Minimum Competence - Daily Legal News Podcast
Minimum Competence
Legal News for Weds 5/8 - SCOTUS Looks at Wetlands and Clean Water Act, Failed House Veto Override, TikTok Legal Battle, Archegos Trial Start, Trump Document Trial Delayed

Legal News for Weds 5/8 - SCOTUS Looks at Wetlands and Clean Water Act, Failed House Veto Override, TikTok Legal Battle, Archegos Trial Start, Trump Document Trial Delayed

Supreme Court wetlands case, a failed House veto override, TikTok's legal battle, the Archegos trial start, and the delay in Trump's documents trial.
Smallpox contained, pencil sketch.

This Day in Legal History: Smallpox Eradicated

On May 8, 1980, a landmark moment in public health and legal history was achieved when the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared smallpox eradicated. This declaration came in the form of Resolution WHA33.3, marking an unprecedented victory in the battle against infectious diseases. Smallpox, a devastating disease known for its brutal impact on human health and its high mortality rates, became the first disease to be eradicated by human effort.

The journey to eradication was spearheaded by the WHO's Intensified Eradication Program, which began in 1967. This global effort was a monumental example of international cooperation, involving mass vaccination campaigns and rigorous surveillance practices across numerous countries. The legal framework provided by WHO played a crucial role, facilitating cooperation and compliance among member states.

The eradication of smallpox was significant not only for its immediate health benefits but also for setting a precedent for global health governance. It demonstrated the power of collective human action guided by international law and cooperation. The resolution also led to the establishment of norms and practices that have influenced how global health issues are managed, including strategies for vaccine distribution and disease surveillance.

Moreover, the eradication of smallpox has had lasting impacts on the legal aspects of public health. It has informed the international legal principles concerning the handling of biological samples, as the remaining samples of the virus are now held under strict legal and security controls to prevent any potential outbreaks.

In the wake of smallpox eradication, the world saw the potential of what could be achieved when countries unite under a common cause. This success has inspired ongoing efforts to combat other infectious diseases, such as polio and malaria, through similar international frameworks.

Today, the eradication of smallpox remains a testament to what can be accomplished through coordinated global public health initiatives backed by international legal agreements. It stands as a beacon of hope and a model that continues to influence global health diplomacy and international legal frameworks dealing with health emergencies.

Robert D. White, a North Carolina landowner, is involved in a significant legal battle that has reached the U.S. Supreme Court, challenging the Clean Water Act's regulations concerning wetlands. The case revolves around whether parts of White's property along the Pasquotank River are distinguishable from the river itself, which would affect their classification as protected wetlands under federal law. This follows the Supreme Court's precedent in Sackett v. EPA, which tightened federal jurisdiction over wetlands by requiring a "continuous surface connection" making them indistinguishable from larger navigable waters.

White's attorneys argue that the Biden administration's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation expands the definition of federally protected waters beyond what the Supreme Court's decision allows. The Justice Department, however, maintains that wetlands only need to abut larger bodies of water to qualify for protection. White's case underscores a broader legal and environmental debate about the scope of federal authority under the Clean Water Act, particularly following the Sackett decision.

If White's challenge succeeds, it could significantly narrow the scope of wetland protections under the Clean Water Act, affecting nearly all U.S. wetlands. This legal challenge has broader implications for environmental protection regulations and property development rights, especially in how wetlands are federally categorized and protected. The outcome could set a precedent affecting the balance between environmental conservation and property rights across the nation.

North Carolina Landowner Aims Wetlands Lawsuit at Supreme Court

The U.S. House of Representatives, dominated by Republicans, was unable to override President Joe Biden's veto of a resolution aimed at overturning the National Labor Relations Board's (NLRB) new joint employer rule. The vote ended with 214 in favor and 191 against, failing to meet the two-thirds majority needed to override a presidential veto. The joint employer rule, which eases the criteria for determining when two companies are considered joint employers responsible for negotiating with unions and liable for labor violations, has faced strong opposition from Republicans and business groups. They argue that the rule could increase regulatory costs and negatively impact employment. Despite the legislative setback, the rule's implementation has been halted by a federal judge in Texas as of March, keeping it from taking effect for now.

House Fails to Override Biden Veto of Joint Employer Resolution

TikTok and its parent company, ByteDance, have filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to block a new U.S. law that mandates ByteDance to divest its ownership of TikTok or face a ban on the app. This law, signed by President Joe Biden on April 24, targets the app which is used by 170 million Americans. The companies argue that the law infringes on First Amendment rights and is not feasible either commercially, technologically, or legally, claiming it would lead to TikTok's shutdown by January 19, 2025.

The White House aims to remove Chinese ownership of TikTok citing national security concerns but prefers not to ban the app. The legal challenge is part of TikTok's broader effort to counteract what it views as a politically driven campaign against it, emphasizing its substantial investments in securing U.S. user data. The lawsuit also contends with interpretations of ByteDance's ownership structure and the feasibility of transferring TikTok’s operations to a U.S. company, highlighting the technical and logistical complexities involved.

This case is a continuation of the long-standing tensions between the U.S. and China over control and security of internet and technology, reflecting broader geopolitical conflicts over digital security and economic power.

TikTok, ByteDance sue to block US law seeking sale or ban of app | Reuters

The trial of Sung Kook "Bill" Hwang, founder of Archegos Capital Management, is set to begin with jury selection this week in Manhattan federal court. Hwang and his former Chief Financial Officer, Patrick Halligan, are accused of racketeering and multiple counts of fraud and market manipulation related to the dramatic collapse of Archegos in March 2021. The prosecution alleges that Hwang used derivatives to covertly accumulate large stock positions, inflating stock prices and misleading banks to maintain crucial business relationships. Both Hwang and Halligan have pleaded not guilty, disputing the charges as an overreach of legal theories on market manipulation.

Archegos Capital Management was a private investment firm that functioned as a family office, avoiding some regulations that typically apply to other investment entities. At its peak, Archegos managed $36 billion in assets and had a staggering $160 billion in exposure to equities. The firm's downfall was triggered by a swift drop in stock prices, leading to massive losses as banks called in their loans and liquidated holdings. This collapse resulted in over $100 billion in shareholder losses across various companies within Archegos’s portfolio, impacting major banks like Credit Suisse and Nomura Holdings. The trial is expected to be complex and lengthy, with both Hwang's former head trader and Chief Risk Officer having pleaded guilty to related charges and set to testify.

Bill Hwang's trial begins over collapse of his $36 billion Archegos fund | Reuters

The start of Donald Trump's federal trial in Florida, where he faces charges related to illegally retaining classified documents, has been indefinitely postponed. Originally set for May 20, U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon did not schedule a new date, instead setting pre-trial hearings through July 22. This delay lessens the likelihood that Trump will stand trial before the November 5 U.S. election. Both the prosecution and defense had agreed the initial date was unfeasible.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to 40 counts, which include accusations of storing sensitive national security documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate and obstructing the government's efforts to retrieve them. The delay in this case parallels challenges in another federal case concerning Trump's actions related to the 2020 election, where the Supreme Court may grant him some immunity as a former president.

Legal experts suggest that the timing of these trials, close to the election, could lead to claims of election interference. A potential win for Trump in the upcoming election could further complicate matters, as he could influence the continuation of these federal cases as president. Despite ongoing proceedings in other legal matters, including a New York state trial, Trump maintains that all charges against him are politically motivated.

Trump documents trial start delayed indefinitely, judge orders | 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