Minimum Competence - Daily Legal News Podcast
Minimum Competence
Mon 10/2 - Congress Avoids Shutdown, Gas Furnace Efficiency Requirements, Big Law Firm Middle East Expansion, Trump to Appear in NY Court and SCOTUS Decision May Help Hunter Biden

Mon 10/2 - Congress Avoids Shutdown, Gas Furnace Efficiency Requirements, Big Law Firm Middle East Expansion, Trump to Appear in NY Court and SCOTUS Decision May Help Hunter Biden

The government narrowly avoiding shutdown, gas furnace efficiency requirements, Big Law firm expands to middle east, Trump back in NY court and SCOTUS may lend a hand to Hunter Biden

Thurgood Marshall being sworn in as Supreme Court justice

On this day in legal history, October 2, 1967he first African-American Supreme Court justice. 

On this day in legal history, October 2nd, we commemorate a monumental moment: the swearing-in of Thurgood Marshall as the first African-American justice of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1967. Born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1908, Marshall was the great-grandson of an enslaved person. He faced racial barriers early in his life, being rejected from the University of Maryland Law School due to his race. However, he found his place at Howard University, where he excelled and graduated first in his class in 1933.

Marshall joined the NAACP's legal division in 1936 and quickly rose to prominence, succeeding his mentor Charles H. Houston as the organization's chief legal counsel in 1938. In this role, he argued more than a dozen cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, challenging racial segregation and winning nearly all of them. His most notable victory came in 1954 with the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education, which led to the abolishment of segregation in public facilities and served as a catalyst for the civil rights movement.

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy appointed Marshall to the U.S. Court of Appeals, although his confirmation faced opposition from Southern senators. He was finally confirmed in 1962. Three years later, President Lyndon Johnson appointed him as the U.S. Solicitor General. On June 13, 1967, Johnson nominated Marshall to the Supreme Court, declaring it was "the right thing to do, the right time to do it, the right man, and the right place." After a contentious Senate debate, Marshall was confirmed by a vote of 69 to 11 on August 30, 1967.

Sworn in by Chief Justice Earl Warren, Marshall served on the Supreme Court for 24 years. During his tenure, he was a staunch advocate for civil rights, opposing discrimination based on race or sex, and vehemently defending affirmative action and the right to privacy. Although his liberal views increasingly found themselves in the minority due to shifts in the Court's ideology, Marshall's impact on American jurisprudence remains indelible. He retired in 1991 due to declining health and passed away in 1993, but his legacy as a trailblazer in the fight for equality endures.

The U.S. Congress narrowly avoided a government shutdown by passing a compromise bill just hours before the midnight deadline. The legislation, which keeps the government funded until November 17, allows both Democrats and Republicans additional time to negotiate a longer-term federal budget. President Joe Biden signed the bill into law, emphasizing that the move prevented an unnecessary crisis affecting millions of Americans. The bill's passage was facilitated by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who defied threats from far-right Republicans to remove him from leadership if he didn't shut down the government.

The bill was passed in an unusually quick manner, taking less than 12 hours to clear both chambers of Congress. The absence of deep spending cuts and border policies, often demanded by Republican hardliners, makes this legislation a rare instance of bipartisan agreement in a politically divided Washington. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer noted that the far-right Republicans gained nothing despite their threats.

The legislation does not include new funding for Ukraine, which is seen as a setback for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Despite this, Biden and other lawmakers have reassured Ukraine of continued U.S. support. The U.S. has already sent $44 billion to Ukraine since the Russian invasion last year and has plans for an additional $24 billion.

The bill was passed in the Senate with an 88-9 vote, following a strong vote in the House that included support from nearly all Democrats and more than half of the Republicans. The legislation also includes $16 billion in disaster relief funding. Lawmakers from both parties who support additional funding for Ukraine have stated that this will be handled separately. The passage of this bill has been closely watched by both Americans and global investors, as a shutdown could have had far-reaching economic implications.

The U.S. Congress has a long-standing issue with passing spending bills on time, often resorting to temporary measures like continuing resolutions (CRs) to keep the government running. The current appropriations process, which was established in 1974, has rarely been followed as intended. In fact, Congress has only managed to pass all required appropriations measures on time four times since the system was put in place. The first step in the process is the budget resolution, which is supposed to be submitted by the President by the first Monday in February. However, Congress has frequently missed the April 15 target date set by the Congressional Budget Act, and the budget resolution has been late for 30 of the past 49 fiscal years.

Increasingly, Congress has been using "deeming resolutions" as a substitute for budget resolutions, especially when the two chambers can't agree. These deeming resolutions often foreshadow future spending conflicts between the House and Senate. After the budget resolution, Congress is supposed to pass 12 separate appropriations bills, one for each pair of subcommittees on the appropriations committees of both chambers. The deadline for these bills is October 1, the start of the new fiscal year. However, Congress has not passed more than five of its 12 regular appropriations bills on time since 1996.

