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 … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 1/5/15: The Declaration of Independence

While some have argued that the Declaration of Independence is part of the “organic law” of the U.S., the prevalent view is that the Declaration is not a legal document. It did not create a new government or enact any laws, … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 11/17/14: Massachusetts and the Bill of Rights

The Massachusetts delegation was deeply divided over ratifying the Constitution and was dominated by anti-federalists. The “Massachusetts compromise” to introduce amendments, led by John Hanckock and Samual Adams, convinced states such as New York, New Hampshire and Virginia to vote to … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 10/27/14: Titles of Nobility Amendment

Approved by Congress in 1810 as a proposed 13th Amendment, the Titles of Nobility Amendment was designed to strip U.S. citizenship from any citizen who accepted an aristocratic title from a foreign country. Ratified by tweleve states (the last in 1812) … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 10/20/14: English Origins of Our Bill of Rights

The U.S. Bill of Rights was inspired by several documents including the U.K.’s Bill of Rights passed in 1689. This Act set out certain basic rights, including: no royal interference with the law; freedom to petition the monarch with grievances; … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 10/13/14: Medical Marijuana

Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for medical use, with legislation pending in three more states. Massachusetts legalized medical marijuana in 2012 as a result of a ballot measure approved by 63% of state voters.

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 10/6/14: Sheriff

In Anglo-Saxon England the chief magistrate of a district (or “shire”) was known as the “reeve”. The shire-reeve eventually became known as “sheriff”, or the main law enforcement officer of a county, and was used in the U.S. from the … Continue reading

The Origins of “Passing the Bar”

One question that I am asked from time to time has to do with the origins of the expression “passing the bar”. A common assumption is that there is some connection with admission to the legal profession and the ancient relationship between lawyers and … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 2/10/14: Presidential Pardons

The President is given the pardon power for federal crimes under Art. II, section 2 of the Constitution, which states that the President “shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment”. Pardon petitions are addressed to the President but usually referred further to the Office of the Pardon Attorney for a non-binding recommendation. A symbolic use of this power is the annual pardoning of a turkey as part of the National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation.

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 2/3/14: Parole

Parole–the discretionary, provisional release of an inmate who agrees to abide by the terms of his or her early release–can be said to have its origins in antiquity, when soldiers defeated in battle pledged not to take up arms again in exchange for their release. Parole in the U.S. criminal justice system is a fairly recent invention, first introduced in 1876 in New York’s Elmira Reformatory.

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 1/27/14: The Only Impeachment Trial of a Supreme Court Justice

Only one Justice of the Supreme Court has ever faced impeachment: Samuel Chase,  signer of the Declaration of Independence, was appointed by President George Washington and served from 1796 – 1811. In 1805, articles of impeachment were brought against him in … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 1/20/14: Habeas Corpus

Meaning “you may have the body”, habeas corpus is a writ (officially known as habeas corpus ad subjiciendum) that requires a person tbe brought before a court to determine if their detention is lawful. The petitioner does not require standing in … Continue reading