Justices Question Lawyers In Case That Could Dramatically Affect Public Sector Unions

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard argument relating to an important case that could determine whether public sector unions can collect involuntary fees from nonmembers. Based on the questions the justices asked, experts believe that the outcome of the case could be determined by the newest member of the court, Neil Gorsuch, who did not ask any questions during the proceedings.

Arguments lasted about an hour, and the questions that came from the court’s conservative wing seem to suggest that they were sympathetic with the arguments made by anti-union groups. They argued that forcing nonmembers to pay fees to the unions — to cover costs related to negotiating collective bargaining agreements with local and state governments — was tantamount to restricting the freedom of speech of those nonmembers. Conversely, justices who represent the liberal wing of the court asked questions that suggest that they were supportive of continuing the fees.

At issue was whether negotiating collective bargaining agreements was a political activity. The conservative justices seem to think that it is, while the unions and their liberal supporters on the court insist that negotiating the contracts is separate from their political activities.

Outside the court, protesters on both side of the issued attempted to get their voice heard on the issue. Those supporting union rights held signs that insisted that the country needed good union jobs, while their counterparts held signs that stated that they were standing with Mark. The latter refers to Mark Janus, who is a an Illinois state worker and the plaintiff in the case.

Currently, more than 20 states require around 5,000,000 workers to pay these fees, which are called “agency fees.” If these fees were disallowed, it would be a major setback to unions, and could affect what can spend in political races. Commonly, unions support Democratic candidates over Republicans.

Supreme Court Rules Guilty Pleas No Longer Bar Appeals

In the eyes of many lawyers, a guilty plea means the end of a case. Once the defendant accepts guilt and the court assigns a punishment, it’s time to file away any relevant documents, send out the final bills and move on to the next case. A recent Supreme Court decision, Class v. United States, No. 16-424, might change that.

According to the New York Times, some cases may still be appealed after a guilty plea is submitted. The justices voted 6-to-3 in favor of defendant Rodney Class’s right to appeal. Class had pled guilty to a crime after carrying guns and ammunition onto the National Capitol’s grounds. The weapons and ammo were in Class’s car.

Class originally pled guilty as part of a plea bargain. These deals, considered controversial by many, keep cases flowing through the justice system. Many prosecutors have argued it’s impossible to take every alleged criminal to trial. Plea bargains offer reduced punishment in exchange for an admission of guilt. Defendants benefit from lenient sentencing, and the state benefits by avoiding long, costly trials. Critics argue defendants are forced into the deals by impossibly high bail amounts and fears of vindictive sentencing by judges.

Before the Supreme Court’s ruling, accepting a plea bargain meant it was impossible to appeal. Now, defendants like Class will be able to appeal guilty pleas on constitutional bargains. Class had tried to argue he had a Second Amendment right to his firearms. The appeals court had denied his right to appeal the case.

Justice Breyer wrote the majority opinion. Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor, Kagan, Gorsuch and Chief Justice Roberts joined him. Justices Kennedy, Thomas and Alito dissented.

Legal Issues Prevent Chinese Takeover of Chicago Stock Exchange

The United States Securities and Exchange Commission has scored a major legal victory that reflects the wishes of the White House under the leadership of President Donald Trump. On February 15, the Reuters news agency reported that the purchase of the Chicago Stock Exchange, abbreviated as CHX, to Chinese investors was halted due to regulatory concerns.

Although selling the CHX is a transaction that has been pending since 2015, its preliminary approval was not issued until August of 2017. Shortly after announcing the approval, SEC Chairman Jay Clayton clawed it back and called for a deeper legal review of the transaction. Legal analysts believe that Clayton’s appointment by President Trump explains the sudden decision to block the sale.

The Trump administration has been very critical of China’s rise in the American financial sector. Over the last few years, Chinese investors have been courting American investment banking firms, and their influence is being felt on Wall Street. The CHX purchase proposal was initiated by the Chongqing Casin Enterprise Group; the tender offer of $25 million was presented in February 2016. Legislators who followed the transaction alleged that the Chongqing Casin group was connected to the Chinese government, a situation that would put the U.S. financial markets in an uncomfortable position.

Foreign ownership of major American financial exchanges is not new; the International Securities Exchange, for example, was owned by a German entity until 2016, when it was sold to the Nasdaq. The CHX deal required greater due diligence that proved to be burdensome for the Chongqing Casin investors, and the greater scrutiny was certainly political since the Trump administration considers China to be a financial and economic adversary.

Although the CHX has a certain historical prestige, its current volume of operations account for less than one percent of all securities listed on Wall Street. Some analysts believe that the SEC may have strategically communicated its decision to block the sale right before the Chinese New Year celebrations.

Disappointed Lawyer Sues Oxford for $1.3 Million

A lawsuit by an Oxford University graduate is underway in London’s High Court. Former student Faiz Siddiqui alleges that when he graduated from Oxford he earned a less-desirable degree as a result of poor teaching and faculty negligence. According to Siddiqui’s suit, his low grades prevented him from attending law school at Yale University and damaged his burgeoning legal career.

