Minimum Competence - Daily Legal News Podcast
Minimum Competence
Legal News for Thurs 4/11 - PFAS In Water Mitigation Costs, $525M Verdict Against Amazon for Kove IO, Democrats Target Estate Tax Dodgers and Closing the 'Gun Show Loophole'

Legal News for Thurs 4/11 - PFAS In Water Mitigation Costs, $525M Verdict Against Amazon for Kove IO, Democrats Target Estate Tax Dodgers and Closing the 'Gun Show Loophole'

We explore the new EPA rules on PFAS in water, a $525M verdict against Amazon over cloud tech patents, Democrats targeting estate tax dodges, and the closing of the 'gun show loophole'.
LBJ signing a housing bill, pencil sketch

This Day in Legal History: Civil Rights Act of 1968

On April 11, 1968, a significant moment in the history of American civil rights unfolded when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1968, widely known as the Fair Housing Act, into law. This legislation was a watershed in the struggle for equality, aimed at eradicating discrimination in the housing sector. It came as an amendment to the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, extending its reach to combat racial, religious, and national origin discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of housing, as well as in housing-related advertising.

The enactment of the Fair Housing Act was the culmination of years of civil rights activism and was influenced by the broader civil rights movement that sought to challenge and dismantle systemic racism across various facets of American life. Its passage was not easy, faced with considerable opposition, and was one of the final acts of civil rights legislation signed by President Johnson. The Act represented not just a legal milestone but a profound statement about the values of equality and justice in American society.

Moreover, the Fair Housing Act also laid the groundwork for further legislative efforts to protect individuals from discrimination, including expansions to cover gender, disability, and familial status. This evolving framework reflected a growing recognition of the diverse forms of discrimination that Americans faced and the ongoing need to address these injustices within the legal system.

Today, the Fair Housing Act stands as a testament to the enduring struggle for civil rights in the United States. It reminds us of the pivotal role of law in shaping a more equitable society and the continuous effort required to protect and extend these gains. As we reflect on its significance, the Fair Housing Act encourages us to persist in the pursuit of justice and equality for all Americans, acknowledging the progress made and the challenges that remain.

Water utilities are bracing for the financial burden of meeting the EPA's new stringent standards for PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) levels in drinking water. The EPA's recent regulation, marking the first-ever limits on PFAS, demands the reduction of "forever chemicals" to nearly zero, specifically setting enforceable limits for certain PFAS compounds at 4 parts per trillion and others at 10 parts per trillion. Legal and industry experts predict this will lead to a slew of legal challenges due to the vast number of water systems—potentially affecting 6,700 systems serving about 100 million people—that will need to implement costly testing and removal technologies. The estimated compliance costs could reach up to $40 billion in initial investments plus $3.8 billion annually, far surpassing the EPA's own estimate of $1.5 billion, with ratepayers likely facing significant increases in water bills. Despite available federal funding for infrastructure and PFAS removal, critics argue it's insufficient to cover the extensive needs. However, proponents of the rule argue the public health benefits, including reduced cancer risks from lower PFAS exposure, justify the high costs. This new regulation is seen as a crucial step in addressing the pervasive issue of PFAS pollution, despite the anticipated financial and legal hurdles ahead.

Utilities Brace for Costs of Compliance With New PFAS Water Rule

An Illinois federal jury has ruled that Inc. must pay $525 million to Kove IO Inc. for infringing on three patents associated with distributed cloud storage technology. This decision, emerging from a lawsuit filed by Kove in 2018, indicates that Amazon's infringement was not deemed willful, dismissing Amazon’s defenses of non-infringement, invalidity, and unpatentability. The patents in question enable the efficient identification of the multiple servers storing specific data files in the cloud, a technological advancement Kove claims is fundamental to the operation of scalable cloud systems. Kove's lawsuit argued that Amazon Web Services (AWS), specifically its Amazon Simple Storage Service and DynamoDB products, were built upon and benefited significantly from Kove's patented technology. This infringement, according to Kove, was critical to AWS's growth into Amazon's most profitable segment. The case, represented by several law firms on both sides, underscores significant legal and financial implications for Amazon and highlights the value and competitive edge provided by proprietary cloud storage technologies.

Amazon Dealt $525 Million Jury Verdict Over Cloud Tech Patents

Ahead of the estate tax changes set for 2025, Democrats are targeting the tax avoidance strategies of the wealthy, particularly focusing on the use of trusts. This initiative previews a broader debate around tax reform and the expiration of certain tax cuts from the 2017 tax law. Senators Ron Wyden and Elizabeth Warren, along with the Biden administration, have proposed measures to tighten restrictions on trusts, aiming to curb tax dodges. These strategies include using grantor retained annuity trusts (GRATs) by the ultra-wealthy to transfer assets tax-free to heirs, a method utilized by prominent figures like Nike founder Phillip Knight.

Wyden's proposed legislation seeks to impose a minimum remaining trust value and a 15-year term for GRATs, aiming to eliminate the tax benefits of underperforming trusts. Warren's approach includes stricter trust regulations and increased IRS funding to enhance tax avoidance audits. The Biden administration's Greenbook outlines policies estimated to raise $97 billion over ten years through tightened trust restrictions and improved tax administration.

Republicans, on the other hand, are advocating for a full repeal of the estate tax, emphasizing the 2017 tax law's increase in exemption amounts. However, the potential for bipartisan agreement exists, particularly on loophole-closing measures that don't involve tax rate increases. Despite efforts to reform, experts caution that as long as the tax code remains complex, individuals will find ways to minimize tax liabilities, underscoring the challenge of achieving comprehensive tax fairness.

Warren, Democrats Target Estate Tax Dodges Ahead of 2025 Fight

The U.S. Justice Department has finalized a rule that mandates gun dealers to obtain federal licenses and conduct background checks on purchasers, regardless of the sales venue, aiming to close the "gun show loophole." This new regulation broadens the definition of being "engaged in the business" of selling firearms to include those selling at gun shows, online, and other venues, aligning them with the requirements faced by traditional gun stores. An estimated 23,000 individuals in the U.S. who deal guns without a license are expected to be affected, impacting tens of thousands of gun sales annually. U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland emphasized that the rule applies uniformly across sales platforms, requiring licensure and background checks for anyone selling guns predominantly for profit.

The rule, proposed in August and after a public commenting period, will be published in the Federal Register and take effect 30 days post-publication. However, it stops short of establishing universal background checks, allowing certain transfers, like those among family members, without checks. This development follows federal gun reform legislation passed in June 2022 after multiple mass shootings and a Supreme Court decision broadening gun owners' rights. In March 2023, President Joe Biden issued an executive order to expand background checks and called for further Congressional action to mitigate gun violence. The rule is anticipated to face legal challenges from gun rights groups.

US to close 'gun show loophole' and require more background checks | 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