On this day in legal history, Richard M. Nixon resigned the office of the presidency, effective at noon. We covered that in yesterday’s episode, so we won’t go in to detail here. Instead, let’s talk about Charles Manson.
On this day in legal history, the Manson Family murdered actress Sharon Tate and four others in Los Angeles, California. The Manson Family murders not only shocked the nation but also presented an unprecedented challenge to the legal system. The subsequent trial was one of the longest and most widely publicized in American history, highlighting the difficulties in prosecuting criminal enterprises with deep psychological manipulation and control over its members. The complex nature of the crime, involving a charismatic leader and followers willing to commit murder on his command, pushed the boundaries of legal procedures and criminal responsibility. Moreover, the trial raised serious questions about the role of the media in shaping public opinion and potentially influencing the outcome of a case. Legal experts and scholars took a keen interest in the legal strategies employed, which included an attempt to prove that Manson's control over his followers was so complete that they were not responsible for their actions. The verdict, which saw Manson and several of his followers convicted, set a precedent in dealing with similar cult-like criminal organizations. Overall, the legal proceedings following the Manson murders contributed significantly to the development of legal theories and practices related to cult behavior, group responsibility, and the intersection of law, psychology, and media influence.
Three in-house lawyers for Southwest Airlines were ordered to undergo religious freedom training from the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) after a federal judge, Judge Brantley Starr, sanctioned them for inappropriate wording in a company notice on employee rights. The ruling came after former Southwest employee Charlene Carter won a religious discrimination case after being fired for anti-abortion social media posts. Judge Starr criticized Southwest's compliance with the court's order and mandated a “verbatim” statement reflecting the court's preferred language. The judge also expressed concerns over Southwest's "chronic failure" to understand federal religious freedom protections and considered the training the “least restrictive means” to ensure compliance. Southwest plans to appeal both the order and the underlying judgment. Meanwhile, the ADF, a Christian legal nonprofit, disputes the Southern Poverty Law Center's characterization of it as a hate group for its anti-LGBTQ views.
The case has drawn attention to the balance between company policies and federal laws, especially Title VII, that protect religious freedoms. While Southwest argued it had the right to speak to its workers and maintain its civility policies, the judge's decision reflects the precedence of federal laws over internal company guidelines. Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation, expressed hope that the order might encourage workers to express religious dissent against company and union political agendas.
The American Bar Association (ABA) has called on U.S. judicial leaders to investigate the mental health effects of violent or traumatic incidents on judges, their staff, and families, and recommend measures to enhance their safety. The request comes in the wake of increased threats and violence, such as an assassination attempt on Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and the 2020 murder of U.S. District Judge Esther Salas's son. The ABA's House of Delegates supported a resolution at its annual meeting, focusing on the mental health impacts of high caseloads and violence, and encouraging the development of training and professional, confidential treatment for judges and their families.
The resolution's report emphasized that existing legislation, such as the Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act, does not adequately address the whole threat spectrum or all victims. It stressed the need for attention to the broader community affected by traumatic events, including the often "forgotten" staff and families. The report also highlighted that trauma can stem not only from violent threats but also from experiences within court proceedings, such as complex sentencings, divorces, and abuse cases. It called for training on topics such as secondary trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder, and overall mental and emotional well-being.
Google has requested a U.S. appeals court to pause a decision that would return an antitrust lawsuit, filed by Texas, back to federal court in Texas. The lawsuit, initially filed in 2020, accuses Google of abusing its dominance in advertising technology. The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation initially granted the state's request to send the lawsuit back to Texas, but stayed the decision to give Google time to appeal. Google has disputed the move, arguing that a law granting state attorneys general the right to choose where an antitrust lawsuit will be litigated is not retroactive.
This is the case that gave rise to discussions of Google’s ad business potentially needing to be split, Bell Telephone-style.
The wealthy are increasingly using private foundations to create "jewel-box museums," garnering massive tax deductions while retaining control and enjoyment of valuable assets. These foundations, which are just basically 501(c)(3) organizations, are becoming tools of tax avoidance for affluent individuals, especially when they use them to house art or historic properties. The scheme typically involves donating an ostentatious mansion or valuable property to a private foundation, thereby theoretically entitling the donor to a plethora of income tax deductions. However, enforcement is lax, and there are not enough resources to ensure that these "museums" provide genuine public benefits or admit the public regularly.
The reduction in IRS funding has hindered the agency's ability to police these quasi-museum schemes. Consequently, there is a need for tighter rules, more specific policies, and more transparent reporting to close existing loopholes. My proposed solutions include requiring explicit reporting of public access details, implementing random audits for compliance, and incentivizing whistleblowers. At the heart of the solution is a requirement for increased IRS funding and the political will to enforce regulations more stringently. Without addressing these loopholes, efforts to increase tax compliance by the wealthy or raise tax rates on top earners will continue to be undermined, perpetuating a system that disproportionately benefits the affluent.