This day in legal history, September 7, 1977, President Carter signed the Panama Canal Treaty, setting the relinquishment date for the Panama Canal back to Panama for January 1, 2000.
In the early 20th century, the U.S. secured rights to build and operate the Panama Canal, initially through the Hay-Herrán Treaty with Colombia, but eventually through the Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty with Panama, post its independence which was supported by the U.S. The Canal opened in 1914, but the legitimacy of the treaty was questioned by many Panamanians. As the century progressed, tensions escalated between the U.S. and Panama over the control of the Canal, leading to riots and diplomatic interruptions.
In the 1970s, both nations recognized the necessity of renegotiating the Canal's status. U.S. diplomat Ellsworth Bunker led the negotiations, focusing on securing perpetual U.S. use rather than control of the Canal Zone. These discussions laid the groundwork for the Torrijos-Carter Treaties. Despite initial opposition, President Jimmy Carter, influenced by advisors, prioritized concluding these negotiations upon taking office.
However, the ratification of the treaties faced significant opposition in the U.S. Senate, with critics fearing a loss of strategic control and distrusting Panamanian leader Omar Torrijos. After extensive public and political engagement, two treaties were formulated and narrowly ratified by the Senate in 1978, establishing the terms for the eventual transfer of the Canal to Panama in 1999. Despite fostering initial cooperation, U.S.-Panama relations fluctuated, witnessing an American invasion in 1989 to depose leader Manuel Noriega. By 1999, relations stabilized, and the Canal's administration was peacefully transferred to Panama.
Morrison Foerster has amended the eligibility criteria for its DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) fellowship program amidst a lawsuit filed by the American Alliance for Equal Rights, led by Edward Blum, who opposes affirmative action. Initially, the Keith Wetmore Fellowship targeted students from historically underrepresented groups in the legal sector, but now focuses on those showing a commitment to diversity and inclusion in the legal profession. The lawsuit accuses the firm of racial discrimination against prospective lawyers for over a decade. Meanwhile, Perkins Coie, also a defendant in the lawsuit, maintains its focus on aiding historically underrepresented students and has publicly reaffirmed its commitment to fostering diversity and inclusion in the legal field.
Monique Worrell, a liberal prosecutor who was dismissed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, has filed a lawsuit in the state Supreme Court seeking reinstatement to her elected position as the State Attorney for Orange and Osceola County. Worrell contends that DeSantis had no legitimate grounds to remove her and replace her with a conservative prosecutor, asserting that his reasons violate state law. She emphasizes that her role grants her the discretion to determine prosecutorial strategies, and disagreements with the Governor on these strategies do not constitute grounds for suspension.
This case brings a significant issue before the conservative-leaning court, which had previously avoided making a decision in a similar case involving another prosecutor fired by DeSantis. In the earlier case, the court ruled that the prosecutor had waited too long to file the lawsuit. Worrell's case, however, does not have this timing issue. DeSantis had accused Worrell of neglect of duty and incompetence, citing her allowing assistant prosecutors to propose sentences below the state's mandatory minimums and perceived leniency towards criminal defendants. Worrell refutes these claims, stating that reduced jail time and incarceration rates are not indicative of incompetence or neglect, but are within her lawful discretionary powers.
U.S. President Joe Biden has declined several conditions proposed by five Guantanamo Bay detainees involved in the September 11, 2001 attacks, as part of a plea agreement with federal prosecutors, according to a report by the New York Times. The defendants, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, identified as the main architect of the attacks, were offered a plea deal that would exempt them from the death penalty, instead imposing a life sentence, if they pleaded guilty. In response, the defendants presented conditions such as not serving their sentences in solitary confinement and being permitted to eat and pray with other inmates.
President Biden, aligning with the advice of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, rejected these conditions, termed as joint policy principles, as grounds for plea negotiations. A White House spokesperson emphasized that accepting these conditions for a pre-trial agreement would not be suitable given the gravity of the 9/11 attacks, which were the most severe assault on the U.S. since the Pearl Harbor incident. The spokesperson reiterated the administration's dedication to maintaining fairness in the military commissions process, aiming to deliver justice to the victims, survivors, and their families, as well as the accused individuals. The 9/11 attacks, orchestrated by al Qaeda militants, resulted in over 3,000 deaths and involved the hijacking of four commercial airplanes, which were used to carry out coordinated strikes in New York City and Washington, D.C. More than 500,000 people died in Iraq and Afghanistan as a result of the ensuing invasions.
A lawsuit has been filed by the nonpartisan organization, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), aiming to prevent Donald Trump from being listed on the Colorado ballot in the upcoming presidential election, should he secure the Republican nomination. The lawsuit, representing six Republican and unaffiliated voters, including former officials at various government levels, is grounded on the argument that Trump's involvement in the events of January 6, 2021, makes him unfit for office as per the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. This amendment prohibits individuals who have engaged in "insurrection or rebellion" against the U.S., and have previously taken an oath to support its Constitution, from holding federal or state office. A historical note here, this amendment was targeted at high ranking U.S. officials that served in the Confederacy during the Civil War – sort of a, you can’t just waltz bank in to the Senate and get your job back kind of amendment.
This legal approach, which is considered a long shot by experts, would necessitate convincing officials across all states and territories of Trump's ineligibility to serve, given the Capitol attack orchestrated by his supporters in an attempt to overturn his electoral loss. Despite the ongoing false claims by Trump regarding the legitimacy of his defeat, he remains a leading contender for the Republican nomination to oppose President Joe Biden in 2024. CREW's president, Noah Bookbinder, emphasized that the unprecedented nature of the lawsuit is a response to the equally unprecedented attack on January 6th, which the 14th Amendment sought to guard against. Meanwhile, Trump denies federal charges accusing him of conspiring to defraud the U.S. and obstructing a fair election during the 2020 presidential race. Notably, analysts regard Colorado as a firmly Democratic state, where Trump's chances of victory in 2024 are perceived as slim.