Siddiqui enrolled at Brasenose College, Oxford in 1997 and began to study modern history. Like many Oxford students, he hoped to earn a first class honors degree from the school. However, after taking his final exams in 2000, Siddiqui discovered that he had instead received an upper second class bachelor of arts honors degree.

Siddiqui’s lawsuit alleges that poor teaching and low faculty numbers were responsible for his depressed grades. In his suit, he claims that teachers were overworked and inadequately prepared to deal with an increased number of students. According to Siddiqui, many of the college’s teachers were on sabbatical, leaving only one tutor to assist students with the Indian special subject portion of the exams. The lawsuit alleges that this tutor was in charge of twice the number of students that college tutors typically supervise. Siddiqui also cites another student from his class who submitted complaints to the university after she received low grades on the same exams. Furthermore, Siddiqui claims that the university failed to take a medical condition into account when grading his exams; his doctors had diagnosed him with severe hay fever, a condition which they said would affect his concentration.

Siddiqui claims that his second-class decree from Oxford left him depressed and unable to sleep. He states that as a result of these emotional problems, he performed poorly in his duties at several different jobs he has held over the years and eventually became unemployed. He is suing Oxford University for a total of $1.3 million. As part of his suit, Siddiqui is also seeking restitution for lost earnings.

Wells Fargo Faces Will Spend Billions in Legal Fees

Banking giant Wells Fargo is making shareholders and investors very nervous as its legal bills keep getting more and more exorbitant. The American bank is keeping law firms quite busy as it faces multiple legal challenges ranging from consumer fraud to improper mortgage lending practices, and the total cost of legal representation, settlements, court fees and fines could total more than $3.3 billion.

 

In a recent financial filing reported by Bloomberg, Wells Fargo indicated that it allocated $1 billion more than the previous quarter to its legal defense fund. The bank’s Chief Financial Officer has hinted that Wells Fargo will likely settle with financial regulators and aggrieved mortgage borrowers in the next few months, but there have been no indications of how much the settlement amounts may be. The bank needs to make strong investments in legal operations now for the purpose of keeping settlements as low as possible; this is a case in which a single legal misstep could put the bank out of business.

 

In July 2017, Wells Fargo estimated that it would have to pay $80 million to aggrieved account holders who were charged for auto insurance coverage that they never requested; in the financial world, this unethical practice is known as “slamming.” A November filing by Wells Fargo indicates that the bank underestimated this loss considerably since it will now have to pay $150 million; in general, each financial report issued by the bank this year has seen an increase of legal fees, a situation that shareholders are not happy with.

 

An interesting aspect of the various cases Wells Fargo is currently facing is that former executives and directors are being held personally accountable. Whereas in the past a simple dismissal of executive board members was the typical corporate reaction to major scandals, a federal district judge in San Francisco overseeing the Wells Fargo case recently determined that claims against former bank directors should face legal scrutiny in certain circumstances.

President Trump Adds More Legal Muscle To Prove The Russian Thing Is A Witch Hunt

Donald Trump can’t get a break. In fact, he can’t seem to get anything done in Washington, and that makes him angry and belligerent. His healthcare bill is toast, and his immigration bill is a political nightmare. The Republican Party can’t put a team on the political field that works together. And the Russian accusations are turning into a Nightmare on Pennsylvania Avenue for the president. Plus, people around the country have no faith in Trump.

But Trump has a plan. His plan is to fight lawyers with lawyers. The President now has one of Washington’s big legal dogs to fight for him. Ty Cobb, the Washington criminal attorney with a winning track record, is now the White House special counsel. Trump now has five lawyers working on the Russian thing, and they are all huddling to protect Trump from special Justice Department lawyers as well as congressional committees. Collusion with the Russians is the battle cry of Trump opponents. And those opponents include heavy duty political hitters with deep pockets.

There is little doubt. Trump is in for some nasty Washington battles. But the president is sending a strong message to the people that want to bring him down. The message is, he’s not going down. Trump is Teflon through and through, according to his allies. Nothing sticks to him even when it looks like something will stick. The president likes controversy. He likes to be in the trenches and tweet, even when there is nothing substantial to tweet about.

Cobb is a criminal lawyer, and he likes to be in the middle of turmoil. Mr. Cobb is a former federal prosecutor, and he was in charge of the organized crime and criminal division in Baltimore. Cobb has a private practice now, and he handles cases in 35 countries and 44 states, according to his law firm Hogan Lovells.

Federal Report’s Scathing Critique of Prison System’s Treatment of Mentally Ill

The Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General recently released a report that heavily criticized the prison system’s treatment of mentally ill inmates.

There have been rumors circulating for years that prison systems from across the country were providing inadequate accommodations to mentally ill inmates. Other detractors argued that inmates were becoming more mentally ill due to the pressures of living behind bars and denied access to therapies and medications that might alleviate some of the mentally ill patients’ suffering.

The Department of Justice’s report, though, homed in on a prison in Pennsylvania for its analysis. The report noted the pending lawsuit against a Lewisburg prison and went on to claim that this prison had a number of lawsuits against it. The lawsuits were filed against the prison for the prison’s deficient mental health services.

