SCOTUS Spotlight: Roger B. Taney

Roger B. Taney, born on March 17, 1777, was the 5th Chief Justice of the United States and the first Roman Catholic to serve on the Supreme Court. Taney’s life and legacy have been considered deeply controversial. Taney held many political roles once he was admitted to the bar: he served for one year in the Maryland House of Delegates, he was elected to the Maryland Senate, he served as the US Attorney General, and he served as the Secretary of War. When Andrew Jackson tried to appoint Taney to serve as the Secretary of the Treasury, however, the Senate denied this nomination and Taney became the first cabinet nominee ever to be rejected by the Senate. 

Later, Jackson nominated Taney to the Supreme Court but the Senate rejected him again citing his radical views. However, 10 months later when Chief Justice John Marshall had passed away, Jackson again nominated Taney to serve as Marshall’s successor, and the Senate finally approved. Despite holding many roles in his life,  he is remembered principally for the Dred Scott decision that he delivered during his time as Chief Justice. Taney, himself, delivered the ruling that African Americans were not citizens, and that slavery could not be prohibited by Congress. The decision immediately created controversy and disagreement. So much so that not long after the decision was public, Congress passed the 13th and 14th amendment to the Constitution which, in effect, overturned the ruling of the Dred Scott decision.  

The country, to this day, has not forgotten Taney’s decision and it’s impact on American history. As of 2020, following the protests surrounding the killing of George Floyd, the House of Representatives voted 305-113 to remove the bust of Taney from the U.S. Capitol and replace it with a bust of Thurgood Marshall, the first African American Supreme Court Justice.

Two interesting facts: Roger B. Taney married Anne Phoebe Charlton Key, the sister of Francis Scott Key, who wrote the Star Spangled Banner. 

SCOTUS Spotlight – Clarence Thomas

Associate Justice Clarence Thomas is an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Supreme Court Justices have lifetime tenure and Justice Thomas is the longest sitting member of the Court, serving for 29 years. In his young years in Savannah, Georgia, his father left, his family struggled financially, and a fire left him, his sister, and his mother homeless. The three of them moved in with his maternal grandparents where he became the first black student admitted to St. John Vianney to become a priest. After many years of pursuing becoming a priest, he was disappointed with the Catholic Church’s passive stance on Civil Rights so he decided to change paths to a legal career focused on Civil Rights. After graduating from the College of the Holy Cross, he attended Yale Law School. Clarence Thomas had a noteworthy yet brief career on the Court of Appeals before Bush nominated him to the Supreme Court. Before he could be officially appointed, Senate hearings took place regarding sexual harassment claims against him. Thomas rigorously denied all allegations and in October 1991 he was confirmed by the senate and appointed as a Supreme Court Justice by the narrowest margin in a century. As the second African American to serve on the court, Justice Thomas is known for his conservative approach. By conservative, we mean that he reads the constitution as it is: he looks at the words and makes his decisions based on that alone. This is in comparison to other justices who will read the constitution and interpret the words into modern-day context. Justice Thomas’s votes consistently reflect a small government stance. He has voted consistently for outcomes that promote state autonomy by restricting the federal government’s control on the states. While Thomas’s conservative approach has seldom been the majority of the court, and therefore, not the law, with more conservative justices added to the court in the last couple of years, (making conservative Justices the majority in comparison to the liberal Justices), we may start seeing more law that reflects Thomas’s conservative approach.

#LearnTheLaw – What is Judicial Review?

Defined: A legal phrase for what we all know Judges do: look a law, a policy, an act, a piece of legislation, etc., and assess whether it is or is not constitutional. This seems like such a deeply established concept that it’s hard to imagine that nowhere in the constitution does it say that judges have this power!
So where does this idea come from?
This comes from the landmark 1803 decision, Marbury v. Madison. In 1789, Congress passed the Judiciary Act, which in part, allows a person to bring their case straight to the Supreme Court of the United States (generally not allowed with few exceptions) if you were seeking a “writ of mandamus” (which is basically when you’re asking a higher court to tell a lower court to perform their duties).
Marbury uses the Judiciary Act to bring his writ of mandamus to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court says that actually, the Judiciary Act is unconstitutional. The court says that the constitution already explicitly mentions the circumstances in which a person could bring their case straight to the Supreme Court and Congress can’t just add another method.
Marbury says hold on, Court: who says that you’re allowed to say whether this act is unconstitutional? The court said while it hasn’t been explicitly said before, #1 we’ve been saying things are and are not unconstitutional for a long time now so it would be silly to stop now, and #2 there are many provisions in the constitution (i.e. The Vesting Clause, Arising Under Clause, Supremacy Clause, Oath Clause) that lead us to believe strongly that that’s our job.
So while we all know that this is what courts do, it was in fact made the law more than 200 years ago. This may seem uneventful now given how settled this idea is, but it’s important to note that this remains the single most important decision in American constitutional law and at the time was considered an “epic” and “genius” decision.

