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On this day in history August 29, 1957, the Civil Rights Act of 1957 was passed by congress – the first piece of federal legislation aimed at civil rights since reconstruction.
Prompted by the Supreme Court's landmark 1954 ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, which ignited public debate on school desegregation, the act aimed to address the widespread disenfranchisement of African Americans in the Southern United States. President Dwight D. Eisenhower initially proposed the bill to bolster federal protection for African American voting rights, a pressing issue given that only about 20% of black people were registered to vote by 1957.
However, the act faced considerable opposition in Congress, particularly from Southern Democrats who were engaged in a campaign of "massive resistance" against desegregation and civil rights reforms. Amendments like the Anderson–Aiken and O'Mahoney jury trial amendments were successful in diluting the act's potency. Senator Strom Thurmond notably conducted the longest one-person filibuster in Senate history in an attempt to block the legislation.
Despite these setbacks, the act did pass, albeit in a watered-down form orchestrated by Senate Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson. While the act had a limited immediate impact on African American voter participation due to the removal of stringent voting protection clauses, it laid important groundwork for future civil rights legislation. It established the United States Commission on Civil Rights and the United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, both of which would play crucial roles in the enforcement of civil rights laws.
The act also set the stage for more robust civil rights legislation in the 1960s, including the Civil Rights Act of 1960, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Civil Rights Act of 1968. These later acts would build upon the foundation laid by the 1957 act, offering more comprehensive protections against discrimination and disenfranchisement. Overall, the Civil Rights Act of 1957 was a pivotal, if imperfect, step in the long journey toward civil rights and equality in America.
The Biden administration has targeted 10 prescription drugs for price negotiations under Medicare, aiming to cut their costs by half on average by 2026. This move is part of Biden's Inflation Reduction Act, which was signed into law a year ago to address the high cost of medicines in the U.S. Among the drugs targeted are Eliquis, a blood thinner by Bristol-Myers Squibb and Pfizer, and AstraZeneca's Farxiga, which treats diabetes and heart failure. These drugs alone accounted for significant spending, with Eliquis costing Medicare $16 billion in the year through May 2023.
Previously, the U.S. government was prohibited from negotiating drug prices due to a 2003 law that created Medicare’s Part D program. However, the Inflation Reduction Act has mandated these negotiations. The drugs selected for this round of negotiations account for nearly $51 billion, or about 20% of Part D’s prescription drug costs. Around 9 million people on Medicare took these drugs and paid $3.4 billion out-of-pocket last year.
Pharmaceutical companies have criticized the move, arguing that it threatens innovation and intellectual property rights. Johnson & Johnson, which has two drugs on the list, stated that the policies put an "artificial deadline on innovation." The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) also warned that giving the government the power to set prices could have "significant negative consequences."
The drug industry is currently suing to block these negotiations, and companies like Merck, Bristol, J&J, and AstraZeneca have each filed lawsuits. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is also seeking an injunction to halt the negotiations. Analysts project a manageable impact on industry revenue, estimating as much as a 5% hit. However, the government expects that the price negotiations will save Medicare $100 billion through 2031.
U.S. states are increasingly focusing on "opportunity transparency" to address pay gaps, requiring companies to be more transparent about promotion opportunities. Illinois and Colorado have enacted laws that will take effect in 2025 and next year, respectively, mandating employers to disclose information about promotions. New Jersey also has pending legislation on this issue. These efforts build on pay disclosure laws initiated in Colorado in 2021 and later adopted by states like Washington, New York, California, and Hawaii. These laws primarily aim to address pay disparities affecting women and people of color.
The new rules are designed to counter the "shoulder tap" practice, where employees are quietly selected for promotions, often without the knowledge of their co-workers. This lack of transparency disproportionately affects women and minorities. A 2022 study by McKinsey & Co. and LeanIn found that for every 100 men promoted from entry-level to manager positions, only 87 women and 82 women of color are promoted. This contributes to men holding nearly two-thirds of managerial roles despite making up only half of the workforce.
Colorado's law imposes fines of up to $10,000 per violation and mandates changes in business practices. It requires companies to notify all employees of job openings and promotions in writing, giving them sufficient time to apply. Amendments to the law will further require businesses to notify employees about all job openings, not just promotions.
The Illinois law, effective in 2025, will require companies to announce all potential promotions to their current employees within 14 days of posting a position externally. It will also require the disclosure of salary ranges and a summary of benefits in job ads. These laws aim to have a "cascading impact" on pay equity, complementing other policy efforts like banning employers from asking about applicants' prior salary history.
The American Bar Association (ABA) is forming a new task force to explore the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on the legal profession. This move comes as law firms increasingly experiment with AI tools like ChatGPT, while also confronting ethical and practical challenges posed by the technology. The ABA Task Force on Law and Artificial Intelligence will be chaired by Lucy Thomson, a lawyer and cybersecurity engineer based in Washington, D.C. The group will include seven special advisors, such as former U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and former U.S. Solicitor General Seth Waxman.
The task force aims to assess how AI will affect the practice of law, probe ethical questions, and focus on issues like risk management, AI governance, and AI in legal education. ABA President Mary Smith emphasized the need to address both the "promise and the peril" of emerging technologies like AI. The initiative reflects a broader trend of growing interest in AI tools among legal professionals, including law schools considering the use of AI in applications and classrooms.
By way of brief biographical background, Lucy Thomson, the group’s chair, is the principal at a firm in Washington D.C., Livingston PLLC, that focuses on issues related to cyber security.
Michael Chertoff was the co-author of the PATRIOT act, and former Secretary of Homeland Security under George W. Bush.
Seth Waxman was Solicitor General of the United States from 1997 through 2001 and is frequently before the Supreme Court.
The average age among the team is about 70, they’re all lawyers, and none of them have any evident technical expertise.
A U.S. District Judge, James Donato, is set to decertify a class-action lawsuit against Google involving 21 million consumers who claimed the tech giant violated federal antitrust laws through its Google Play app store. The decision could significantly reduce any damages that Google might owe for its distribution of Android mobile applications. The judge stated that his previous class certification order from November 2022 should be thrown out, as he decided not to allow an economist to testify as an expert witness for the consumers. This move eliminated an "essential element" of the consumers' argument for class certification. The class action had included consumers from 12 U.S. states and five territories, separate from a similar case brought by state attorneys general against Google.