Minimum Competence - Daily Legal News Podcast
Minimum Competence
Tues 10/23 - Menendez Pleads Not Guilty, CO Can't Bar Anti-LGBTQ School from State Program, Biden Judicial Nominations Profiled, BK in Radiology and Banks vs. CFPB

Tues 10/23 - Menendez Pleads Not Guilty, CO Can't Bar Anti-LGBTQ School from State Program, Biden Judicial Nominations Profiled, BK in Radiology and Banks vs. CFPB

Menendez pleading not guilty, again, CO can’t bar anti-LGBTQ school from state program, an all-Biden court shows how nominations have changed, a bankruptcy in radiology and banks are mad at CFPB.

A pencil sketch of a baby carriage with the United Nations logo.

On this day in legal history, October 24, the United Nations came into being.

On October 24, 1945, a major milestone in international legal history was achieved with the ratification of the Charter of the United Nations. This marked the formal establishment of the United Nations (UN), an organization conceived at that time with the noble aim of promoting global peace, security, and cooperation among nations. This day saw the culmination of efforts that began much earlier, during the turbulent times of World War II, aimed at preventing future generations from the scourge of war.

The ratification of the Charter represented a collective global aspiration for a new era of international law and diplomacy. On this day, a majority of signatory nations ratified the Charter, symbolizing their commitment to adhere to the principles of international law, uphold human rights, and promote social progress in their respective territories and globally.

The United Nations emerged as the successor to the League of Nations, which had failed to prevent the outbreak of the Second World War. The Charter's ratification was not merely a legal formality but a beacon of hope for a war-ravaged world. It symbolized a global consensus on the principles of sovereignty, non-interference, and the peaceful resolution of disputes.

This day also witnessed the birth of the UN's principal organs, including the General Assembly and the Security Council, which were entrusted with the monumental task of maintaining international peace and security. The Charter's provisions laid the foundation for international law, setting a precedent for multilateral diplomacy and cooperation.

October 24, now celebrated as United Nations Day, commemorates the ratification of the Charter and the establishment of the UN, reminding the global community of the enduring values of international cooperation and the pursuit of peace. This day, enshrined in legal history, continues to inspire nations to work together towards a more equitable and peaceful world.

On this day, let's reflect on the vision encapsulated in the Charter and the ongoing journey of the United Nations in navigating the complex landscape of international relations and law, striving to fulfill the lofty ideals set forth on that historic day in 1945. Through the lens of legal history, October 24 stands as a testament to the power of international law and the potential of collective action in shaping a better future for humanity.

Of course, let us not only reflect on the lofty aspirations the UN was born in to, but the many shortcomings and failings it has seen–endeavoring, in the small part that we can, to plot a course forward that brings us closer to the ideals set forth in 1945. 

U.S. Senator Bob Menendez from New Jersey has entered a plea of not guilty to a recent indictment accusing him of acting as an unregistered foreign agent for the Egyptian government. This indictment follows accusations from federal prosecutors on October 12, stating that Menendez had been involved in actions on behalf of Egyptian military and intelligence officials from 2018 to 2022. The plea was made in front of U.S. District Judge Sidney Stein in Manhattan. Previously on October 12, Menendez had commented on the accusations, asserting that adding new charges doesn't make the allegations true.

In a prior related case, both Senator Menendez and his wife, Nadine Menendez, were charged with accepting substantial amounts of money and gold bars from three businessmen based in New Jersey. The accusation was that in exchange, Menendez used his influence to aid the Egyptian government and obstruct law enforcement investigations into these businessmen. All defendants, including the Menendez couple, pleaded not guilty to those charges on September 27.

On October 18, Nadine Menendez and one of the implicated businessmen, Wael Hana, also pleaded not guilty to the foreign agent charge. The prosecution alleges that Hana facilitated meetings between Senator Menendez and Egyptian officials, who then urged Menendez to approve military aid. As a part of the arrangement, Hana allegedly placed Nadine Menendez on the payroll of a company under his control. The indictment further claims that both Hana and Nadine Menendez transmitted requests and directives from Egyptian officials to Senator Menendez. Despite these serious allegations and charges, Senator Menendez has not heeded calls from fellow Democrats for his resignation.

US Senator Menendez pleads not guilty to foreign agent charge | Reuters

A federal judge has halted Colorado's attempt to exclude a Christian private school from its taxpayer-funded universal preschool program due to the school's religious-based stance on LGBTQ issues. The ruling came from U.S. District Judge Daniel Domenico, who issued a preliminary injunction against the state's move to bar Darren Patterson Christian Academy from the program or penalize it for its religious policies. The school's policies require employees to adhere to its faith and students to use bathrooms and pronouns aligning with their biological sex, which clashed with Colorado's non-discrimination requirements.

The conflict arose from the Colorado Department of Early Childhood's non-discrimination prerequisites, which prevent discrimination based on religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity among other statuses. These prerequisites were tied to a new universal preschool program approved by voters in 2020. Despite being initially approved to participate in this program, Darren Patterson Christian Academy sought an exemption from the non-discrimination requirements which was denied by the department, citing state law mandates.

Judge Domenico, however, acknowledged the school's credible fear of enforcement of these requirements, especially in hiring teachers, as the school has a policy of hiring only born-again Christians observing sex within the traditional marriage framework. The judge also noted that mandating the use of preferred pronouns could likely infringe on the school's free speech rights.

