Minimum Competence - Daily Legal News Podcast
Minimum Competence
Tues 11/14 - SCOTUS "Code" "of" "Ethics," Special Counsel Says Trump Wants a Carnival, BK Judge Ethics Fallout, NYC Real Estate Brokerage Sued and Amazon <3s Casino Apps

Tues 11/14 - SCOTUS "Code" "of" "Ethics," Special Counsel Says Trump Wants a Carnival, BK Judge Ethics Fallout, NYC Real Estate Brokerage Sued and Amazon <3s Casino Apps

SCOTUS adopts a nonbinding, voluntary, code of ethics, Special counsel says Trump is trying to start a carnival in court, more BK judge ethics fallout, NYC real estate brokerages and Amazon sued.

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A pencil sketch of a little girl walking through school doors.

On November 14th, in the context of legal history, the story of Ruby Bridges stands out as a pivotal moment in the civil rights movement, particularly in the desegregation of American schools. Born on September 8, 1954, in Tylertown, Mississippi, Ruby Bridges became a symbol of the civil rights movement on November 14, 1960, when she became the first African American child to integrate an all-white elementary school in the South, specifically William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans, Louisiana.

At the tender age of six, Bridges' entry into the school was not just a simple walk through its doors. Escorted by federal marshals amidst a hostile crowd, her brave step was a significant action following the landmark 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students unconstitutional.

Bridges' integration of the school was the result of hard-won legal battles led by the NAACP, which sought to enforce the Supreme Court's decision. Her courage became a national symbol of the struggle to end segregation, challenging the status quo and societal norms of the time.

Despite facing daily harassment and isolation (she was the only student in her class as others were pulled out by their parents), Ruby's perseverance was remarkable. Her teacher, Barbara Henry, from Boston, was the only one willing to teach her, and together they spent a year in a classroom, just the two of them.

Her story highlights not only the legal struggles associated with civil rights but also the human element within these battles. The image of young Ruby, depicted in Norman Rockwell's painting "The Problem We All Live With," has become an iconic symbol of the civil rights movement.

Ruby's journey was not just a legal milestone but also a deeply personal story of courage and resilience. It underscored the power of law to bring about social change and challenged Americans to confront their prejudices and work towards a more equitable society.

In later years, Ruby Bridges has continued to be an active voice in the civil rights movement. She established the Ruby Bridges Foundation in 1999, promoting the values of tolerance, respect, and appreciation of all differences.

On November 14th, we remember not just a legal victory in the annals of American history, but also the extraordinary courage of a little girl who stood up against racial segregation and in doing so, helped to change the course of history. Her legacy serves as a reminder of the ongoing struggle for racial equality and the importance of education in shaping a more just society.

The U.S. Supreme Court has adopted its first-ever code of conduct in response to recent ethics controversies involving its justices. The code primarily consolidates existing principles and doesn't significantly change how the justices operate. It lacks a public complaint system or external review for alleged violations, aiming instead to clear up misconceptions about the justices being exempt from ethical rules. The move follows reports of Justice Clarence Thomas receiving extravagant gifts from a Republican megadonor, raising questions about the court's impartiality.

Critics, like Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, have welcomed the step but point out the need for enforceable mechanisms to ensure compliance. The new code incorporates some rules from the Judicial Conference, like broader disclosure requirements for private plane flights and commercial property lodging, but stops short of a complaint system like that for lower federal judges.

Chief Justice John Roberts has directed a review of best practices, but no concrete enforcement process or timeline has been established. All nine justices, including Thomas, who has faced intense scrutiny for his financial dealings and conduct related to the 2020 election, have signed the new code. The court's decision reflects ongoing discussions among the justices, with some expressing support for the initiative in recent months.

