On this day in legal history, August 23 1927, Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were executed in the United States. They were Italian-born American anarchists who were controversially convicted of murdering a guard and a paymaster during an armed robbery in 1920. Their trial and execution sparked protests and debates about the justice system, immigration, and political radicalism.
Many were critical of the trial and its outcome, including Felix Frankfurter, who was at the time a professor at Harvard Law School and would go on to be appointed to the Supreme Court by Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
The trial of the Italian anarchists continues to be a subject of interest and debate, particularly regarding their guilt in armed robbery and murder. They were accused of killing two men during a robbery at a shoe factory, but there was no solid evidence linking them to the crime. Their arrest and trial occurred during a period of intense social unrest in the U.S., known as the "Red Scare," marked by anti-immigrant sentiment and fear of radical ideologies. The trial was heavily influenced by their anarchist beliefs and immigrant background, leading to their conviction on July 14, 1921. The proceedings were considered unfair, as the trial judge had sole authority over motions for a new trial and appellate rules limited review of evidence. Sacco and Vanzetti were executed on August 23, 1927, in a case that has since inspired various works of art and literature. The story serves as a reminder of the importance of a fair legal system and the dangers of prejudice and fear in the administration of justice.
Edward Blum's anti-affirmative action group, The American Alliance for Equal Rights, has sued law firms Perkins Coie and Morrison Foerster, alleging that their diversity fellowships are unlawful following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to overturn affirmative action. The suit claims that the firms' fellowships, aimed at hiring diverse candidates, are discriminatory. Perkins Coie has responded by affirming its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and has vowed to defend the lawsuit vigorously. Morrison Foerster has not commented on the matter.
The lawsuit follows the Supreme Court's ruling against Harvard and the University of North Carolina, in which affirmative action in admissions was overturned. Since then, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) hiring initiatives have faced increased scrutiny, with warnings from Republican lawmakers that such initiatives may be illegal.
Perkins Coie offers diversity fellowships for students from underrepresented backgrounds, including a $15,000 academic scholarship for first-year students and a $25,000 scholarship for second-year students. Morrison Foerster has been sponsoring legal diversity scholarship programs since the 1980s, providing $25,000 to students over two years. Similar programs are common in many large and mid-sized law firms.
The American Bar Association is also reviewing the Supreme Court decision to ensure compliance while promoting diversity within the legal profession. The lawsuits against Perkins Coie and Morrison Foerster were filed in federal district courts in Dallas and Miami, respectively. This is part of Blum's continuing campaign against affirmative action, which recently included a lawsuit against a venture capital fund for financing startups run by Black women. The legal actions highlight the ongoing tension and debate surrounding affirmative action and diversity initiatives in the professional world.
The former head of JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s precious-metals desk, Michael Nowak, and top trader Gregg Smith were sentenced to prison for spoofing, fraud, and attempted market manipulation. Nowak received a one-year and one-day term, while Smith was given two years, marking the harshest sentence in recent government efforts against questionable trading practices. The judge emphasized the seriousness of the offense, stating that it undermined market integrity. The sentences were meant to send a message that market manipulation will be punished. Both men plan to appeal their convictions.
The case is part of a broader crackdown on illegal spoofing, where traders place and quickly cancel bogus orders to manipulate prices. Smith and Nowak used this technique to manipulate gold and silver prices from 2008 to 2016. Convictions in this case follow a series of wins by prosecutors against some of Wall Street's biggest banks. In 2020, JPMorgan agreed to pay $920 million to settle related allegations, the largest fine for market manipulation since the 2008 financial crisis.
Witnesses, including three former team members who pleaded guilty, testified against Nowak and Smith, describing how they placed huge orders they never intended to execute. Spoofing became illegal after the passage of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, and the JPMorgan case highlights the ongoing efforts by federal authorities to ensure compliance and maintain trust in the financial markets.
The U.S. Supreme Court has denied a request from West Virginia and 26 other Republican attorneys general to challenge the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's (CFPB) funding mechanism at oral arguments this fall. The states had filed a petition in July, arguing their expertise in consumer protection issues gave them insight into how an unbounded CFPB could damage consumer-financial markets and impair states' abilities to regulate those markets. The Supreme Court denied the motion without explanation, in line with its rare granting of such motions. The court is set to hear arguments on October 3 in the CFPB's appeal to a ruling that declared the agency's funding unconstitutional.
Meta Platforms, the owner of Facebook and Instagram, has been accused of breaking European data privacy rules in Norway, according to the country's data regulator, Datatilsynet. The regulator has imposed a fine of one million crowns ($94,145) per day since August 14 for breaching users' privacy by harvesting data and using it for targeted advertising. Meta is seeking a temporary injunction against the order, arguing that it had committed to ask for user consent and that the regulator's process was unnecessary and rushed. If the European Data Protection Board agrees with the Norwegian regulator's decision, the fine could become permanent and have wider implications across Europe.
Hollywood studios and streaming services released a revised proposal to the striking Writers' Guild of America (WGA) on Tuesday, but the union urged members to continue picketing, stating that the new offer failed to address all their concerns. The WGA, joined by members of the Screen Actors Guild, had walked off the job on May 2, halting productions across Hollywood and costing the California economy billions of dollars. The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) changed its offer to include new details about compensation, minimum staffing, residual payments, and curbs on artificial intelligence.
The latest proposal includes a compounded 13% pay increase over a three-year contract and stipulates that AI-generated content will not be considered "literary material." Streaming platforms also offered to provide the WGA with confidential quarterly reports on the total number of hours viewed for each made-for-streaming show.
AMPTP President Carol Lombardini expressed commitment to ending the strike and hopefulness that the WGA would work toward resolution. However, the WGA met with executives from Walt Disney, Warner Bros, NBCUniversal Studio Group, and Netflix to discuss the new offer and stated that the meeting was an attempt to make them "cave."
The union explained why the offer fell short and "failed to sufficiently protect writers from the existential threats that caused us to strike in the first place." Despite this, the WGA plans to continue picketing and will share more details on the state of the negotiations with its members.