On this day, June 15th, in legal history, King John sealed the Magna Carta, which established fundamental rights as law in England.
On June 15, 1215, King John reluctantly sealed the Magna Carta in response to the demands of rebellious barons, aiming to avoid a civil war. Despite being invalidated by Pope Innocent III just 10 weeks later, the Magna Carta was reissued multiple times after King John's death.
The Magna Carta was initially crafted by the Archbishop of Canterbury in the interest of land barons as a means to protect their rights and properties against an oppressive monarch. It primarily addressed practical matters and specific grievances relevant to the feudal system of the time, with little regard for the interests of common people. Nevertheless, two enduring principles emerged from the document that continue to resonate today.
The first principle affirms that no free individual should be unjustly imprisoned, deprived of property, banished, or harmed without a fair trial by their peers or the law of the land. This principle emphasizes the importance of due process and safeguards against arbitrary exercise of power.
The second principle asserts that justice and rights should be accessible to all, without discrimination or delay. It emphasizes that rights and justice cannot be bought or denied to anyone, ensuring equal treatment and fairness for all individuals within the legal system.
While the Magna Carta did not immediately resolve the tensions between King John and the barons, it laid the foundation for the development of constitutional law and the protection of individual liberties. Its enduring principles continue to shape modern legal systems and stand as an aspirational symbol of the pursuit of justice and the limitations on the power of rulers.
The US Justice Department is wrapping up its investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department following the murder of George Floyd. The probe, which began after Floyd's killing by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in 2020, aimed to determine whether the police engaged in a pattern or practice of excessive force. Senior officials from the DOJ's Civil Rights Division are expected to visit Minneapolis to present the findings of the investigation.
The DOJ's actions complement a separate investigation conducted by the Minnesota Human Rights Department, which reached a consent decree in March to address race discrimination findings. The federal investigation may also address issues outside the state's jurisdiction, such as compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and the First Amendment.
The DOJ's approach under Attorney General Garland and Division Head Kristen Clarke involves conducting comprehensive probes into systemic police misconduct. The results of the investigation will be documented in a report, potentially leading to the negotiation of a consent decree and the appointment of an independent monitor. However, the efficacy of consent decrees as a means to improve police-community relations has been debated.
The Minneapolis community, which has long organized around the issue of policing, hopes that the DOJ will take their concerns seriously and involve them in the remedial efforts. The investigation's timeline is considered protracted compared to previous pattern-or-practice matters, taking more than two years to conclude. If a consent decree is deemed necessary, it could take months to reach an agreement. The Minnesota state agency's consent decree has already been filed in state court, and the parties are reviewing potential monitor candidates. The decree includes provisions to avoid conflicts with a potential settlement with the DOJ, ensuring a single monitor will oversee the city's compliance.
Reed Smith, the Big Law firm based in Pittsburgh, is cutting approximately 50 lawyers and staff members as part of a downsizing trend among law firms due to decreased demand. The layoffs represent less than 2% of the firm's workforce, with about 20 staff members and 30 lawyers affected.
The layoffs also serve to send the message that law firms now hold the power rather than associates–get ready for more back-to-office demands.
The ongoing reduction in force is a result of firms either overhiring or experiencing a slowdown in demand. The current market conditions have led to a surplus of junior associates seeking employment opportunities. Law firms are now focusing on optimizing their economic efficiency by trimming senior lawyers without a significant client base or those not on track for partnership. The move is ostensibly aimed at ensuring that associates have sufficient work opportunities when joining the firm, but it also serves to cut the most expensive lawyers and plop work in the laps of those with the lowest salaries.
The last year of news coming out of Twitter should bring solace to anyone suffering from imposter syndrome. We are all standing on the shore, watching a tiny man with, ostensibly, extensive seafaring experience attempt to operate a small sailboat. So far we have watched him do all manner of damage to himself and the boat, attempting to shoot his own toes off and missing for the deck.
In the latest, the National Music Publishers' Association (NMPA) has filed a lawsuit against Twitter, accusing the social media platform of copyright infringement for using songs without permission from songwriters. Unlike other major social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Snap, and TikTok, Twitter does not have agreements in place to pay music rights holders for the use of their work.
The NMPA, representing 17 music publishers including Sony Music and Universal Music Publishing Group, is seeking a court declaration that Twitter willfully infringed on the musical work of approximately 1,700 songs. The association is seeking damages of over $250 million, with potential claims of up to $150,000 per infringed work. The NMPA claims that Twitter's unlawful conduct enriches the company at the expense of publishers and songwriters.
Other social media platforms have reached licensing deals with music rights holders, resulting in significant payments to the music industry. While Twitter had been in discussions about licensing deals before Elon Musk's acquisition of the company, unsurprisingly, little progress has been made since his takeover. Musk has been preoccupied with other matters, including firing everyone that knows how to run a social media company, banning reporters, unbanning Nazis and consulting catturd on matters of user experience.
U.S. prosecutors have requested a separate trial for Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder of bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange FTX, who is facing new charges of foreign bribery, bank fraud, and conspiracy. These charges were added after Bankman-Fried's extradition from the Bahamas in December 2022. The initial indictment accused him of stealing billions of dollars from FTX customers and deceiving investors and lenders. Bankman-Fried, who has pleaded not guilty to all 13 counts, had asked the judge to dismiss or separate the new charges from his October trial. A court in the Bahamas temporarily barred the government from allowing U.S. prosecutors to pursue the new charges. Prosecutors have requested a trial in the first quarter of 2024 for the new charges and indicated they would drop them if the Bahamas does not consent. Arguments on the matter are expected to be heard by the judge soon. Bankman-Fried's lawyers have also requested the dismissal of some of the charges, no surprise there.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has stated that a Massachusetts law requiring car manufacturers to enhance access to telematic vehicle data is in conflict with and preempted by federal law. The NHTSA has effectively advised manufacturers not to comply with the Massachusetts law, which has faced legal challenges since being enacted through a ballot question in 2020. Supporters of the law believe it would provide consumers with more options for vehicle repairs by expanding access to vehicle information. However, the NHTSA argues that the law raises significant safety concerns as granting access to telematic data could potentially allow for manipulation of critical vehicle functions, posing risks of accidents, injuries, and even malicious attacks. The letter from the NHTSA has drawn criticism from independent auto repair shops and other groups that had supported the law's passage.