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Legal News for Fri 5/31 - Trump Guilty * 34, Musk Alleged Securities Fraud, CJ Roberts Refuses Meeting with Senators
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Legal News for Fri 5/31 - Trump Guilty * 34, Musk Alleged Securities Fraud, CJ Roberts Refuses Meeting with Senators

Trump guilty of 3 counts, Musk's alleged securities fraud in acquiring Twitter, and Chief Justice Roberts rejecting senators' call for Alito's recusal in cases linked to the 2020 election.
Donald Trump in a jail cell, pencil sketch.

This Day in Legal History: South Africa Established

On May 31, 1910, the Union of South Africa was established, marking a significant moment in the nation's history as it unified the previously separate colonies of the Cape, Natal, Transvaal, and the Orange Free State under British dominion. This union created a self-governing dominion within the British Empire, granting it considerable autonomy while still recognizing the British monarch. The formation of the Union set the stage for a centralized government, which would later play a crucial role in the institutionalization of apartheid.

Exactly fifty-one years later, on May 31, 1961, the Republic of South Africa was proclaimed. This pivotal event signified South Africa's transition from a dominion of the British Commonwealth to an independent republic. This move was largely driven by rising nationalist sentiments and the desire to break free from British influence. The establishment of the Republic came after a referendum in 1960, where a narrow majority of white voters supported the change.

The creation of the Republic also marked South Africa's exit from the British Commonwealth, reflecting its increasingly isolated position on the global stage due to its apartheid policies. These policies would continue to draw international condemnation and sanctions, leading to significant internal and external pressure for reform. The legal and political landscape of South Africa underwent dramatic changes during this period, shaping the country's future and its eventual path towards democracy and the end of apartheid in the early 1990s.


Yesterday, on Thursday May 30, 2024, Donald Trump made history as the first U.S. president to be convicted of a crime. A New York jury found him guilty of falsifying business documents to conceal a payment to porn star Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election. The jury deliberated for two days before delivering a unanimous verdict on all 34 felony counts. Trump remained stoic as the verdict was read and later declared the trial a sham, asserting his innocence and vowing to appeal.

Sentencing is scheduled for July 11, just before the Republican Party's nomination process for the November election. The crime carries a maximum sentence of four years, but Trump will not be jailed before sentencing. This conviction adds complexity to the upcoming election, with Trump aiming to reclaim the White House from President Joe Biden. Despite the verdict, Trump’s legal troubles do not disqualify him from running for office.

The case revolved around Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen's testimony about a $130,000 hush money payment to Daniels, which was disguised as legal expenses. Cohen's credibility was a major focus during the trial, but the jury believed the evidence supported his claims. The swift verdict indicated strong juror consensus on Trump's guilt.

The Biden campaign emphasized that the verdict demonstrates no one is above the law, urging voters to reject Trump in the election. Meanwhile, Trump’s campaign labeled him a political prisoner and hinted at selecting a female vice-presidential candidate. This landmark case, though deemed the least consequential of Trump's legal challenges, significantly impacts his political future and the nation's political landscape.

Donald Trump becomes first US president convicted of a crime | Reuters


A lawsuit filed by a Twitter investor claims that Elon Musk ignored repeated warnings about U.S. securities disclosure obligations while secretly amassing shares in Twitter in 2022. According to the lawsuit, a Morgan Stanley executive who assisted Musk in this process repeatedly informed Musk and his aide, Jared Birchall, about the need to disclose when their stake exceeded 5%. Despite discussing these requirements, Musk and Birchall allegedly delayed disclosure to buy shares at lower prices, saving Musk over $200 million.

The Oklahoma firefighters pension fund accuses Musk of defrauding investors by concealing his growing stake, thereby acquiring shares at "artificially depressed prices." The lawsuit claims that Birchall falsely assured the Morgan Stanley executive that legal advice had been sought when it had not been until Musk's stake exceeded 9%.

Musk eventually acquired Twitter for $44 billion in October 2022, renaming it X. The lawsuit contends that Musk and Birchall deliberately ignored disclosure requirements to avoid increased costs and public scrutiny. Musk's lawyers have argued that any failure to disclose was inadvertent, attributing it to Musk's busy schedule. This incident is part of Musk's ongoing conflict with the SEC, which began in 2018 over a misleading tweet about taking Tesla private.

Musk disregarded warnings, hid Twitter stake, US lawsuit claims | Reuters


On May 30, 2024, U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts denied a request from Democratic Senators Dick Durbin and Sheldon Whitehouse for a meeting to discuss Justice Samuel Alito's recusal from cases related to the 2020 election. The senators raised concerns after reports that flags linked to former President Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election were displayed at Alito's homes. They argued that Alito's impartiality was compromised, citing the flags' association with the "Stop the Steal" movement.

Roberts responded that chief justices rarely meet with lawmakers and emphasized the need to maintain judicial independence. He noted that meeting with senators from only one party would be inappropriate, especially concerning matters currently pending before the court. Durbin's spokesperson disagreed, stating that the intent was to restore the court's credibility.

Alito, in letters to the senators, refused to recuse himself, asserting that the flag incidents did not warrant recusal under the justices' guidelines. He clarified that the flags were flown by his wife, exercising her free speech rights, and that he had no involvement. Alito's refusal to step aside drew criticism about the Supreme Court's ethics standards and lack of enforcement mechanisms.

The two cases in question involve Trump’s claim of presidential immunity from prosecution for his actions related to the 2020 election and an obstruction charge against a participant in the January 6 Capitol riot. Both cases have already been argued, with rulings expected by the end of June.

US Supreme Court's Roberts rebuffs senators' call for Alito meeting | Reuters


Franz Joseph Haydn, pencil sketch

This week’s closing theme is by Franz Joseph Haydn, who died on this day in 1809. 

Franz Joseph Haydn, often hailed as the "Father of the Symphony" and the "Father of the String Quartet," was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical period. Born in 1732 in Rohrau, Austria, Haydn's career spanned the late Baroque and early Romantic periods, marking a significant evolution in the structure and style of classical music. His innovative approaches to form and harmony laid the groundwork for future generations of composers, including Mozart and Beethoven.

One of Haydn's most beloved works is his Symphony No. 94 in G Major, famously known as the "Surprise Symphony." This nickname comes from the sudden, unexpected loud chord that punctuates the otherwise soft and gentle second movement, designed to startle the audience. Premiered in London in 1792, this symphony is part of Haydn's twelve "London Symphonies," which he composed during his highly successful visits to England.

The second movement, Andante, is particularly famous for its charming theme and variations, showcasing Haydn's wit and creativity. The "Surprise" element reflects his playful personality and his desire to engage and delight listeners. As you enjoy this week's closing theme, let the elegance and ingenuity of Haydn's composition remind you of the timeless beauty of classical music.

Without further ado, Symphony no. 94 in G 'Surprise', H. I:94 - II, by Franz Joseph Haydn.  

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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 www.minimumcomp.com.