On November 30, 1804, a significant event in the history of the United States judiciary unfolded when Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase went on trial before the U.S. Senate. This marked a pivotal moment in American legal history, as Chase was the first U.S. Supreme Court Justice to be impeached. His impeachment was called for by the House of Representatives, led by the Jeffersonian Republicans, who accused him of "arbitrary and oppressive conduct of trials.”
The charges against Chase were politically motivated, stemming from his Federalist leanings and his conduct in politically sensitive trials. The Jeffersonians, led by President Thomas Jefferson, were seeking to reduce Federalist influence in the judiciary, and Chase's impeachment was part of this broader political struggle.
Chase's trial in the Senate was a landmark event, emphasizing the tension between the judiciary and the other branches of government. It raised fundamental questions about judicial independence and the role of impeachment as a tool for addressing judicial misconduct. The trial proceedings were detailed in an 1805 publication, providing a thorough account of this important moment in U.S. legal history.
Ultimately, in March 1805, Chase was acquitted by the Senate. His acquittal set an important precedent for the independence of the judiciary and limited the use of impeachment against judges for political purposes. The trial and acquittal of Samuel Chase remains a significant chapter in the story of American jurisprudence and the balance of powers in the U.S. government. In the intervening years, all impeachments of federal judges have been for misconduct, not a perceived incorrect outcome in any one or set of cases. In this way, the impeachment of Samuel Chase set the tone for what does and does not constitute a dereliction of duty in the federal judiciary.
Henry Kissinger, who yesterday died at the age of 100, oversaw policies resulting in the deaths of millions during his tenure as National Security Advisor and Secretary of State under Presidents Nixon and Ford. His strategies contributed to mass casualties in Cambodia, Chile, East Timor, Bangladesh, and the Kurdish regions. Particularly notorious were his actions in Cambodia, leading to widespread destruction and the subsequent Cambodian genocide, and in Chile, where he supported the coup that brought Pinochet to power. Despite these war crimes, or perhaps because of them, Kissinger was revered by many in the American ruling class. The fact that he outlived at least 3 million of his victims, without facing any significant consequences for his actions, raises profound questions about accountability and justice. His death should not overshadow the immense human suffering his policies caused.
U.S. law firms are experiencing a second consecutive year of pay raises for associates, following Cravath, Swaine & Moore's announcement of increased salaries, leading other firms to follow suit. Major firms like Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison; Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton; Baker McKenzie; and Dechert have introduced new salary scales, starting at $225,000 for first-year lawyers and up to $435,000 for senior associates. This move aligns with the base salary scale set by Cravath. Earlier, Milbank was the first to unveil higher salaries in 2023, but the recent hikes by other firms have matched or exceeded Milbank's for more junior and senior associates, respectively.
This increase in salaries is notable because it comes at a time when there isn't high demand for associates, with many firms having excess capacity. Peter Zeughauser of Zeughauser Group highlighted the unusual nature of these raises, given the current market conditions. Some less profitable firms might choose not to match these new salary standards. This trend of increasing associate pay, which began last year, is adding stress to many law firms, and the recent raises are expected to exacerbate this situation.
Despite slower growth in average revenues among the country's largest law firms, as reported by Wells Fargo, and a decline in mergers and acquisitions activity, the need to maintain competitive reputations and meet the perceived prestige requirement of matching salary scales compels many firms to increase pay. Firms like Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, and Hogan Lovells also raised salaries on Wednesday. Furthermore, Proskauer Rose reportedly increased salaries too.
These salary hikes are accompanied by year-end bonus announcements, with figures ranging from $15,000 to $115,000 based on class year. Additionally, some firms are offering extra bonuses based on work or hours billed. This trend reflects the evolving business dynamics within the legal industry, emphasizing the importance of maintaining competitive pay scales in a changing economic landscape.
An Illinois firearms retailer and the National Association for Gun Rights have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block Illinois' ban on assault-style rifles and large capacity magazines. This request follows a previous denial by the Supreme Court in May and comes after a lower court also rejected their bid for a preliminary injunction against the bans in both the state and the Chicago suburb of Naperville.
