On this day in legal history, September 28, 1850, President Millard Fillmore signed an appropriations bill that abolished flogging as a punishment in the Navy.
Flogging, carried out with a cat-o-nine-tails—a whip made of nine knotted ropes—was a common method for maintaining discipline on naval ships. The move to end flogging was influenced by public opinion, which had been galvanized by two significant publications: "Two Years Before the Mast" by Richard Henry Dana, Jr. in 1840, and "White-Jacket" by Herman Melville in 1850. Between December 1849 and June 1850, the Senate received 271 petitions from citizens urging the end of this cruel practice.
Democratic Senator John P. Hale of New Hampshire had previously attempted to abolish flogging but found success only when the public mood shifted. When Congress ended flogging, it did not immediately suggest alternative disciplinary methods. Naval officers experimented with various forms of punishment, including tattooing, branding, and confinement in irons on bread and water. However, long-term confinement was generally avoided as it took sailors away from their duties, increasing the workload for others.
In 1853, President Millard Fillmore issued a "System of Orders and Instructions" to guide naval discipline, but this was deemed unconstitutional as it infringed on Congress's power to set rules for the Navy. Finally, in 1855, Congress established a new disciplinary system based on rewards and punishments. Despite these reforms, some harsh practices like branding with a hot iron or tattooing were not completely outlawed until 1872.
Abraham Lincoln advocated for flogging as judicial punishment for men found guilty of spousal abuse, a crime then-referred to as “wife-beating.” It remained on the books in many states as a punishment for that crime well in to the 20th century, with the last recorded instance of it being meted out occurring in Delaware in 1951.
The future of mobile sports betting in Florida is uncertain as local casinos have challenged a $2.5 billion deal between Governor Ron DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe of Florida. The casinos filed a petition in the Florida Supreme Court, alleging that the 2021 agreement allowing the tribe to operate "off-reservation" mobile sports betting violates the state constitution. According to the casinos, the constitution would need to be amended to permit expanded tribal gaming beyond tribal lands. The complaint accuses the Governor and the state Legislature of circumventing the constitution by deeming online bets placed anywhere in the state as having occurred "exclusively" on tribal lands.
This legal challenge is the latest development in an ongoing saga that will determine the future of sports betting in Florida, a state with a strong following for both professional and college sports. The casinos had previously lost a federal Administrative Procedure Act challenge in a federal appeals court in June. However, the court explicitly stated that it was not ruling on the constitutionality of the pact under Florida law, leaving that question for the state's courts to decide. The casinos are now urging the Florida Supreme Court to clarify the law, citing the federal appellate court's reasoning as justification for state-level judicial review.
The Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives is set to hold its first impeachment inquiry hearing against President Joe Biden on Thursday. The hearing, led by the House Oversight Committee, is not expected to reveal new information about Biden's financial ties to his son, Hunter Biden. Instead, the hearing aims to justify the ongoing probe and review the details that Republicans have gathered so far, according to James Comer, the committee's chair. The panel will hear from a forensic accountant, a former U.S. Justice Department official, and a law professor.
Republicans allege that Biden and his family profited from policies he pursued as vice president under the Obama administration. They also claim that the Justice Department interfered with a tax investigation into Hunter Biden. However, no evidence has been provided to support these allegations. The White House has dismissed the inquiry as politically motivated, especially with the 2024 presidential election on the horizon.
It remains uncertain whether House Republicans, who hold a narrow majority, would have enough votes to proceed with actual impeachment. Even if they do, it is unlikely that the Senate, where Democrats have a majority, would vote to remove Biden from office. The inquiry also focuses on allegations that Biden pressured Ukraine to fire a top prosecutor investigating a company where Hunter Biden was a board member, a claim Ukraine's former president has denied.
The timing of the hearing coincides with a looming government shutdown, which could slow down the impeachment inquiry. The White House criticized House Republicans for prioritizing "conspiracy theories" over government funding. Former President Donald Trump, who was impeached twice and faces four criminal indictments, has expressed support for the inquiry.
U.S. Senator Bob Menendez is facing calls for his resignation from more than half of his Democratic colleagues after pleading not guilty to federal bribery charges. A total of 27 senators, including key figures like Dick Durbin and Gary Peters, have urged Menendez to step down. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer criticized Menendez's actions but stopped short of asking for his resignation. Prosecutors allege that Menendez and his wife accepted gold bars and significant sums of money in exchange for using their influence to interfere with law enforcement investigations and assist the Egyptian government.
Menendez has vowed to remain in office and fight the charges. His Senate seat is up for grabs in the 2024 elections, and while New Jersey has not elected a Republican senator since 1972, Menendez's legal issues could jeopardize his party's narrow control of the Senate. He has so far drawn one challenger for his seat.
The judge initially assigned to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) antitrust lawsuit against Amazon has recused himself, according to court documents. Senior Judge John Coughenour, who was appointed by former Republican President Ronald Reagan, did not provide a reason for his recusal in the court filing. The case was filed against Amazon in a federal court in Seattle and has now been reassigned to U.S. District Judge John Chun, who was nominated by President Joe Biden last year. Chun previously served as a judge for the Washington State Court of Appeals.
The FTC's lawsuit accuses Amazon of abusing its market power in the retail sector. Specifically, the company is alleged to have given preferential treatment to its own products while penalizing merchants who wish to sell their products at lower prices on other platforms. Amazon is also facing a series of smaller, private consumer cases that are currently pending in the same federal court. These cases are overseen by Judge Ricardo Martinez.
The FTC has argued that its case against Amazon should be assigned to Judge Martinez to avoid any duplication or conflict with the existing consumer cases. The reassignment of the case to Judge Chun comes amid growing scrutiny of Amazon's business practices and could have implications for how the case proceeds.