This Day in Legal History: Bush v. Gore Heard
On December 11, 2000, a pivotal moment in United States legal history unfolded as the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the Bush v. Gore case, a lawsuit that effectively determined the outcome of the 2000 Presidential election. This case, arising from the hotly contested and incredibly close Florida vote recount, was not only a critical legal battle but also a significant event in American political history.
The controversy began when the results of the presidential election in Florida were so close that it triggered a mandatory recount. However, the process was fraught with legal challenges and disputes over vote-counting methods, including the infamous "hanging chads" on punch-card ballots. The Bush campaign eventually sought the intervention of the Supreme Court to halt the recount, arguing that the varying standards of the recount process in different counties violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
The Supreme Court's decision to hear the case was itself momentous, given the high stakes of a presidential election hanging in the balance. On December 12, a day after the oral arguments, the Court delivered a landmark 5-4 decision. It ruled that the Florida Supreme Court's method for recounting ballots was unconstitutional due to inconsistent evaluation standards, and that there was insufficient time to establish a new recount process before the December 18 deadline for states to choose their electors.
This ruling effectively awarded Florida's electoral votes to George W. Bush, granting him the presidency. The decision was controversial and remains a subject of debate among legal scholars, political scientists, and historians. It highlighted the Supreme Court's pivotal role in resolving electoral disputes, raised questions about the political impartiality of the judiciary, and sparked discussions about election processes and the Electoral College system.
On this day in legal history, the Bush v. Gore decision stands as a reminder of the complexities and intricacies of the American legal and political systems, and the profound impact that Supreme Court decisions can have on the course of the nation’s history.
Alex Jones, the right-wing conspiracy theorist and general looney tune, has been authorized to sell personal assets including firearms, jewelry, cars, boats, and a cryogenic chamber on his Infowars shows. This decision, sanctioned by Judge Christopher M. Lopez of the US Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas, aims to help Jones cover the costs of his personal bankruptcy. Jones filed for bankruptcy protection following a court order to pay over $1 billion in defamation judgments related to his false claims about the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
Despite his bankruptcy, Jones remains responsible for approximately $1.1 billion of the $1.4 billion owed from defamation judgments in Connecticut and Texas. The sales, as proposed last month, are meant to fund legal fees and, if any surplus remains, creditor payments as part of a Chapter 11 plan. Among his disclosed assets, Jones has nearly 50 firearms valued at around $72,000, 19 watches including a $25,000 Rolex, and a cryogenic chamber worth $4,000.
Jones also plans to sell items from his storage units and homes, such as home furnishings, gym equipment, jewelry, cars, and boats. This move has attracted criticism from families of Sandy Hook victims due to Jones' extravagant spending during bankruptcy. The attorneys representing Jones intend to file a bankruptcy exit plan soon, while the Sandy Hook victims' families have suggested that he pay at least $85 million over 10 years or undergo an orderly liquidation. The case, involving various legal representatives, is ongoing in the Southern District of Texas Bankruptcy Court.
Former President Donald Trump has announced he will not testify in a New York civil fraud trial, where his company is accused of misrepresenting property values to secure favorable financing. This trial, which commenced in October, is among several legal challenges Trump faces while he pursues a return to the White House. Trump made this declaration on social media, stating he had nothing further to add beyond calling the trial "complete and total election interference."
During his initial court appearance in November, Trump often evaded direct responses and voiced complaints about being treated unfairly. The presiding judge, Arthur Engoron, has found that Trump and his adult sons engaged in financial statement manipulation to obtain better terms from banks and insurers. New York Attorney General Letitia James is seeking $250 million in damages and aims to permanently prohibit Trump and his sons from operating businesses in New York.
In addition to this civil trial, Trump is contending with four separate criminal indictments, including two related to his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results. He has pleaded not guilty in all cases. Despite these legal entanglements, Trump maintains a strong lead in the Republican nomination race to potentially challenge Democratic President Joe Biden in the upcoming election.
Rudy Giuliani, former New York City Mayor and lawyer for Donald Trump, faces a civil defamation trial starting Monday. This trial stems from Giuliani's false accusations against Georgia election workers Wandrea “Shaye” Moss and her mother Ruby Freeman, claiming they rigged the 2020 presidential election. A federal judge has already found Giuliani liable for defaming Moss and Freeman, leaving the jury to decide the damages owed.
Moss and Freeman allege Giuliani led a "sustained smear campaign" against them as part of Trump's efforts to contest his election loss. Both women, who will testify at the trial, were subjected to racist abuse and threats following Giuliani's claims. Giuliani's spokesperson, Ted Goodman, has labeled the case politically motivated, while Giuliani's defense may argue that his comments minimally impacted the plaintiffs.
Giuliani had inaccurately described surveillance footage, falsely claiming the workers hid illegal ballots and exchanged a USB drive, which turned out to be a ginger mint. A state investigation confirmed Moss and Freeman were lawfully counting votes. U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell, overseeing the case, has already ruled that they are entitled to damages for defamation, emotional distress, and conspiracy.
This trial could exacerbate Giuliani's financial and legal troubles, as he also faces a racketeering case in Georgia and has pleaded not guilty. The outcome of this trial is awaited amidst a backdrop of Giuliani's numerous legal and professional challenges post-2020 election. Moss and Freeman previously settled defamation claims with One America News Network.
Stanford Law School has introduced a novel student loan alternative, the Flywheel Fund, which bases repayment on graduates' future earnings. The program, distinct from traditional student loans, allows participants to repay 10% of their income for 12 years after graduation, regardless of their career path. The Flywheel Fund, launched in 2022 with donations, has received a $1.7 million investment from Stanford Law to support the initiative.
Unlike typical loan forgiveness programs, the Flywheel Fund does not restrict graduates who move out of public interest roles. The program is particularly suited for students aiming for lower-paying public interest jobs, but it also accommodates those entering the private sector. The increasing cost of legal education has been a longstanding concern, with the average debt for law graduates reaching significant amounts.
Law graduates' earning potential varies widely, with a stark contrast between salaries in large law firms and public interest positions. The Flywheel Fund is currently unique to Stanford, but its founder is in discussions to expand it to other elite law schools. Critics, however, note the limitations of such programs due to the substantial upfront investment required.
Stanford's program is appealing, especially for students interested in public interest law, about 30% of the class. The school covers full repayment for those earning under $100,000 and subsidizes payments for those earning up to $115,000, with an income cap set at $225,000. This innovative approach to financing legal education could significantly alter the landscape if successful and expandable to more students.