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Legal News for Tues 2/27 - SCOTUS Debates Bump Stock Ban, Gag Order Request Against Trump, Justice Thomas' Clerk Hire and FTC Doesn't Love Kroger-Albertson Merger
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Legal News for Tues 2/27 - SCOTUS Debates Bump Stock Ban, Gag Order Request Against Trump, Justice Thomas' Clerk Hire and FTC Doesn't Love Kroger-Albertson Merger

On today's episode, we have Supreme Court debates on bump stock bans, a gag order request against Trump, Justice Thomas's controversial clerk hire, and the FTC's Kroger-Albertsons merger lawsuit.
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The Supreme Court steps covered in guns, pencil sketch.

This Day in Legal History: 22nd Amendment Ratified 

On this day in legal history, February 27, 1951, marked a pivotal moment in the governance of the United States with the ratification of the 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This amendment introduced a significant change to the presidential tenure by limiting the officeholder to two elected terms, effectively preventing any individual from being elected as President more than twice. This legal milestone was a response to the unprecedented four-term presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt, aiming to ensure a rotation in leadership and prevent the concentration of power. The amendment was intended to underscore the nation's commitment to democratic principles and the importance of checks and balances within its constitutional framework.

The journey to ratify the 22nd Amendment was rooted in a broader political and historical context. Following President Franklin D. Roosevelt's election to a fourth term in 1944, there was growing concern among legislators and the public about the potential for excessive concentration of power in the executive branch. This concern led to bipartisan support for an amendment to limit presidential terms. The process began in earnest when the Republican-controlled 80th Congress introduced the amendment in 1947. After vigorous debates that reflected the country's divided sentiments on executive power and term limits, the amendment was passed by Congress on March 24, 1947. It was then sent to the states for ratification, a process that required the approval of three-fourths of the state legislatures. By February 27, 1951, the necessary threshold was reached, making the 22nd Amendment a part of the Constitution.


The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear a case not about the Second Amendment directly, but regarding the federal government's authority to interpret laws, particularly focusing on whether bump stock attachments fall under the definition of machine guns as per a statute banning such weapons. This legal dispute is significant as it could potentially narrow the government's interpretative powers and affect the legality of bump stocks, devices implicated in the 2017 Las Vegas shooting—the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. The Trump administration had deemed bump stocks illegal, arguing they convert semi-automatic rifles into machine guns by using recoil energy to enable continuous firing. However, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned this interpretation, claiming the definition of a machine gun in the law is ambiguous when applied to bump stocks, thereby challenging the ATF's rule. This case underscores a broader debate on the power of federal agencies to unilaterally interpret laws, highlighted by recent challenges to the Chevron deference doctrine. The dispute was initiated by the New Civil Liberties Alliance on behalf of Michael Cargill, a gun store owner who opposed the bump stock ban. The legal and regulatory history of bump stocks, including their exclusion from the machine gun category by the ATF for nearly a decade, adds complexity to the government's position. The outcome could have broader implications for gun control and the regulation of emerging firearms technology, as well as for federal agency authority more generally.

Bump Stock Ban Brings Agency Power Dispute to Supreme Court


Prosecutors in Manhattan have requested a gag order against Donald Trump in relation to his New York trial concerning hush money payments to Stormy Daniels, to prevent him from publicly discussing witnesses or revealing jurors' identities. This request comes from the Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's office, citing Trump's history of attacking legal proceeding participants. Trump, who denies any wrongdoing in the case accusing him of falsifying business records to conceal a payment to Daniels, has argued that such a gag order would infringe on his free speech rights. The trial is one of four criminal cases against him, as he campaigns for a return to the presidency. The proposed gag order would limit Trump's comments on witnesses, prosecutors (excluding Bragg), and court staff. Additionally, prosecutors seek to protect jurors' identities by referring to them only by number and have requested that Trump could lose access to their names if he threatens their safety. This case, set against the backdrop of Trump's previous fines for violating gag orders and ongoing legal challenges, highlights the tension between legal proceedings and political campaigning.

Prosecutors seek Trump gag order in NY hush money criminal case | Reuters


Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has hired Crystal Clanton, a law clerk previously accused of racist behavior, stirring controversy due to her alleged past conduct. Clanton, who graduated from George Mason University's Antonin Scalia Law School, has been scrutinized for sending a text message that expressed hatred towards Black people while working for the conservative group Turning Point USA. Despite these accusations, Clanton has clerked for two federal judges appointed by Republican presidents and has worked closely with Thomas's wife, Ginni Thomas, a conservative activist. The hiring raised concerns among Democratic lawmakers, prompting an investigation into the judges who previously employed Clanton, although the misconduct allegations were ultimately dismissed. Justice Thomas has defended Clanton, stating that bigotry is contrary to her character. Clanton's appointment as a clerk for Justice Thomas follows her roles with influential figures in the conservative legal community, highlighting ongoing debates over the influence of personal beliefs and past actions on judicial appointments and the integrity of the legal system.

Supreme Court's Thomas hires clerk accused of racist conduct | Reuters


The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is taking legal action to prevent Kroger's acquisition of Albertsons for $24.6 billion, citing antitrust concerns. This lawsuit is supported by eight states and the District of Columbia, aiming to block the merger due to fears of increased grocery prices, reduced product quality, and limited worker compensation. Kroger and Albertsons counter that the deal is competitive and benefits consumers by better positioning them against larger retailers. The case joins other legal challenges, including actions by Washington and Colorado state attorneys general, who argue the merger would harm competition and lead to higher prices and fewer jobs. Additionally, a consumer lawsuit in California against the merger has struggled to demonstrate harm, with the court dismissing it twice, though the case remains open for amendment.

FTC case over Kroger-Albertsons deal adds to earlier antitrust woes | Reuters

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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 www.minimumcomp.com.