The Illinois ban, known as the Protect Illinois Communities Act, was enacted in response to a 2022 mass shooting during an Independence Day parade in Highland Park, which resulted in seven deaths and numerous injuries. Signed into law in January by Governor J.B. Pritzker, the Act prohibits the sale and distribution of various high-powered semiautomatic firearms, including AK-47 and AR-15 rifles, and limits magazine capacities.
The plaintiffs argue that these bans violate the U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment, which protects the right to "keep and bear" arms. However, the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld the bans, ruling that they are likely lawful. The court's reasoning was that the Second Amendment applies to weapons intended for individual self-defense, not military-grade weapons like assault rifles and high-capacity magazines.
This legal challenge is part of several ongoing cases against the state's ban. The issue of assault-style rifles remains a divisive topic in the U.S., particularly in the context of addressing frequent mass shootings and firearms violence. The Supreme Court, with its conservative majority, has historically expanded gun rights in landmark rulings, including a 2022 decision recognizing a constitutional right to publicly carry a handgun for self-defense and stipulating that gun restrictions must align with historical firearm regulation traditions.
Texas has urged a U.S. appeals court to reinstate a state law that bans sexually explicit books from public school libraries, arguing that this does not infringe on booksellers' free speech rights. The law, which was blocked by a federal judge, requires vendors to review books for sexual content before selling them to schools, a process that has been criticized for its subjectivity and potential for politically-driven censorship.
During the hearing, Circuit Judges Don Willett and Dana Douglas of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals raised concerns about the broad definition of "sexually explicit" content and the challenges booksellers outside of Texas face in complying with the law’s requirement to align with "current community standards of decency." The Texas Attorney General's Office, represented by Kateland Jackson, argued that Texas could be viewed as a single community despite its size and diversity.
The law empowers the Texas Education Agency to review book ratings, barring explicit material from public schools and requiring their removal from libraries. Critics, including the plaintiffs represented by Laura Prather of Haynes and Boone, argue that the law compels speech from booksellers and imposes vague standards, essentially amounting to censorship.
Republican Governor Greg Abbott has defended the law, stating it protects children by removing inappropriate material from schools. However, U.S. District Judge Alan Albright blocked the rating requirements in September, siding with the plaintiffs that the law violates the 1st Amendment.
This Texas case is part of a broader trend in Republican-controlled states seeking to restrict school materials on sensitive topics like sex, LGBTQ issues, and race. The American Library Association reported a significant increase in attempts to censor library books in 2022, indicating a rising national debate over the availability of certain materials in public schools.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed a significant update to the Lead and Copper Rule, aiming to replace the "vast majority" of lead drinking water pipes in the United States within 10 years. This new proposal, expected to be finalized in 2024, marks a substantial increase from the Trump-era rule established in 2021, which reduced the annual replacement requirement to 3% from the original 7% set in 1991. Under the updated rule, water systems would need to replace at least 10% of their lead pipes annually, with the goal of achieving complete replacement nationwide in a decade.
Radhika Fox, EPA’s assistant administrator for the Office of Water, highlighted the flexibility of the proposal, allowing states to require communities to expedite replacements if possible. The proposal also mandates water systems to maintain updated lead pipe inventories, develop replacement plans, and track pipe materials.
A significant aspect of the proposal is the reduction of the lead action level in drinking water from 15 to 10 micrograms per liter, requiring water utilities to notify the public when lead levels exceed this new threshold. This lowered action level is expected to bring substantial public health improvements by compelling more water systems to implement interim measures like corrosion control.
The draft rule also emphasizes the need for better communication between drinking water systems and residents regarding plans to replace lead service lines. The public will have a 60-day period to comment on the proposal once it is published in the Federal Register.
Funding for these replacements will be supported by the $15 billion allocated by Congress in the 2021 infrastructure law and the EPA's Drinking Water State Revolving Fund. The urgency of this proposal is underscored by the public health crisis highlighted by the Flint, Michigan incident in 2014, where lead contamination in drinking water led to widespread health issues.
Despite the ambitious goals, challenges such as increasing costs, supply chain disruptions, and staffing shortages have been identified by the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA) as barriers to the successful replacement of lead service lines. AMWA CEO Tom Dobbins emphasizes the need for the EPA to provide necessary resources and tools to overcome these barriers and achieve the goal of eliminating lead pipes.