Back For More: $188 million Powerball Winner sued by ex-Fiancé.

Marie Holmes, a woman from Brunswick Country, North Carolina, had won the $188 million Powerball jackpot back in 2015. This win was the largest jackpot win ever in the history of North Carolina. After taxes, she was able to keep around $88 million of the winnings and made elaborate plans of spending the money.
According to the complaint filed by Lamarr Andre McDow, her ex-fiancé, she had spent a significant amount of the money on him. The complaint states that McDow and Holmes had started dating back in 2012 and eventually had two kids together. In November 2014, McDow was arrested and charged for drug trafficking, and two months later, Holmes won the lottery. Before McDow was convicted and sentenced to ten years in prison, Holmes had bought him a $250,000 Chevy Stingray, clothes, and jewelry with a total worth of $100,000 amongst other gifts. McDow has stated that he made Holmes his power of attorney before he was sentenced and authorized her to store and maintain his possessions. However, once in prison, Holmes broke up with him and sold many of his possessions. According to McDow, this was a breach of her fiduciary duties. He is suing her for compensation for his sold assets. Meanwhile, Holmes’ attorneys have filed a motion to dismiss. Citing numerous deficiencies in the suit filed by McDow, including the lawsuit was filed outside of the three-year statute of limitations.

Imagine being a bank and sending someone the wrong Venmo…

Citibank will not be able to rectify one of the biggest blunders in banking history, a US District judge has ruled. The error was an accidental transfer of $900 million by Citibank to lenders of Revlon, a cosmetics company. In the transaction, Citibank was acting as an agent of Revlon. It was supposed to send $8 million in interest payments to lenders of Revlon. But accidentally, it sent an amount that was more than 100 times the original amount.
In August 2020, Citibank filed a lawsuit seeking a return of its money. However, around 10 investment advisory firms have still not returned $500 million of the accidental transfer. The law around the spending of funds received from accidental transfers is usually strict. A Pennsylvania couple has been hit with felony charges for spending money that they had received by mistake. However, New York has an exception to this law and allows for a “discharge-for-value-defense.” The defense allows a beneficiary to keep the money received from an accidental transfer if they are entitled to the money, and they were not aware that it was an unintentional transfer. Revlon’s lenders used this defense as they thought that Citibank was sending the amount as prepayments for a loan that the bank owed them. The judge agreed with the lender’s argument and ruled that Citibank, “a highly sophisticated financial institution,” could not have made this transfer by mistake, and to believe that it was a mistake would be “borderline irrational.”

#BlackHistoryMonth – Dred Scott

Black History Month is all about amplifying black lives, voices, and experiences throughout American history. However, BHM also serves as a necessary reminder of America’s harsh relationship with racism, inequality, and discrimination to always understand where we started and how far we must go. Today we discuss Dred Scott, whose case sparked such disagreement that it partially influenced the nation to fight (literally) for freedom in the Civil War. Furthermore, it thoroughly influenced Congress to amend the constitution to reflect and protect all black individuals and their fundamental rights.
In 1820, as western expansion commenced, conflict arose over which states would be free states and which would be slave states. The Missouri compromise helped settle some of the dispute: Maine would be a free state, Missouri a slave state and anything else above the 36º 30’ latitude line would be free, and anything below that line would be up to those territories to decide. Southerners and northerners began to wonder how this would play out. What if a slave had crossed from slave territory to free territory? Enter: Dred Scott, a slave who accompanied his owner to Wisconsin territory, aka free. Afterwards, they returned to Missouri, a slave state. Dred Scott sued his owner seeking his freedom. He claimed that his entrance into free territory deemed him a free man, like the Missouri Compromise says! The lowest court in Missouri agreed with Dred Scott! However, when Dred Scott’s slave owner appealed to Missouri’s highest court, they disagreed and decided that Dred Scott’s slave status reattached when he reentered Missouri. It’s not over though. Upon Dred Scott’s loss in state court, he decides to bring a new suit in federal court, which makes its way to the United States Supreme Court. Dred Scott argued again, that the Missouri Compromise allowed him to be free because he was on free territory! The court again disagreed with Dred Scott. They said that actually, the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional: also known as, crumple it up and throw it in the trash! The court said it was unconstitutional because it violated a provision in the constitution that protects people’s property. Essentially the court said that Dred Scott, as a slave, was considered the property of his owner, and when the Missouri Compromise attempted to revoke this property, that violated the constitution.
A note on Federal Courts & Diversity:
Dred Scott believed that because he was from Missouri, and because his slave owner was a citizen of New York that “Diversity” was satisfied. Diversity is a method one can use to bring their suit in federal court, as opposed to state court when the plaintiff and defendant are citizens of different states. However, in one of the most embarrassing parts of the Dred Scott decision, the judges decided that there actually was no “diversity” here because plaintiff and defendant needed to be citizens of different states, and Dred Scott, as a black individual, regardless of whether or not he was free, was no citizen at all. The court basically told Dred Scott that because he was black, had no right being in federal court. At all.
Dred Scott & the Decision’s Legacy
The Dred Scott decision has been widely denounced over time: “unquestionably, our court’s worst decision ever,” “stands first in any list of the worst Supreme Court decisions,” “the court’s greatest self-inflicted wound,” and “universally condemned the as the U.S. Supreme Court’s worst decision ever”. After the Civil War the Dred Scott decision in its entirety was voided by the ratification of the 13th and 14th amendment, abolishing slavery, and guaranteeing citizenship for “all persons born or naturalized in the United States…” respectfully.
Historical Fact: Dred Scott and his family were formally emancipated by his owner just three months after the Supreme Court denied them their freedom.

