On this day in legal history, October 19, 1765, the Stamp Act Congress convened in New York City, adopting resolutions that played a crucial role in shaping American constitutional theory and paving the way for the American Revolution. The Congress, comprised of delegates from nine American colonies, was formed as a united response to the Stamp Act of 1765. The act had imposed "internal" taxes on a wide range of legal and commercial documents, as well as other printed materials. Ostensibly, the tax aimed to cover the expenses for British troops stationed in the American colonies following the French and Indian War. However, the colonists argued that not only had they already paid their share of war expenses, but the tax also seemed more like a form of British patronage for surplus military officers.
The Stamp Act ignited widespread animosity among the colonists, who saw it as a violation of their rights as Englishmen. The overarching sentiment was encapsulated in the slogan "No taxation without representation," asserting that only the colonial legislatures could grant consent to taxation. The Stamp Act Congress was the first significant joint colonial action in response to British measures, and its resolutions petitioned both Parliament and the King.
Debate over representation also flared up in the British Parliament. One argument claimed that the American colonists were "virtually represented" just like the majority of Britons who didn't own property and couldn't vote. However, this notion was sharply refuted by Daniel Dulany, a Maryland attorney, who contended that the connection between Americans and English electors was too weak to constitute proper representation.
Local protest groups, often led by the Sons of Liberty, established Committees of Correspondence, thereby creating a loose coalition that extended from New England to Maryland. Widespread demonstrations, sometimes involving the hanging of effigies, successfully pressured all stamp tax distributors into resigning, rendering the tax uncollectible.
While opposition to the Stamp Act was strong in the colonies, it also faced significant resistance in Britain. British merchants, suffering due to American boycotts, lobbied for its repeal, which occurred on March 18, 1766. Although repealed, the British Parliament simultaneously passed the Declaratory Act, reasserting its right to legislate for the colonies "in all cases whatsoever." This continued a chain of events that further strained the colonial relationship with Britain, contributing to the 27 grievances stated in the U.S. Declaration of Independence and eventually leading to the American Revolution in 1775.
Today, the resolutions of the Stamp Act Congress remain an enduring testament to the early American commitment to principles of self-governance and constitutional integrity, serving as a prelude to the foundational documents that would follow.
The Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) has filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court, supporting an effort to end Major League Baseball's (MLB) antitrust exemption. This move comes in support of a petition from minor league teams, including the Tri-City ValleyCats of upstate New York, who were removed from the minor leagues by MLB. The MLBPA is advocating for the Supreme Court to overturn its previous rulings that have maintained the exemption. The exemption itself dates back to a 1922 Supreme Court decision, which held that baseball did not fall under the 1890 Sherman Act and was therefore exempt from antitrust laws. In its brief, the MLBPA argues that the exemption negatively affects not only players but also fans, cities, states, and other businesses. The union has consistently maintained that the exemption should be eliminated.
I have written on this topic somewhat extensively, and a link to my Baseball Prospectus primer on the issue follows.
The White House is reviewing a State Department rule aimed at establishing a domestic visa renewal pilot program for certain H-1B specialty occupation workers. Currently, these workers are required to travel abroad to renew their visas, leading to delays and challenges, particularly due to pandemic-related bottlenecks at consular offices. The rule has been sent to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) for review, which is the final step before new regulations are made public. Domestic visa renewals were halted nearly two decades ago because the State Department said it couldn't meet post-9/11 biometric data collection requirements. Immigration lawyers and employer groups have been advocating for the reinstatement of domestic renewals, citing the prolonged wait times and logistical issues that have affected workers and employers alike.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge David Jones, known for overseeing more major Chapter 11 cases than any other U.S. judge, has abruptly resigned, leading to the reassignment of about 3,500 bankruptcy cases. Jones' resignation comes days after a federal appeals court initiated an ethics investigation into his failure to disclose a long-term romantic relationship with an attorney whose firm had numerous cases before his court. His departure is a significant blow to the Houston bankruptcy court, which is a top venue for large Chapter 11 filings in the U.S. Jones had managed high-profile bankruptcies like JC Penney and Nieman Marcus and had overseen 17% of cases with more than $1 billion in liabilities since 2020.
Judges Marvin Isgur and Christopher Lopez, who are among the busiest bankruptcy judges in the U.S., will divide Jones' large-company case load between them. They will also handle all new large Chapter 11 cases filed in Houston. The reassignment is considered a massive workload for already busy judges and could create chaos, especially since Jones had more than 1,100 commercial cases on his docket.
Jones' undisclosed relationship could also raise concerns in cases where rulings were made but not decided or where participants might object to past decisions. The relationship was with bankruptcy attorney Elizabeth Freeman, a partner at a law firm that had many debtors in Jones' court. The firm, Jackson Walker, has said it consulted with outside ethics experts and instructed Freeman not to work on any cases before Jones.
The situation has also prompted scrutiny of Houston's practice of directing all "complex" Chapter 11 cases to just two judges, a practice some say invites "forum shopping" and undermines public confidence in the U.S. bankruptcy system. However, Chief U.S. Judge Randy Crane defended the practice, saying it allows for the efficient handling of difficult cases. Isgur, described as a "very bright individual" by Crane, is expected to be a good replacement for Jones, and Crane anticipates no long-term effects on the venue's popularity for large bankruptcies. Editorial note here, if you’re talking about a venue’s “popularity” for bankruptcies, the forum shopping ship has already sailed.
John Eastman, an attorney associated with former President Donald Trump, testified in a California State Bar Court trial concerning his efforts to convince Vice President Mike Pence to reject or delay the counting of electoral votes. Eastman is facing the possibility of disbarment, charged with 11 counts including violating ethics rules and state law. He stated that had he known Pence had already decided not to follow his advice, he would not have pursued meetings and discussions on the issue. Gregory F. Jacob, Pence's counsel, previously testified that Eastman's theories lacked legal or historical basis.
Eastman claimed he wasn't aware that Pence had already rejected his arguments until Jacob’s testimony. Defense witnesses in the trial have tried to establish that Eastman believed there were election irregularities that could have affected the outcome of the 2020 presidential race, a claim that has been widely discredited. Eastman continues to dispute Jacob's characterization of their discussions, and insists that he was offering constitutional recommendations.
Eastman, along with some scholars, argues that the Electoral Count Act is unconstitutional and that the Vice President, as the president of the Senate, should have an active role in counting electoral votes. No court has yet ruled on the constitutionality of the Electoral Count Act. The judge, Yvette Roland, has 90 days to issue a recommendation after the close of oral arguments, which can be appealed. The final decision on Eastman’s discipline, including potential disbarment, will be made by the California Supreme Court. The trial is set to continue at least through October 20, with additional trial dates likely.