Minimum Competence - Daily Legal News Podcast
Minimum Competence
Legal News for Thurs 6/27 - Chiquita's $1,300 Murder Payout Controversy, SCOTUS Narrows Federal Corruption Laws, NTSB Sanctions Boeing Over 737 MAX Disclosures

Legal News for Thurs 6/27 - Chiquita's $1,300 Murder Payout Controversy, SCOTUS Narrows Federal Corruption Laws, NTSB Sanctions Boeing Over 737 MAX Disclosures

We have Chiquita's $1,300 payout controversy, the U.S. Supreme Court narrowing federal corruption laws, and the NTSB sanctioning Boeing over the 737 MAX investigation.
A banana and a handgun on a table, pencil sketch

This Day in Legal History: LaGrand ICJ Case

On June 27, 2001, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) made a landmark ruling in the LaGrand case, Germany v. United States, affirming that foreign nationals must be informed of their right to contact their home country's embassy following an arrest. This case revolved around brothers Karl and Walter LaGrand, German nationals who were arrested in Arizona in 1982 for murder and armed robbery. Arizona authorities failed to inform the brothers of their right to consular assistance as stipulated by the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.

Despite a 1999 U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding their convictions, Germany brought the case to the ICJ, which issued a provisional order to stay the executions. Nonetheless, Arizona proceeded with the executions that same year. The ICJ's 2001 ruling declared that the U.S. had violated both the Vienna Convention and the ICJ's provisional order.

This decision underscored the importance of consular notification and reinforced international legal standards for the treatment of foreign nationals. It also highlighted the binding nature of ICJ provisional measures and the obligation of states to comply with international treaty obligations.

Of course, having said all of that, the brothers LaGrand were still executed in contravention of both the ICJ and the Vienna Convention–so the degree to which decisions by either are truly binding is at least a matter of debate. 

The families of victims murdered by a Chiquita-funded paramilitary group will receive around $1,300 per victim, while their lawyer, Paul Wolf, is set to earn over $4 million in fees from the settlement. This payout is significantly lower than a recent verdict awarding millions per plaintiff. Colombian President Gustavo Petro criticized the settlement, arguing that it devalues Colombian lives.

The settlement, affecting about 2,500 victims' families, came after a landmark jury verdict awarded $38.3 million to 16 victims' families. Chiquita, accused of paying paramilitary groups to quell regional unrest, claimed these payments were made under duress, but the jury rejected this defense. Salvatore Mancuso, a former paramilitary leader, confirmed Chiquita's payments in an interview.

The lowest award from the recent verdict was $2 million, much higher than the settlement amount, which must be shared among family members. Wolf will collect over $4 million from the settlement, whether or not his clients accept the deal.

This settlement has sparked additional legal actions and court filings in Florida, where other lawyers aim to secure more funds for victims. Senior District Judge Kenneth A. Marra must decide if there will be a cap on payments to families. Chiquita argued that Colombian law limits damages to about $52,000 per victim, while other plaintiff lawyers disputed this, citing a Colombian court ruling against such caps.

Wolf defended the settlement, stating it was better to secure something for his clients than risk getting nothing. The settlement agreement has complicated efforts to reach a global deal for all victims’ families, but other plaintiffs' attorneys remain committed to pursuing more substantial compensation.

‘Life of a Colombian’ Insulted by Chiquita’s $1,300 Payout

On June 26, 2024, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of former Portage, Indiana mayor James Snyder, overturning his federal corruption conviction for accepting $13,000 from a truck company awarded city contracts. The 6-3 decision, authored by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, determined that federal law does not criminalize state and local officials accepting gratuities, such as gift cards or lunches, given as tokens of appreciation after official acts. The ruling, supported by the court’s conservative justices and opposed by the liberal justices, emphasized that regulating such gratuities should be left to state and local governments, not federal prosecutors.

Snyder was initially convicted and sentenced to nearly two years in prison for soliciting a payment in connection with government contracts, which he claimed was a consulting fee. The Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had upheld his conviction, leading to his appeal to the Supreme Court. In dissent, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson argued that the decision weakens federal efforts to combat public corruption and leaves the prosecution of serious corrupt practices in doubt.

This ruling follows the court's trend of narrowing the scope of federal corruption laws, similar to its decision last year to overturn the bribery conviction of an ex-aide to former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

US Supreme Court narrows reach of federal corruption law | Reuters

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has sanctioned Boeing for releasing confidential details about the ongoing investigation into a 737 MAX mid-air emergency. Boeing is accused of violating investigative regulations by disclosing non-public information and speculating on potential causes of the January 5 Alaska Airlines door plug blowout during a media briefing. As a result, Boeing will retain its status as a party to the investigation but will lose access to information produced during the probe and will not be allowed to ask questions at the upcoming investigative hearing in August.

The NTSB's action has heightened tensions between Boeing and government agencies, especially as the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) considers criminal charges against Boeing for violating a 2021 settlement agreement related to previous 737 MAX crashes. The NTSB will coordinate with the DOJ's Fraud Division regarding Boeing's unauthorized information releases.

In February, the NTSB noted the door panel in the Alaska Airlines incident was missing four key bolts. The unauthorized release revealed that Boeing provided unverified information and opinions to the media, which the NTSB had not approved. This incident adds to a series of conflicts between Boeing and the NTSB, including a recent delay in providing employee names involved in the 737 MAX door team, and criticism of Boeing’s portrayal of the investigation.

The NTSB emphasized that its investigation aims to determine the probable cause of the accident rather than assign individual blame. This latest sanction underscores ongoing scrutiny and legal challenges facing Boeing as it navigates compliance and safety issues.

NTSB sanctions Boeing over release of 737 MAX investigation details, flags to DOJ | 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