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Minimum Competence
Legal News for Thurs 2/15 - SALT Cap Vote, SpaceX Wants to go to Texas, Federal Judges Want Security, Trump's Delay Bid and the IRS-FDIC Suit over SVB's Tax Debt

Legal News for Thurs 2/15 - SALT Cap Vote, SpaceX Wants to go to Texas, Federal Judges Want Security, Trump's Delay Bid and the IRS-FDIC Suit over SVB's Tax Debt

We have the SALT cap vote, SpaceX's Texas move, judges' security, Trump's trial delay bid, and the IRS-FDIC suit over SVB's tax debt.

Women entering the Supreme Court, pencil sketch

This Day in Legal History: Women Admitted to Practice Before Supreme Court

On February 15, 1879, a landmark moment unfolded in the annals of American legal history as President Rutherford B. Hayes signed groundbreaking legislation that fundamentally transformed the legal profession in the United States. This legislation, a pivotal stride towards gender equality, granted women the right to practice law before the United States Supreme Court, a privilege that had been exclusively reserved for men until that point. The enactment of this law not only marked a significant departure from longstanding gender-based restrictions but also symbolized a crucial step toward dismantling the barriers faced by women in the legal field.

The first to avail of this newfound right was Belva Lockwood, an attorney who had tirelessly advocated for the inclusion of women in the legal profession. Lockwood's admission to the Supreme Court bar on March 3, 1879, barely two weeks after the law's enactment, underscored the immediate impact of the legislation. Her journey to this historic achievement was fraught with challenges, as she had previously been denied the opportunity to present before the Supreme Court solely on the basis of her gender. Lockwood's perseverance and her eventual triumph served as a beacon of inspiration for countless women aspiring to legal careers.

The legislation's passage and Lockwood's subsequent admission into the Supreme Court bar did more than just allow women to practice law at the highest court in the land; it challenged the prevailing norms and attitudes towards women's roles in both the legal profession and society at large. This pivotal event in legal history not only broadened the horizons for women within the legal field but also contributed to the gradual shifting of societal perceptions regarding women's capabilities and rights. The courage and determination of those who fought for this change laid the groundwork for future generations of women lawyers, who would continue to break barriers and shape the legal landscape.

While the legislative victory in 1879 marked a monumental step forward for women in the legal profession, the fight for gender equality within the field is far from over. Despite significant progress, disparities persist in representation, advancement, and pay. For instance, a report by the American Bar Association in 2021 highlighted that although women make up approximately 50% of law school graduates, they represent only about 23% of partners in law firms across the United States. This statistic underscores the ongoing challenges women face in achieving equal standing and opportunities within the legal profession. The journey that began with pioneers like Belva Lockwood continues today, as efforts to dismantle systemic barriers and foster a more inclusive legal landscape carry on. The strides made thus far serve as both a testament to the progress achieved and a reminder of the work that remains to be done.

The U.S. House of Representatives recently faced a setback in efforts to adjust the state-and-local tax (SALT) deduction cap, particularly impacting states like New York and California. A proposal by Representative Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.) to increase the SALT cap to $20,000 for married couples filing jointly was defeated in a test vote, highlighting the ongoing political struggle over this issue. The SALT cap, introduced in the GOP's 2017 tax law, limits deductions to $10,000, affecting taxpayers in high-tax states—predominantly Democratic, or "blue," states—more severely than those in lower-tax, or "red," states. This measure has been contentious, with Democrats and some Republicans from high-tax states pushing for an increase, arguing that the cap disproportionately burdens their constituents. Despite the bill's failure, New York Republicans vow to continue their efforts to amend the SALT cap, signaling an ongoing debate over tax policy that intersects with partisan and state interests.

SALT Cap Bill Fails Test Vote in House in Blow to N.Y. GOP (1)

SpaceX is in the process of relocating its business incorporation from Delaware to Texas, as indicated by a recent filing with the Texas Secretary of State. This move by Elon Musk follows a similar trend among his companies, particularly after a Delaware judge nullified Musk's $56 billion pay package at Tesla Inc. earlier in the year. Musk, advocating for the shift, has publicly encouraged other companies to consider leaving Delaware for states like Texas, which he views as more favorable. Notably, SpaceX already has significant operations in Texas, including a testing facility, a satellite manufacturing plant, and a rocket production site, reinforcing the state's appeal to Musk and his ventures. The relocation of SpaceX's incorporation to Texas is seen as a major win for the state, aligning with its strategy to attract businesses with low taxes and minimal regulation. This decision also reflects Musk's broader strategy of moving his companies away from Delaware, following legal challenges there, including the high-profile attempt to purchase Twitter Inc., which he later renamed X and moved to Nevada.

SpaceX Seeks to Move Incorporation to Texas From Delaware (1)

Over 70% of federal judges have enrolled in a U.S. Marshals Service program that supplies electronic security systems for their homes, responding to a significant rise in threats against the judiciary. Ron Davis, the director of the U.S. Marshals Service, highlighted the urgency of these threats during a Judiciary Committee hearing, emphasizing the risk they pose to democracy. This increase in threats, notably spiking to 457 in fiscal year 2023 from 224 in fiscal 2021, coincides with the contentious period following the 2020 presidential election and involves serious incidents, including attempts against judges and Supreme Court justices. The security program, in place since 2005, has faced criticism for offering outdated equipment, prompting efforts to modernize and enhance the protection offered to judges amidst growing concerns for their safety.

Most federal judges opt into US Marshals' home security program | Reuters

Special Counsel Jack Smith has urged the U.S. Supreme Court to dismiss Donald Trump's request to delay his trial over charges related to efforts to overturn the 2020 election loss, emphasizing the public interest in proceeding to trial promptly, especially given the defendant's former presidential status. The appeal follows a decision by a D.C. Circuit panel that rejected Trump's claim to presidential immunity from prosecution, with Smith advocating for a swift resolution or a fast-tracked hearing by the Supreme Court. Trump's legal team seeks to halt trial proceedings while pursuing further appeals, a move Smith argues would unnecessarily delay the trial. The case touches on profound allegations of Trump attempting to subvert the electoral process and undermine democratic transition, amidst broader claims of immunity extending beyond his presidency.

Special counsel urges US Supreme Court to rebuff Trump in immunity fight | Reuters

The U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has initiated legal action against the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) over a significant tax debt amounting to approximately $1.45 billion, attributed to the defunct Silicon Valley Bank (SVB). The lawsuit demands a judicial review to decide the extent of the FDIC's obligation to settle the tax debt, following the FDIC's assumption of control over SVB's assets in March 2023 and its subsequent rejection of the IRS's tax claim. The dispute centers on the IRS's estimation of taxes due from SVB for the period between 2020 and 2023, a figure that is under reassessment due to some previously accounted employment taxes having been paid. This legal battle unfolds against the backdrop of SVB's collapse in March 2023, marking one of the largest bank failures in U.S. history, which had profound impacts on the regional banking sector and tech startups reliant on SVB's financial services.

IRS sues FDIC over Silicon Valley Bank's $1.4 billion tax debt | Reuters

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