Class Action lawsuit filed against Robinhood

Brendon Nelson, a Robinhood user, has filed a suit against the online brokerage firm by accusing Robinhood of denying access to its users to buy shares of GameStop (“GME”). The lawsuit seeks class-action status against Robinhood. 

The lawsuit has stated the Robinhood abruptly and purposely deprived their customers of buying GME. It alleges that Robinhood’s actions were done knowingly to manipulate the markets and help out individuals or financial institutions that were not customers of Robinhood.

The lawsuit initially sought an immediate reinstatement of GME stock buying power ability to the trading platform and attorney and court fees.

Immediately after the suit was filed, many investors and users of Robinhood have joined the class action suit. Many of them used an online service named to automatically add themselves to the lawsuit. 

This lawsuit was filed after Robinhood had temporarily restricted the trading of GME on its platform. This action led to a severe fall in the prices of the GME stock. 

Many users of Robinhood and other platforms were enraged by this, as they wanted to jump in on the GME investment frenzy that had been fueled by the sub-Reddit community /WallStreetBets. 

A Boogie w/ the Hoodie Lawsuit

The rapper A Boogie wit da Hoodie has been sued by a couple from New Jersey seeking damages worth more than $260,000. The lawsuit has been filed by Dr. Lawrence Guarino and Carol Guarino. They have accused the rapper of causing severe damages to their $3.3 million mansion in Mahwah, New Jersey.

According to the lawsuit, A Boogie had rented out the luxury mansion back in 2017 and 2018. The rent agreement signed between the property owners and A Boogie had stipulated that the rapper would pay a security deposit of $15,000 and a monthly rent of $10,000. As per allegations by the owners, A Boogie abandoned the mansion in December 2018 without proper notice. Additionally, the owners noted that the rapper had caused significant damages to the property, including wall damage, water damage, carpet damage, etc. He had caused the damage by clogging the toilets and cutting up carpeting. The clogging of toilets had led to the bathroom floors being overrun with human waste. They have claimed that the damage was so bad that they could not rent it out until extensive repairs were done to the premises, thus why they are seeking the damages.

Jeff Bezos Defamation Suit

Jeff Bezos, requested before the Los Angeles County Superior Court, demanding his girlfriend’s brother Michael Sanchez to pay him $1,676,919.50 in lawyer fees and $36,019.26 in other costs. These fees and expenses were incurred by Bezo’s while defending himself in a defamation lawsuit filed against him by Sanchez.

The motion has been filed by Bezos along with his personal security chief, Gavin de Becker. The motion mentioned that the fees that have been demanded are justified because they had to vigorously defend themselves against the abusive and continually shifting nature of Sanchez’s defamation case.
The defamation suit mentioned here had been filed in February 2020 by Sanchez against Bezos and De Becker. It was in retaliation to allegations by De Becker that Sanchez had leaked “raunchy messages” and nude photos of Bezos and his sister to the tabloid the Enquirer. De Becker had told the Daily Beast that he had come to that conclusion after conducting an investigation which was funded by Bezos. In the lawsuit, Sanchez had claimed that he had never had possession of those photos and that Bezos had tipped off journalists. The defamation suit had ultimately been dismissed after Bezos had filed a motion to dismiss.

Subway Sued for Fake Tuna?

Subway uses the words “flaked tuna,” “freshly baked bread,” and “crisp veggies” to describe its tuna sandwich. A combination of those words will surely entice you to buy that sandwich for lunch. But according to a recent lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Subway might be lying to you. The lawsuit has alleged that the “flaked tuna” mentioned by Subway contains no tuna at all. It alleges that based on lab tests conducted on numerous samples of the tuna taken from Subway stores across California, it was found that the tuna is instead a combination of various concoctions not containing real tuna. It alleges that Subway has blended those ingredients together to imitate tuna in their sandwiches. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit have sued Subway for fraud, intentional misrepresentation, and other federal and state charges.
Meanwhile, Subway has denied these allegations and has stood firm by claiming that their tuna is real. They have also clarified that the tuna they use are caught in the wild.