May 17 is celebrated as Constitution Day, or "Syttende Mai," a national holiday in Norway. The day is marked by vibrant parades, patriotic displays, and public speeches, reflecting the pride Norwegians take in their constitutional heritage. It is a day for Norwegians to celebrate their history, culture, and the enduring values enshrined in their constitution.

Constitution Day serves as a reminder of Norway's journey towards independence and the establishment of a democratic society. It honors the vision and determination of those who, over two centuries ago, laid the foundation for a free and sovereign nation. The celebrations highlight the enduring relevance of the principles set forth in 1814, which continue to guide and inspire Norway's democratic institutions today.

On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the funding mechanism for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), allowing it to continue drawing money from the Federal Reserve rather than Congress. This decision was a victory for the Biden administration and a setback for conservative critics of the agency. However, the Supreme Court's conservative majority still poses a threat to federal agency powers, with pending decisions that could limit their authority in various sectors. These upcoming rulings, expected by the end of June, involve significant cases concerning the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The CFPB ruling, a 7-2 decision written by Justice Clarence Thomas, reversed a lower court's decision that the funding method violated the appropriations clause of the U.S. Constitution. Despite this win, the broader conservative push to reduce federal regulatory power continues, with legal scholars predicting further setbacks for agencies. The SEC faces challenges to its in-house judicial proceedings, while the NMFS case could lead to the reassessment of the "Chevron deference," a doctrine that directs courts to defer to federal agencies' interpretations of ambiguous laws.

Additionally, the EPA's "Good Neighbor" plan, aimed at reducing ozone emissions, is under scrutiny by several Republican-led states and energy companies. These cases reflect ongoing conservative efforts to limit the scope of federal regulations and reshape administrative law.

Despite consumer watchdog's US Supreme Court win, agency powers still on chopping block

At Donald Trump's criminal trial in New York, his former attorney Michael Cohen testified that Trump directed him to pay Stormy Daniels $130,000 to silence her about an alleged affair before the 2016 election and then falsify business records to cover it up. While Trump's lawyers have tried to discredit Cohen, experts note that prosecutors have supported his testimony with phone logs, documents, and other witnesses. For instance, David Pecker, former publisher of the National Enquirer, testified about efforts to suppress damaging stories, and recordings and call logs showed frequent contact between Trump and Cohen during the negotiations. 

Despite substantial circumstantial evidence suggesting Trump's involvement, Cohen's claims about specific conversations remain uncorroborated, especially without testimony from Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization's former CFO, who could confirm or refute Cohen's statements but is not expected to testify. The defense will likely argue that Trump delegated detailed business matters and that there was nothing improper about categorizing payments as legal fees. Trump, who has pleaded not guilty to the charges, claims the case is a partisan attempt to disrupt his presidential campaign.

Trump prosecutors' hard evidence bolsters Michael Cohen's testimony, experts say

Top lawyers for major U.S. airlines collectively earned almost $50 million in 2023, highlighting the industry's reliance on in-house legal expertise. United Airlines led with President Brett Hart receiving nearly $15 million, including substantial stock awards and cash compensation. Delta Air Lines' Chief Legal Officer Peter Carter earned over $13.1 million, reflecting his additional role and pandemic leadership.

These compensation packages underscore the crucial role of legal teams in navigating regulatory, union, and consumer disputes. Airlines face numerous legal challenges, such as the recent lawsuit against the U.S. Transportation Department and passenger litigation over aircraft issues.

American Airlines paid its Vice Chair Stephen Johnson more than $10.2 million, while legal chief Priya Aiyar received $7.8 million. Despite pandemic pay cuts, airlines now offer competitive salaries to retain top legal talent.

Other industry legal leaders also received significant compensation, with FedEx's Mark Allen earning $5.4 million and JetBlue's Brandon Nelson $4.9 million. This trend reflects the high value airlines place on experienced legal professionals to manage complex legal and regulatory environments.

US Airlines’ $50 Million Lawyer Pay Shows Industry’s Legal Needs

Microsoft's upcoming appeal of a $242 million patent verdict is set to intensify debates about the role of foreign activities and apportionment in calculating damages. The verdict, awarded to IPA Technologies Inc., found that Microsoft’s Cortana infringed on a patent related to its US-based servers. The jury decided that each time a user command was processed by these servers, it constituted infringement.

The central issue in the appeal is how damages are apportioned, particularly regarding the extent of infringement and the inclusion of non-infringing features. Legal experts anticipate that Microsoft will challenge the damages calculation, arguing that the verdict oversimplifies the product's functionality and inflates the damages.

A significant aspect of the debate involves the Federal Circuit's recent decision in Brumfield v. IBG LLC, which allows for the consideration of foreign sales when calculating damages if they result from domestic infringement. This precedent was used to support the current ruling against Microsoft.

Judge Richard G. Andrews ruled that the damages theory used by IPA was appropriately apportioned, considering both infringing and non-infringing elements of Cortana. However, the complexity of apportionment and the challenge of accurately valuing the patented technology’s contribution to the overall product make this a contentious area likely to be scrutinized on appeal.

Legal experts believe that while Microsoft will argue that the calculation was flawed, the detailed economic and technical analyses required in such cases will be pivotal. The Federal Circuit's history of closely reviewing these aspects suggests a rigorous examination ahead.

Microsoft Mega-Verdict Appeal Primed to Test Patent-Damages Law

Maurice Ravel, pencil sketch

This week’s closing theme is by Maurice Ravel. 

Maurice Ravel, a prominent figure in the world of classical music, was born in 1875 in the Basque town of Ciboure, France. Renowned for his intricate compositions and masterful orchestration, Ravel's work spans a variety of genres, each infused with his distinctive style. One of his remarkable contributions to the realm of classical music is the "Rapsodie espagnole," a four-movement orchestral suite that showcases his fascination with Spanish culture and music.

Among Ravel's diverse compositions, "L'heure espagnole," a one-act opera, stands out for its vibrant portrayal of a comedic love story set in a Spanish clockmaker's shop. Premiering in 1911 at the Opéra-Comique in Paris, this opera exemplifies Ravel's ability to blend humor with musical sophistication. The fourth movement of "Rapsodie espagnole," titled "Feria assez animé," embodies the spirited essence of a Spanish festival, capturing the lively and festive atmosphere through its dynamic rhythms and vivid orchestration.

"Feria assez animé" transports listeners to the heart of a bustling Spanish feria, where the excitement of the crowd and the exuberance of the celebration are palpable. Ravel's meticulous attention to detail and his exceptional skill in orchestration are evident in this piece, making it a delightful auditory experience. As we delve into this week’s closing theme, we invite you to immerse yourself in the colorful and animated world that Ravel so brilliantly brings to life.

Without further ado, "L'heure espagnole" by Maurice Ravel, enjoy.

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