The verdict drew support from the school's representation, the conservative Christian legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, emphasizing that religious schools shouldn't be forced to abandon their beliefs. This case reflects a wider contention as other religious organizations, including the Archdiocese of Denver, have raised objections against Colorado's non-discrimination mandates, with similar legal challenges pending.

The ruling carries a broader implication, as it references a U.S. Supreme Court decision from June in a related Colorado case, which sided with a wedding website designer refusing services for same-sex weddings based on religious beliefs. The unfolding legal scenario in Colorado could potentially impact the balance between state non-discrimination laws and religious freedom, indicating a continuing legal discourse on these intersecting rights.

Colorado can't bar Christian school from preschool program over LGBTQ stance, judge says | Reuters

President Joe Biden's efforts to diversify the federal judiciary are clearly showcased in the US trial court in Seattle, where he selected all seven active judges in the Western District of Washington. These selections are significant for their diversity as all seven judges are either women, people of color, or both, marking a noticeable shift for a court that previously had no women of color. This court scenario offers a lens into a potential future where courts remain understaffed due to nomination battles, only to be filled when a president of the same party as the home state senators comes to power.

These developments are consequential for states with two Republican senators, where judicial vacancies are accumulating. Such a scenario could lead to courts dominated by Republican-appointed judges if a Republican wins the 2024 presidential election. The Western District of Washington court, known for high-profile litigation, experienced a severe staffing shortage exacerbated by departures at the end of the Obama era, which remained unaddressed during Trump's term as he prioritized states with Republican home-state senators.

Biden's selections are not only diverse demographically but also professionally, bringing a variety of legal expertise to the bench, a departure from the usual appointments of former prosecutors and corporate lawyers. The judges include individuals with backgrounds in immigration law, tribal court, labor law, and civil rights cases. They also represent some of the youngest federal judges, significantly lowering the average age of judges on the bench.

The Western District stands out as the largest court in the country where a single president appointed all active judges, showcasing a potential future trend. Other courts like the District of New Jersey and the Northern District of California have also seen a significant number of appointments under Biden, following staffing shortages during the Trump administration. This trend may continue, especially in red states, as the 2024 election approaches, presenting opportunities for a Republican president to reshape courts in favor of their ideological leanings.

Amidst these changes, the influx of new judges brings fresh perspectives to the courts, with senior judges playing a crucial role in mentoring and aiding the transition for new appointees. The camaraderie among new judges and the guidance from senior judges contribute to a supportive environment, aiding the new judges in navigating their roles effectively.

All-Biden Court Shows Partisan Shift in How Judges Get Confirmed

Radiology provider Akumin Inc. intends to file for bankruptcy and transition into a private entity, with Stonepeak Partners taking over its operations. This decision comes as part of a deal where Akumin will exchange $470 million of its debt, held by Stonepeak, for equity. Additionally, Stonepeak Partners has committed to injecting $130 million of fresh capital into the business. The agreement also stipulates that current shareholders will share a $25 million cash pool. As of the last report, Akumin, which offers radiology and oncology services to approximately 1,000 healthcare facilities in the US, has a market capitalization of about $13 million and holds over $1.3 billion in debt. This restructuring plan is pending approval from the bankruptcy court.

Radiology Provider Akumin to Go Bankrupt, Give Keys to Creditor

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) faces criticism from banks over its recent open banking proposal, which aims to enable the free sharing of customer financial data while enhancing security. Released on October 19, the proposal encourages banks and credit unions to facilitate customers in sharing their financial information with third-party fintech apps via data aggregators. However, traditional financial institutions fear this might not adequately address data security or liability concerns, and they might challenge it in court if they find the rule lacking in these areas.

One primary concern of the banks and credit unions is the potential liability they might face if a data aggregator or fintech app suffers a data breach. They are also worried about the misuse of customer data by fintechs, which could infringe on privacy rights. Although the CFPB proposes to extend existing data security laws to fintechs, modify how customer data is shared, and limit the potential uses of such data, financial institutions believe these measures might not be sufficient to allay their concerns.

The proposal also aims to phase out "screen scraping," a practice deemed insecure as it requires users to share their banking credentials with third-party services, which increases the risk of data exposure. The CFPB plans to replace this with the use of application programming interfaces (APIs) that allow consumers to control the financial data they share with third parties, intending to eliminate screen scraping within four years.

The industry is already transitioning away from screen scraping, with the CFPB estimating that half of the third-party data access now occurs through APIs. This shift reflects a significant change from just two years ago when most data access was via screen scraping.

The proposal also addresses targeted advertising by third parties, an area the CFPB has actively pursued, by setting guardrails on the use of shared data. It also states that data aggregators collecting customer data for credit decisions or other financial activities would be considered credit reporting companies under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, bringing them under direct CFPB supervision for data security requirements compliance.

However, banks and credit unions desire a stronger commitment to federal supervision concerning data security, privacy, and consumer protection. They also express concerns about liability for data breaches and potential customer losses, fearing that the liability standards set by Regulation E of the 1978 Electronic Fund Transfer Act might not adequately cover the complexities of open banking, potentially leaving banks liable if fintech companies lack the means to cover customer losses.

Banks Say CFPB Needs to Beef Up Security in Open Banking Plan

Minimum Competence - Daily Legal News Podcast
Minimum Competence
The idea is that this podcast can accompany you on your commute home and will render you minimally competent on the major legal news stories of the day. The transcript is available in the form of a newsletter at