On this day in legal history, we have a low point in American history. On August 15, 1876, the US Congress passed a “starve or sell” bill that cut off support for the Sioux Indian nation unless they gave up the gold-laden Black Hills. This was two months after the US army was routed at the Battle of Little Bighorn and brought to an end the Great Sioux War of 1876.
In the years leading up to the Battle of Little Bighorn, Lt. Col. Custer's discovery of gold in the Black Hills led to a surge of white prospectors, despite the Treaty of Fort Laramie granting the lands to the Sioux Nation. The U.S. government chose to side with trespassers rather than honor the treaty, culminating in Congress's passage of the "Sell or Starve" Act in 1876. This act forced the Sioux to relinquish both their hunting rights and their claim to the Black Hills, a decision reached without the required three-fourths approval of the Sioux male population. For decades, the Sioux had no legal means to challenge the decision until expanded jurisdiction in 1920. Their case languished until the creation of the Indian Claims Commission, which in 1974 found that the act had been an exercise of eminent domain without just compensation. Although initially refused, Congress amended the act, and the court ruled the Sioux were entitled to $17.1 million plus interest. In 1980, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision, concluding that Congress had the right to rectify its past mistakes, marking a significant but somber chapter in American history.
Well folks, they went ahead and did it again. Again …. Again.
Former President Donald Trump, along with 18 other defendants including Rudy Giuliani, Mark Meadows, and Jeffrey Clark, were indicted in Atlanta over efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election in Georgia. This represents the fourth criminal case against Trump and involves charges of racketeering and other crimes. The indictment details 161 specific acts related to the central charge of racketeering, with Trump potentially facing a penalty ranging from five to 20 years in prison.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who will seek to try all 19 defendants together, intends to hold a trial within the next 6 months. The indictment includes conservative attorneys who aided Trump's campaign, such as Jenna Ellis and Sidney Powell. Trump's lawyers have labeled the indictment "flawed and unconstitutional." This new indictment adds to Trump's legal woes as he continues to campaign for the White House, already facing trials for mishandling classified documents and over hush-money payments, and it is likely to be televised under Georgia's Supreme Court rules.
This is the most serious slate of state-level crimes he has been indicted for, which is significant if Trump’s plan is to win reelection and pardon himself. Whether or not he can pardon himself for federal crimes is an open question, but he certainly cannot pardon himself for state-level crimes.
A Montana state judge has ruled that the state's oil and gas policies violate young people's constitutional rights to a safe environment, marking a significant win for youth climate plaintiffs. The ruling found that an adjustment to the Montana Energy Policy Act (MEPA) infringes on rights protected under the state's constitution, a judgment some experts call the "strongest decision on climate change" ever issued by a court. Montana is one of three states that affirmatively guarantee the right to a healthful environment in their constitutions. The decision issued by Judge Kathy Seeley will affect Montana’s policies by invalidating statutes that prohibit analysis and remedies based on greenhouse gas emissions and climate impacts. The case, Held v. Montana, featured 16 youth plaintiffs, and various expert witnesses testified on their behalf. Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen's office criticized the ruling and announced plans to appeal. Legal analysts believe the ruling may influence other climate-related legal battles and boost efforts to establish affirmative climate rights in other states.
Crypto exchange Binance has filed for a protective court order against the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), alleging that the regulator's requests for information are "overbroad" and "unduly burdensome." The court filing in the US District Court of Columbia was made by BAM Trading, Binance U.S.'s operating company, and BAM Management, which argue that they have already provided sufficient information to the SEC. The protective order aims to limit the SEC to four depositions from BAM employees and to eliminate the deposition of BAM's CEO and CFO, without naming anyone specifically. This follows a lawsuit in June when U.S. regulators sued Binance and CEO Changpeng Zhao on 13 charges, including allegations of artificially inflating trading volumes and misleading investors. Binance's filing stated that the SEC has yet to identify evidence of customer asset misuse, and also noted that the SEC has declined BAM's proposals to meaningfully limit its requests and is opposed to the motion for a protective order.
The American Bar Association (ABA) has urged law schools to offer either academic credit or pay to students who serve as editors of law reviews or other academic legal journals. The resolution was approved by the ABA’s House of Delegates, its policymaking body, on Tuesday. Most law schools already provide academic credit or modest stipends to law review editors, but some don't, or offer fewer credits than allowed by the ABA. The ABA's rules permit law schools to grant one academic credit for every 42.5 hours of work. The resolution aims to allow more law students from diverse or lower-income backgrounds to become law journal editors, as these students often cannot participate due to work commitments. The issue came to prominence when seven law journals at New York University School of Law sought either payment or maximum academic credits for their work, highlighting the school's current restrictive policies. The resolution emphasizes the high workload of law journal participation, which often prevents students from obtaining outside employment.
A quick note on offering credit for law journal work – students, especially part time students, often pay per credit hour. Offering credit is tantamount to billing students for their work on the journal. Not ideal.
In this week’s column, I discuss the existing inequity in retirement savings in the US, highlighting a predicted $1.3 trillion retirement shortfall by 2040, with disparities falling along racial, income, education, and family size lines. I argue that broad policy interventions and specific education initiatives could address these inequalities. I propose targeting financial education and literacy towards underserved communities, implementing school-based education, and using online learning platforms marshaled by the IRS to encourage financial literacy.
I also emphasize the need for policies incentivizing employers to offer retirement accounts to all employees, including part-time and temporary workers, possibly through state-run automatic enrollment individual retirement accounts. I discuss specific findings from a GAO report, illustrating the disparities and emphasizing the need to enhance equity through policies like making credits refundable. Furthermore, I highlight the need to adjust income limits and contribution limits to accommodate families' real financial needs. Finally, I stress that implementing and enhancing policies, and holding politicians accountable, is crucial to improving both retirement savings and retirement savings equity.