The Department of Justice’s report also indicted the Bureau of Prisons more broadly by alleging that the Bureau of Prisons condoned the practice of keeping mentally ill inmates in solitary confinement for extended periods of time. This practice could be considered very detrimental to mentally ill inmates psychology well-being since keeping these kinds of inmates in solitary confinement has been shown to result in poorer mental-health outcomes over the long term.

The Bureau of Prisons was also called into question for the size of its solitary confinement cells. The Department of Justice considered these cells too small for housing inmates. Also at issue was the fact that many overcrowded prisons have resorted to cramming in multiple mentally ill inmates in the same small cell.

The issue of overcrowding is perhaps more pernicious since overcrowding has been associated with greater prison violence and even a greater number of prison deaths. The risks are that much higher with mentally ill inmates denied proper treatment or medication.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions Wants Police To Seize People’s Personal Assets

Jeff Sessions, the former Senator from Alabama, has always been a controversial figure. Sessions is against gay rights, using marijuana, and being politically honest. Now that Sessions is Attorney General of the United States, he is in a position to upset the budding cannabis industry. He wants to change some of the policies that the former Attorney General, Eric Holder put in place. Some Washington insiders say Sessions has an Edgar Hoover type mindset, and he can create serious legal issues for Americans.

Recently, Sessions was a speaker at the National District Attorneys Association meeting. Jeff didn’t waste any time telling those legal watchdogs and prosecutors he will enforce the asset forfeiture program that was put on hold by his predecessor. Sessions main target is drug dealers, but anyone could be the victim of this violation of civil rights, according to lawyers who understand the forfeiture policy. Sessions also want to reverse an Obama administration order that stops local officials from using the federal system to get around state laws. Former Attorney Eric Holder said Sessions is an extremist, and Wisconsin Representative Jim Sensenbrenner thinks Sessions forfeiture program is wrong and unconstitutional.

Senator Rand Paul thinks Sessions is opening the door for an extraordinary amount of lawsuits because the government is taking property away from people that have not had their day in court. Paul thinks assuming someone is guilty and taking their property away is a crazy and illegal idea. But in a civil forfeiture case, the police and prosecutors don’t have to prove guilt in order to take assets away. In a criminal forfeiture, authorities have to file charges, prove guilt, and get a conviction.

Sessions wants to stop drug traffickers, but he also wants to take down the legal sale of marijuana in the states that sell it for medical purposes. California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa wants to regulate asset forfeiture, and he is sponsoring legislation to do that. Issa thinks Sessions is going backward instead of forward if he gets his way. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas also thinks civil asset forfeiture is a bad idea. Justice Thomas thinks asset forfeiture is an egregious act, and it opens the door for people who abuse the intent of the program. Sessions may be one of those people, according to his opponents. Jeff Sessions is an old school politician who is out of touch and out of date, according to those opponents.

Legal Challenges

The field of law is changing rapidly in the United States today. This was one of the most popular fields for college graduates to enter at one time. However, this is now a field that is saturated with college graduates. A lot of students are graduating from law school with record levels of debt. Not only that, but they are having trouble finding a quality job to help pay the bills.

In the coming years, many people expect that the legal field is going to continue to go through various changes. With that being said, students need to be prepared to innovate through their career.

Online Services

One of the newest trends in the legal field today is offering online services for people who need legal help. A lot of people today struggle with finding affordable legal help in their area.

Online legal advice is a viable option for people who need a quick question answered. Not only does it cost much less time than going in and seeing a lawyer, but it saves lawyers time as well. Over time, a lot of people have had success getting their question answered in a short period of time. New graduates need to look at all possibilities when it comes to enhancing their legal career.

New Legislation

Another important trend in the legal industry is the new legislation being introduced in several states across the country. Many people today believe that online gambling should be legal. Now is a great time to start enacting legislation in various states.

As a legal student, this is an exciting time to live in for many people. There are a lot of people who want to see things enacted that have been illegal in the past. Many people today are still entering the profession because they want to help others.

Things That Are Impacting The Field Of Law Today

There are plenty of factors shaping all kinds of industries at any given moment. The field of law is not exempt from all of these changes. We take a look at a few of these today.

Electronic Discovery

What evidence is admissible in court is something that frustrates many people bringing lawsuits or battling criminal cases. Depending on the circumstances and what side of the case one is on, it can be frustrating to either side. That being said, new changes are coming to what may be admissible. Electronic discovery is now a thing being considered by a lot of courts.

Electronic discovery is basically the idea that things such as e-mails, voicemails, and the like something that may be brought into court. That is evidence that can break a case wide open and make or break it. Lawyers on both sides of any case will need to consider this change.

Marketing Via Social Media

The Balance has an article out which says that more lawyers than ever are using social media to market themselves and their services. It used to be considered unprofessional to do this, but that is no longer the case. It is too difficult to ignore the number of people on social media and the marketing potential that is available there. These days lawyers are happy to open a social media page for their practice.

Longer Hours And More Clients

Lawyers already have a busy life, but it is about to get even busier. The number of hours that lawyers are putting into their job is on the increase. They are taking on more clients and battling each other even more heavily for that business. If you are a lawyer, you can expect to burn the midnight oil more often, but that is good news for the profession.