Instead of individual spending bills, Congress often resorts to omnibus bills, which bundle several appropriations measures into a single law. These omnibus bills have become increasingly common in the past two decades. The appropriations process only covers about 27.2% of all federal spending, with the majority being mandatory spending on programs like Social Security and Medicare. Government shutdowns, although disruptive, have been relatively rare but are becoming more frequent. The impact of a shutdown varies depending on its duration and which government functions are affected.

In sum, the struggle to pass spending bills on time is a chronic issue rooted in procedural inefficiencies, political disagreements, and the complexity of federal spending. This often leads to temporary fixes that do not address the underlying issues, thereby perpetuating the cycle of late appropriations and potential government shutdowns.

Congress Averts US Government Shutdown Hours Before Deadline (1)

The Biden administration has updated the national efficiency standards for residential gas furnaces, affecting about a third of all U.S. homes. The new rule mandates a 95% annual fuel utilization efficiency standard, up from the current 80%, effectively phasing out older, less efficient models by late 2028. The Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that the new standard will save consumers approximately $57 annually on utility bills, amounting to $24.8 billion in cumulative savings over 30 years. Additionally, the rule is expected to reduce carbon emissions by 332 million metric tons and cut methane emissions by 4.3 million tons over the same period.

The rule was finalized as part of a court settlement with environmental groups and is likely to be welcomed by energy efficiency advocates but criticized by natural gas utilities and business groups. These groups argue that the new standards could increase costs for consumers who would need to upgrade their venting systems. However, a coalition of nine electric and gas utilities supports the rule, suggesting mechanisms to assist lower-income customers with upfront costs.

The DOE defended the rule, stating that it has the legal authority to update the standard and that the industry has room for innovation to meet the new requirements. Compliance will be effective five years from the rule's publication in the Federal Register, which has yet to occur. The rule is part of the Biden administration's broader effort to improve energy efficiency and reduce emissions.

Gas Furnaces Face 95% Efficiency Standard With Final DOE Rule

Squire Patton Boggs, a law firm founded in Cleveland, has expanded its international presence by opening an office in Beirut. The new office aims to assist clients with international disputes, policy, and other commercial matters, according to the firm's CEO, Mark Ruehlmann. The firm has also recently added key personnel in the Middle East, including a mergers and acquisitions partner from Baker McKenzie and a financial services partner who previously led the financial markets practice at Jones Day in Dubai. This expansion comes after the firm announced a cooperation agreement with the Law Office of Looaye M. Al-Akkas in Saudi Arabia earlier this year.

Squire Patton Boggs Expands in Middle East With Beirut Office

Former U.S. President Donald Trump is set to appear in a New York court for the beginning of a civil fraud trial. The case, brought by New York State Attorney General Letitia James, accuses Trump and his family business of fraudulently inflating the value of properties and other assets. Trump has vehemently denied the allegations, calling them a "sham" and criticizing both the judge and the Attorney General. James is seeking at least $250 million in penalties and various bans on Trump and his sons from conducting business in New York. The civil case is separate from the four criminal indictments that Trump currently faces.

Donald Trump to appear in New York court for civil fraud trial | Reuters

Hunter Biden, son of U.S. President Joe Biden, is facing indictment on firearms-related charges, including unlawfully possessing a gun as an illegal drug user and lying about his drug use on a background check form. Interestingly, a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the case of New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen may aid his defense. This ruling set a new standard for judging the legality of gun restrictions, stating that they must align with the U.S. "historical tradition of firearm regulation." Hunter Biden's defense attorney, Abbe Lowell, has hinted at challenging the indictment based on this ruling.

Legal experts suggest that Hunter Biden is likely to argue that the federal law banning illegal drug users from owning guns has no historical basis and violates his Second Amendment rights. This case has the potential to scramble the usual political dynamics, as Democrats typically favor gun restrictions while Republicans oppose them. The Bruen ruling has already led to a U.S. appeals court concluding that the drug-related statute in Biden's case may be unconstitutional in some circumstances.

Federal prosecutors are expected to counter by citing 19th-century restrictions and laws that disarm groups considered dangerous as historical grounding for the charge against Hunter Biden. The case also brings attention to the uncertainty created by the Bruen decision regarding which gun laws may or may not be constitutional. Even if the possession charge against Hunter Biden is dismissed, he still faces two counts of making false statements on the background check form, which may be more challenging to contest. The Supreme Court is set to rule again on gun regulation in a Texas case, and that decision could further influence Hunter Biden's case.

US Supreme Court ruling may help Hunter Biden fight gun charge | 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