Supreme Court Adopts Code of Conduct Amid Ethics Revelations (2)

Under fire, US Supreme Court unveils ethics code for justices | Reuters

U.S. Special Counsel Jack Smith accused former President Donald Trump of trying to create a "carnival atmosphere" at his trial over charges related to the 2020 election defeat. Smith argues that televising the trial, as Trump supports, would lead to distractions from the charges and a public relations campaign. This accusation follows Trump's behavior during a recent civil fraud case in New York, where he often evaded direct answers and made political statements. Trump's lawyers claim that not broadcasting the trial is part of a politically motivated effort by the Biden administration. Prosecutors oppose televising the trial, citing a longstanding rule against broadcasting criminal cases in federal court. Trump, facing four criminal prosecutions, has pleaded not guilty to all charges, including conspiring to illegally subvert the 2020 election results.

Special counsel says Trump seeking 'carnival atmosphere' at 2020 election trial | Reuters

The Texas law firm Jackson Walker claims it was misled by former partner Elizabeth Freeman about her relationship with U.S. Bankruptcy Judge David Jones, who handled cases for the firm. Freeman had initially assured the firm that her relationship with Jones had ended, but it was later revealed they had been living together. This conflict of interest led to Jones' resignation in October after it became public. The U.S. Trustee is now seeking the return of millions of dollars Jackson Walker earned in cases presided over by Jones. The firm, however, did not disclose the relationship even after learning of it in March 2021, violating bankruptcy rules that require extensive disclosures of connections. Jackson Walker's lack of standard checks for relationships between its staff and judges has raised questions about the integrity of the bankruptcy system, with the U.S. Trustee arguing that the undisclosed relationship compromised the fairness of all cases involving the firm and Judge Jones. The situation further escalated when Freeman, after leaving Jackson Walker to start her own practice, was appointed by Jones to a lucrative position in a mediation case, without disclosing their relationship.

Law firm tied to bankruptcy judge resignation says former partner lied | Reuters

A lawsuit filed in Manhattan accuses the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) and over two dozen brokerages, including the Corcoran Group and Douglas Elliman, of conspiring to artificially inflate real estate agents' commissions in Manhattan residential sales. This follows a recent Missouri federal jury verdict awarding $1.78 billion in a similar case against the National Association of Realtors, which could potentially be tripled. The lawsuit claims that commissions in Manhattan remain at a stable 5% to 6%, despite soaring home prices, contrasting with more competitive markets like Brooklyn where commissions are lower and negotiated separately. The plaintiff, Monty March, argues that REBNY's listing service unfairly requires sellers to pay high commissions to buyers' brokers, citing his own experience of selling an Upper East Side apartment with inflated commissions. REBNY plans to change its rules from January 1, requiring sellers to directly pay commissions to buyers' brokers, aiming for more transparency. However, March questions if this will actually lead to lower commissions or create delays in sales negotiations. The lawsuit seeks damages for sellers who paid buyer brokers' commissions under REBNY rules in the last four years.

Manhattan real estate brokerages are sued for inflating commissions | Reuters

Amazon is facing a proposed class-action lawsuit alleging that it engaged in an "illegal internet gambling enterprise" by distributing casino-style apps and processing payments for virtual chips. The suit, filed by a Nevada resident who claims addiction to these online slot games, accuses Amazon of partnering with virtual casinos to offer over 30 illegal casino apps. This follows a 2018 U.S. appeals court ruling that deemed "social casino" apps illegal under Washington state law. The lawsuit alleges that Amazon, by offering these apps, effectively brought slot machines into consumers' homes continuously. Amazon has not yet responded to the lawsuit.

Edelson, the law firm representing the plaintiff, is experienced in such litigation, having secured substantial settlements in related cases. The firm's Todd Logan, leading the gambling practice, expressed eagerness to bring the case before a jury. The games in question are free to play, offering virtual chips instead of cash payouts, but require users to purchase more chips to continue playing. The lawsuit contends that Amazon is aware of the illegality of these social casinos yet maintains a 30% financial interest in them. The plaintiff's lawyers estimate the class size to be tens of thousands, seeking damages and restitution. This case adds to ongoing legal challenges against tech giants like Apple, Meta, and Google over their roles in processing payments for social casino apps.

Amazon sued over 'dangerous partnership' with virtual casino apps | Reuters

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