Minimum Competence - Daily Legal News Podcast
Minimum Competence
Mon 6/5 - Law School Admissions Normalize, SEC Dismisses Data Access Cases, Solicitor General Whoopsies and LOTR Unauthorized Sequel Lawsuit

Mon 6/5 - Law School Admissions Normalize, SEC Dismisses Data Access Cases, Solicitor General Whoopsies and LOTR Unauthorized Sequel Lawsuit

We have law school admissions return to pre-pandemic levels, the SEC dismisses lawsuits based on inappropriate data access, an admission by the solicitor general’s office, and a LOTR lawsuit.

On this day in legal history the landmark Supreme Court decision of Sweatt v. Painter was decided. 

In 1946, Heman Marion Sweatt, an African American man, applied to the all-white University of Texas School of Law but was denied admission based on his race. This decision was made in accordance with the segregated policy outlined in Article VII, Section 7 of the Texas Constitution. Sweatt took legal action with the support of the NAACP, seeking enrollment at the university. Initially, a temporary law school called the School of Law of the Texas State University for Negroes was established for black students. It provided access to resources such as the Texas Supreme Court library and had faculty members from the University of Texas School of Law. Sweatt's case was dismissed by a state court after the black law school was established. However, Sweatt appealed to the United States Supreme Court, arguing that the Texas admissions system violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. On June 5, 1950, the Supreme Court ruled that in states where white students had access to graduate and professional schools while black students did not, black students must be admitted to the white institutions. This decision led to Sweatt's admission to the University of Texas School of Law, along with the enrollment of other black students in subsequent years. The impact of the case was limited to graduate and professional programs at the University of Texas, as black undergraduate students were still not admitted, although graduate students could take undergraduate courses if necessary for their program.

With Sweatt v. Painter and another case, McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, the Supreme Court began the long process of overturning the separate but equal doctrine in public education–first by requiring graduate and professional schools to admit black students.

Law school applications in the United States have returned to normalcy after the pandemic-induced surge in 2021. The number of applicants has decreased for the second consecutive year, indicating that the previous year's increase was an anomaly attributed to COVID-19. As of Thursday, law school applicants were down by 2.4% compared to the previous year. The Law School Admission Council expects the national applicant pool for this cycle to be slightly smaller than the year before, which was already 12% smaller than in 2021. The decrease in applications aligns with the trend of the past five years, where the number of applicants remained relatively consistent. The increase in applications in 2021 was attributed to various factors, including the disruption of the job market for college graduates caused by the pandemic, protests over racial inequality, and the political climate. The pool of law school applicants continues to become more diverse, with applicants of color comprising 46.5% of the current pool. 

It’s a 'return to normalcy' for law school admissions | Reuters

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has dismissed 42 enforcement cases after discovering that its enforcement staff had unauthorized access to materials intended for commission officials handling those cases. The SEC conducted a review of the matter, which was initially raised in April 2022 when it was revealed that certain databases allowed enforcement staff to view legal materials meant for the in-house court officials. The SEC acknowledged the error and expressed regret, emphasizing its commitment to rectify the situation. The improper access was deemed accidental, as administrative staff in the enforcement arm unintentionally accessed adjudication materials while collecting relevant information. An internal review concluded that the improper access had no impact on the decisions made by the enforcement staff or the officials reviewing the cases. However, the SEC decided to dismiss all pending cases that were affected by the improper access, primarily involving individuals and smaller firms. Additionally, the SEC agreed to lift industry bans on 48 individuals who had requested relief from the agency and were also implicated in the incident.

US SEC to dismiss 42 enforcement cases after internal data mishap | Reuters

The US Solicitor General has admitted to misleading the Supreme Court in a 2017 patent case involving Nike and Adidas. The misrepresentation occurred during an argument about the validity of inter partes review, a process that allows the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to reexamine issued patents. By way of very brief background, inter partes review is a process in the United States patent system that allows a third party to challenge the validity of an issued patent before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB). It provides a mechanism for reviewing and potentially invalidating patents based on prior art and other grounds, offering an alternative to litigation in resolving patent disputes. In this case, the Solicitor General apologized, stating that the USPTO failed to alert them about the mistake. This is not the first time the Solicitor General has corrected statements made to the justices. The admission came in the context of a separate whistleblower dispute raised by Judge Michael Fitzpatrick, who expressed concerns about attempts to expand the number of judges in the Nike case. The Merit Systems Protection Board ruled in favor of the judge, noting that the Solicitor General's office was not made aware of the potential mistake. The government acknowledged the need for absolute candor and accuracy in its representations to the Court. 

Solicitor General Office Admits It Misled Court in Patent Case

The estate of J.R.R. Tolkien, the renowned author of "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, has filed a copyright lawsuit in Los Angeles federal court against author Demetrious Polychron. The estate accuses Polychron of writing and selling an unauthorized sequel titled "The Fellowship of the King." The lawsuit comes after Polychron himself filed a copyright suit against the Tolkien Trust and Amazon Inc., alleging infringement of his sequel's copyrights following the release of the TV series "The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power." The estate discovered Polychron's unauthorized sequel online in March and sent a cease-and-desist letter. Despite the estate's policy of not licensing writers to create sequels, Polychron persisted in pitching his written sequel. The estate attempted to resolve the dispute through a call, but Polychron continuously postponed, citing illness and instead Polychron filed a lawsuit against the Tolkien Estate and others. The estate's complaint states that Polychron's sequel incorporates various copyright-protected elements from the original trilogy, including verbatim passages, characters, and the entire plot premise. Online reviews of the sequel suggest that readers were aware it was an unauthorized derivative work.

Tolkien Estate Sues Over Unauthorized ‘Lord of the Rings’ Sequel

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