Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 11/23/2015: Election of the President

It was originally proposed that the President be chosen by popular vote, but the delegates to the Constitutional Convention agreed (after 60 ballots!) on a system known as the Electoral College. The procedure for election of the President and Vice President was modified by the 12th Amendment in 1804. The closest that Congress has come to abolishing the Electoral College was before the 91st Congress (1969-1971) where the attempt failed to gain the required 2/3rds vote in the Senate.  Currently, the electoral votes range from 3 for the least populous states and the District of Columbia, to 55 for California.

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 11/16/15: Law Library to the World

The Law Library of Congress is the world’s largest law library, with nearly 3 million books, including one of the world’s foremost rare law book collections and the most complete collection of foreign legal periodicals in the United States.

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 11/9/15: The Longest Period Between Constitutional Amendments

The longest period in U.S. history during which there were no amendments to the Constitution was the 61 year gap between the ratification of the 12th Amendment modifying the Electoral College (in 1804), and the ratification of the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery (in 1865).

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 11/2/15: Which Day is the Deadliest?

While Mondays might be the most unpopular, statistics over the past decade show that homicides are much more likely to occur on Thursdays than any other day of the week; Tuesdays are the “safest” with the lowest rate of homicides.

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 10/26/15: The Great Crash

The Great Crash refers to the Wall Street crash that began October 24, 1929, and ultimately ushered in the 10-year long Great Depression. In just two days more than $30 billion in stock market value (worth approximately $400 billion today) was erased. These events prompted Congress to pass the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 10/19/15: The Origins of Tort Law

Under ancient Anglo-Saxon law a plaintiff who suffered injuries was allowed to seek personal revenge, known as a “blood feud”. This eventually was replaced by payments referred to as “blood fines”. As tort law developed, these payments were divided into two general categories known to us today: compensatory damages and punitive damages.

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 10/12/15: Citizen’s Arrest

A citizen’s arrest — an arrest by a non-law enforcement officer — is statutorily provided for in 49 states (North Carolina is the exception) where a citizen observes a felony being committed, or when a citizen is asked by a law enforcement officer to help apprehend a suspect. States differ in whether a citizen’s arrest also extends to misdemeanors, crimes not witnessed by the arresting party, or to breaches of the peace.

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 10/5/15: Show Me the Money!

Only two justices of the Supreme Court have appeared on U.S. Currency. John Marshall, the fourth Chief Justice, appeared on the $500 bill; while Salmon P. Chase (the sixth Chief Justice) appeared on the $10,000 bill. Neither denomination is still in circulation.

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 9/28/15: Supreme Court Clerks that Became Justices

There have been six Justices of the Supreme Court who had previously served as Supreme Court clerks: Byron R. White, William H. Rehnquist, John Paul Stevens, Stephen G. Breyer, John G. Roberts, and Elena Kagan.

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 9/21/15: State Suffrage

The provision in Article I of the Constitution specifying that each state shall have two senators elected by the state legislature was of such importance to the Philadelphia delegation that they insisted it not be subject to amendment, hence the language stating that “no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate”. This provision was amended, however, in 1913, by the Seventeenth Amendment which provided for the popular election of senators.

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 9/14/15: The Office of the Pardon Attorney

The President is granted the pardon power under Article II, section 2 of the Constitution. Since 1894 it has been the responsibility of the Office of the Pardon Attorney in the Department of Justice to provide the President with recommendations for the exercise of the executive clemency power, which applies only to federal criminal offenses. Clemency may involve issuing pardons, commuting sentences, remitting fines or restitution, or granting a reprieve.

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 9/7/15: Jury Sequestration in the U.S.

The practice of jury sequestration predates the Declaration of Independence, as its first recorded use in the U.S. was in the 1770 Boston Massacre trial in which the jury was sequestered for a week. The longest recorded sequestration was eight and a half months, in the 1995 O.J. Simpson trial, resulting in a mere three hours’ deliberation before the jury acquitted. Currently, only about .06% of federal and state trials result in sequestration, prompted either by concerns with security or to insulate jurors from news coverage.