This Day in Legal History: Mary Queen of Scots Executed
On this day in legal history, February 8, 1587, Mary, Queen of Scots, met her tragic end at Fotheringhay Castle, Northamptonshire, England. Her execution marked a pivotal moment in the turbulent history of the British monarchy, stemming from her alleged involvement in the Babington Plot, a scheme devised to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I and place Mary on the English throne. Despite Mary's vehement denials of any participation, she was found guilty of treason after a controversial trial that has since been scrutinized for its fairness and adherence to legal norms of the time.
Mary's trial and subsequent execution were fraught with legal and ethical quandaries, highlighting the intersection of law, politics, and personal vendettas. She was tried without being allowed to see the evidence against her, denied legal counsel, and was not even present at her own trial, raising serious questions about the justice of the proceedings. Moreover, Mary's status as a sovereign queen posed unique legal challenges, as executing a crowned head of state was unprecedented at the time and brought into question the legal jurisdiction over her person.
The decision to execute Mary, Queen of Scots, was not taken lightly by Queen Elizabeth I, who hesitated to sign the death warrant, aware of the potential political ramifications. The execution not only eliminated a Catholic figurehead and potential claimant to the English throne but also set a dangerous precedent for the treatment of monarchs. The debates over Mary's guilt or innocence continue to this day, underscoring the complexities of legal and historical interpretation. Her execution remains a poignant reminder of the lethal interplay between law and political power, a lesson that resonates through the corridors of history.
Donald Trump's legal team has escalated his effort to remain eligible for state presidential ballots to the U.S. Supreme Court, challenging a lower court's ruling that disqualified him from Colorado's Republican primary ballot. This legal battle revolves around allegations of Trump's involvement in the 2021 Capitol attack, invoking the 14th Amendment's Section 3, which prohibits individuals who engaged in insurrection against the U.S. from holding public office. The Supreme Court, significantly influenced by Trump with three appointees among its nine justices, is now set to hear arguments in this high-stakes case.
Trump, focusing on his campaign, is not expected to attend the Supreme Court proceedings, instead engaging in campaign activities in Nevada. Meanwhile, public demonstrations unfold outside the courthouse, reflecting the contentious nature of the case. This situation places the Supreme Court at the center of a presidential election in a manner not seen since the Bush v. Gore decision in 2000.
The outcome of this case holds profound implications for Trump's political future and the broader dynamics of the presidential race, with a decision needed swiftly due to the upcoming Colorado Republican primary. Trump's legal arguments challenge the applicability of the 14th Amendment to a sitting president and question the enforceability of its provisions without explicit congressional action. This case, distinct from criminal proceedings against Trump, tests the constitutional boundaries of presidential accountability and the interpretation of "insurrection" under the 14th Amendment.
The legal challenge is supported by a group of Republican and unaffiliated voters, represented by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, asserting that the presidency falls under the "officer of the United States" designation intended by the 14th Amendment. The Supreme Court's forthcoming decision could significantly influence the electoral landscape and Trump's ability to contest the presidency against Joe Biden, amidst ongoing legal controversies surrounding his actions related to the 2020 election loss.
Millions of American families are currently facing uncertainty regarding the filing of their taxes due to the potential expansion of the child tax credit by Congress. The IRS Commissioner, Danny Werfel, has advised taxpayers not to delay their filings in anticipation of legislative changes, assuring that the IRS will provide any owed benefits retrospectively without the need for amended returns. However, this position is contrasted by some tax professionals who suggest waiting could be beneficial if the legislation, which faces opposition in the Senate, is passed.
The proposed bipartisan tax bill seeks to increase the refundability of the child tax credit to up to $1,800 per child for the first year, a significant boost for low- and moderate-income families. This adjustment is designed to support those even if they do not owe income taxes, targeting aid specifically towards parents with multiple children. Yet, higher-income families are unlikely to see a direct impact from this year's proposed changes.
The dilemma between filing early or waiting stems from various factors. Filing early can protect against tax identity theft, where fraudsters might file in someone else's name, leading to delays in receiving refunds. On the other hand, waiting could potentially result in larger refunds if the legislation passes, but also risks delaying refunds further into the tax season.
Tax preparation companies like H&R Block Inc. and Intuit Inc. have aligned with the IRS's recommendation to file as soon as possible, preparing their software to adapt quickly to any legislative changes. The IRS, despite not commenting on pending legislation, has indicated it could process changes within six weeks, drawing on recent experience and additional funding to adjust to mid-season legislative changes efficiently.
The advice from tax experts varies, with some emphasizing the security and immediacy of filing early, while others see merit in waiting for potential benefits from the proposed law. Ultimately, taxpayers must navigate this uncertainty, balancing the need for prompt refunds against the possibility of benefiting from legislative changes.
Facebook's $90 million settlement for tracking users' activities on non-Facebook websites is facing challenges in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Objectors argue that the settlement, which was approved by the US District Court for the Northern District of California, inadequately values the class's statutory claims, providing just 0.0073% of the potential $1.24 trillion in statutory damages for the 124 million class members. This settlement came after the Ninth Circuit previously found that the plaintiffs had sufficiently claimed violations under several privacy and fraud acts.
During oral arguments, the objectors' representative highlighted the discrepancy between the settlement amount and the maximum statutory damages, questioning the adequacy of the settlement under federal rules. In contrast, representatives for the non-objecting class members defended the settlement as historic and beneficial, noting the positive reaction from the class, evidenced by 1.5 million submitted claims.
The lawsuit, filed in 2011, accused Facebook (now Meta Platforms Inc.) of tracking users' internet activities through cookies on pages with a Facebook "Like" button, without their consent and even after logging out of the social media service. The case consolidated similar complaints from across 10 states.
Ninth Circuit Judge Ryan D. Nelson addressed the objectors' concerns about the size of statutory damages potentially violating Meta's due process rights, noting that bankruptcy for Meta due to excessive damages would be problematic. He mentioned that the settlement amount was 10% of the class's own estimate of maximum damages, a figure that Ninth Circuit case law considers reasonable. Additionally, the settlement's deterrence effect was acknowledged, as Facebook reportedly ceased the tracking behavior in question as part of the settlement agreement.
The court's discussion also touched on the discretion of class counsel in deciding the relief sought in the settlement, emphasizing the due process considerations in evaluating the adequacy of the settlement. Judges Danielle J. Forrest and Gabriel P. Sanchez, also part of the panel, are considering these arguments as they deliberate on the challenge to the settlement's approval.