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Legal News for Weds 5/22 - Rudy Promises to Stop Defaming, Biden Gets 200th Judge Confirmed, ABA Faces Discrimination Complaints and Section 230 Hearing

Legal News for Weds 5/22 - Rudy Promises to Stop Defaming, Biden Gets 200th Judge Confirmed, ABA Faces Discrimination Complaints and Section 230 Hearing

Giuliani's bankruptcy court agreement to stop defaming Georgia election workers, Biden's milestone of 200 judicial confirmations, ABA facing discrimination complaints, and a hearing on sunsetting Sect
Ulysses S. Grant signing something or other, pencil sketch

This Day in Legal History: Grant Signs the General Amnesty Act

On May 22, 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant signed the General Amnesty Act, marking a significant moment in the post-Civil War reconstruction era. This legislation restored voting rights to most former Confederate rebels who had been disenfranchised under the Fourteenth Amendment as a punishment for their participation in the rebellion. The Act effectively re-integrated approximately 150,000 Southern men back into the political process, leaving only about 500 individuals still excluded from voting and holding office due to their high-ranking roles in the Confederacy.

This move was seen as a step towards national reconciliation, aiming to heal the divisions caused by the Civil War. The General Amnesty Act reflected a shift in federal policy from punitive measures towards a more inclusive approach to rebuilding the nation. It acknowledged the need to bring Southern states fully back into the Union by restoring their citizens' civil rights.

The process of granting amnesty to former Confederates culminated in full universal amnesty on June 6, 1898. By this time, all remaining restrictions were lifted, allowing every former Confederate the right to vote and hold office. This complete restoration of rights underscored the nation's commitment to moving past its divided history and fostering unity among its citizens. The General Amnesty Act of 1872 was a crucial step in this lengthy process of reconciliation and reintegration.

Rudolph Giuliani reached an agreement in bankruptcy court preventing him from making further defamatory statements about Georgia election workers Ruby Freeman and Wandrea’ Arshaye “Shaye” Moss. This accord, set to be approved by Judge Sean H. Lane, follows accusations from Freeman and Moss that Giuliani defamed them during an April livestream. They are also pursuing a $148 million defamation verdict awarded to them in December for Giuliani's false claims of voter fraud. Freeman and Moss had filed a lawsuit on May 10, alleging Giuliani continued his defamatory actions. Giuliani’s radio show was canceled earlier this month amid these allegations.

Giuliani Signs Bankruptcy Court Deal Barring Further Defamation

President Joe Biden is poised to secure his 200th judicial appointment with the U.S. Senate set to confirm U.S. Magistrate Judge Angela Martinez as a district court judge in Arizona. This achievement surpasses the pace set by his predecessor, Donald Trump, despite initial challenges due to a slim Democratic majority in the Senate. Biden's success in confirming judicial nominees, facilitated by deals with Republican senators, contrasts with Trump's more conservative appointments, which shifted the federal judiciary rightward, including the Supreme Court. Biden has focused on diversity, with two-thirds of his appointees being women and a significant proportion being racial minorities. Despite potential hurdles, the White House aims to continue pushing nominations to avoid more extreme outcomes in future judicial appointments.

Biden to secure 200th judicial confirmation as election looms | Reuters

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL) has filed complaints against the American Bar Association (ABA), a federal judge, and three law schools, alleging discrimination in student hiring programs. WILL claims these programs violate federal law by using racial quotas and preferences, which they argue have long been illegal. The complaint, filed with the Justice and Education Departments, targets programs that allegedly favor applicants based on race, age, and sexual orientation. South Texas College, the University of the Pacific, and Willamette University are also named in the complaint. Additionally, WILL filed a complaint against Federal Magistrate Judge Leo Brisbois, accusing him of discriminatory practices in ABA’s internship and clerkship programs. These actions follow the Supreme Court’s 2023 decision to end affirmative action in college admissions. Other conservative groups have similarly challenged diversity programs at major law firms and universities, claiming discrimination against white men.

ABA Faces Discrimination Complaint Over Student Hiring Programs

The House Energy and Commerce Committee will be holding a legislative hearing today, titled “Legislative Proposal to Sunset Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.” This hearing aims to discuss draft legislation that would terminate Section 230 and push for new regulations.

For those unaware, we have covered Section 230 in a Max Min episode, available via a link in the shownotes. By way of brief background here, or reminder for long time listeners, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, enacted in 1996, is a crucial piece of U.S. legislation that provides immunity to online platforms from being held liable for content posted by their users. This law enables websites, including social media networks and forums, to host user-generated content without the risk of facing lawsuits for defamation, libel, or other legal issues arising from that content. 

Additionally, Section 230 allows platforms to moderate content in good faith, giving them the flexibility to remove or restrict access to content they consider objectionable without being treated as the publisher of that content. This framework has been key in fostering the growth and diversity of the internet as we know it today–for better or worse.

While reforming Section 230 has been a contentious topic, sunsetting the law at this juncture is a misguided approach. Much of the internet's infrastructure relies on the protections offered by Section 230, which shields platforms from liability for user-generated content. This admittedly jerry-rigged but essential policy enables the free flow of information and supports innovation by allowing platforms to host diverse viewpoints without fear of constant litigation. Over the last 26 years it has unquestionably done more to shield marginalized communities from the most virulent hate speech than it has been used as cover for bad actors and, while it also unquestionably needs tweaking, it needn’t be discarded entirely. 

Removing the protections of Section 230 could immediately and irrevocably stifle innovation and severely impact small platforms that cannot afford extensive moderation. Although Section 230 is not perfect, completely eliminating it without a robust and well-considered replacement could lead to more harm than good. It is crucial that any legislative changes balance the need for accountability with the preservation of the open internet.

Bipartisan Energy and Commerce Leaders Announce Legislative Hearing on Sunsetting Section 230

Minimum Competence - Daily Legal News Podcast
Minimum Competence
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