On this day in legal history, August 21, 1878, the American Bar Association or ABA was formed.
The American Bar Association (ABA) was established on August 21, 1878, in Saratoga Springs, New York, marking a pivotal moment in American legal history. At a time when the legal profession was primarily comprised of sole practitioners, 100 lawyers from 21 states founded the ABA with the stated aim of advancing jurisprudence, promoting justice, and ensuring uniformity of legislation. Since its inception, the ABA has grown to represent approximately half of all lawyers in the United States, with additional categories of associate and international memberships.
Throughout its history, the ABA has not been without its warranted criticisms and controversies. The Association's past stances on race led to marked scrutiny, with a notable incident in 1912 where William H. Lewis's admission was rescinded due to his race, a policy only changed in 1943. This legacy spurred the creation of the National Bar Association by African-American lawyers in 1925. In recent years, the ABA has made attempts to increase diversity, such as electing its first African American and Hispanic-American presidents and achieving a majority-female roster of officers in 2016.
More recently, criticism extends to policy positions, drawing ire particularly from conservative viewpoints for its stances on issues like abortion, gun control, and same-sex marriage. Additional criticism has been directed at the ABA's failure to keep pace with the changing demands of modern society, its resistance to regulatory reform, and its handling of the practice of law in modernity.
A federal judge in Washington, D.C., has ruled that AI-generated art does not qualify for copyright protection as it lacks human authorship. The case was brought by computer scientist Stephen Thaler, who sought copyright registration for a piece created by his AI program "Creativity Machine," but the U.S. Copyright Office denied his application. Judge Beryl A. Howell's decision is the first in the U.S. to define legal boundaries for AI-generated art, a rapidly growing field. Citing previous cases where non-human creations were denied copyright protection, Howell stated that courts have consistently refused to recognize copyright in works without human involvement. The ruling opens up questions about how much human input is required for AI-generated works to qualify for copyright and how to determine the originality of such art. Thaler's attorney plans to appeal, but the Copyright Office believes the court's decision was correct. The ruling adds to an ongoing debate about copyrightability in the era of AI, as the Copyright Office recently granted limited copyright registration for an AI-assisted graphic novel, further complicating the issue.
A federal judge has rejected a $6 million class settlement between Tesla Inc. and homeowners who claimed the company engaged in a bait-and-switch with rooftop solar panel prices. In 2016, Tesla introduced a solar panel that resembled a tiled roof, and plaintiffs Matthew Amans and Babek Malek alleged that the company initially lured customers with a low cost before hiking the prices in April 2021. The proposed settlement included specific sums for customers who incurred additional costs or chose to proceed at the increased price. The plaintiffs asked Judge Vince Chhabria to preliminarily approve the deal in June, which would cover around 8,200 class members. However, Judge Chhabria denied the approval motion, stating that the filing didn't adequately explain the case's strengths and weaknesses or sufficiently clarify how the parties calculated the relief amounts. The case was dismissed without prejudice which means we will see a refiling of the motion for preliminary approval of class action settlement.
An investor in AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. will drop a lawsuit demanding a board election at the movie theater chain, as the company has scheduled its first general shareholder meeting in over a year for November 8. The parties agreed to dismiss the litigation in Delaware’s Court of Chancery with prejudice, meaning the case cannot be refiled. The lawsuit was filed in July, in conjunction with a separate shareholder case over AMC's APE units. An approved nine-figure settlement on August 11 allowed AMC to enact a plan to convert its preferred stock to common shares, with APE units ceasing to trade on August 25. The Chancery Court denied a motion to stop the conversion from one objecting investor. Meanwhile, another AMC investor filed a new lawsuit this week alleging that the settlement shortchanges APE holders. In a related development, AMC has sued its insurers in Delaware Superior Court for refusing to fund the settlement.
California's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is investigating "recent concerning incidents" involving General Motors' autonomous vehicle unit Cruise, after a robotaxi was involved in a collision with an emergency vehicle in San Francisco. The DMV has requested Cruise to reduce its active fleet by 50% until the investigation is completed and road safety improvements are made, a request Cruise has agreed to. The accident occurred when a fire truck operating in an emergency mode collided with one of Cruise's cars, resulting in non-life-threatening injuries to the sole passenger. Cruise stated that the car identified the risk and initiated a braking maneuver but was unable to avoid the crash. This incident comes after the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) voted to allow Cruise and Waymo's robotaxis to operate at all hours and charge passengers in San Francisco, despite opposition. Following the accident, City Attorney David Chiu has requested a halt to CPUC's decision, citing that the technology is not yet ready.