Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 2/8/16: Jury Sequestration in New York

For more than a century New York state required that juries be sequestered during the deliberation phase of all trials for violent felonies. This extremely unpopular law was repealed in 2001. Missouri still makes jury sequestration mandatory in trials involving a charge of first degree murder where the state seeks the death penalty.

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 1/25/16: Reporter’s Privilege

Related to the spousal privilege, attorney-client privilege, and priest-penitent privilege, the reporter’s privilege (also known as a ‘press shield law’) is provided for in 48 states and the District of Columbia, either statutorily or through judicial decisions. Federal courts have also upheld a press shield law in the absence of a federal statute. The press shield law provide various degrees of protection to reporters to wish to keep the identity of their sources confidential.


Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 1/18/16: The Admission of Ohio into the Union

President Thomas Jefferson signed an Act of Congress approving Ohio’s statehood in 1803, making it the 17th state. Congress had never passed a resolution formally admitting it as a state, however. While this has no real constitutional significance, this oversight was discovered in 1953, prompting a congressional joint resolution officially declaring that Ohio had been admitted into the Union one hundred and fifty years earlier. This joint resolution was signed into law by President Dwight Eisenhower.

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 1/4/16: Presidents Who Served on the Supreme Court

William Howard Taft, the 27th President of the United States (1909-1913), remains the only president to also serve on the Supreme Court.  He served as the tenth Chief Justice, from 1921-1930.

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 11/30/15: The Only Crime Defined in the Constitution

The only crime defined in the Constitution is ‘treason‘, which is found in Article III s. 3. A response to the misuse of this crime by the British Crown, it was limited to waging war against the U.S. or giving “Aid and Comfort” to the enemy. Conviction requires the testimony of two witnesses, or the defendant’s confession.



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.