Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 9/19/16: Hear Ye, Hear Ye!

“Oyez”–a term used to open sessions of the Supreme Court, among other tribunals– is an ancient holdover from the use of Anglo-Norman in law. Meaning “to hear”, over time it was generally replaced by the expression “hear ye”. It is one of … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 9/12/16: The Incompatibility Clause

The Constitution imposes several qualifications and restrictions on Congressional service, most notably in Article I, sections 2 and 3 (which sets out age, citizenship, and residency requirements), and the Incompatibility Clause in Article I section 6 which forbids members of Congress from also … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 09/06/2016: The Number of Laws in the U.S.

Want to guess the number of federal laws in the U.S.? Good luck– even the Library of Congress doesn’t know. While this is one of the most popular questions asked of the Library’s reference librarians, they point out that simply tallying … Continue reading

Ian’s Sporadic Legal Fact of the Summer 7/18/16: Failing to Plead

Under the common law, a defendant who failed to enter a plea was subjected to peine fort et dure — pressing under heavy weights — until he or she either consented to plead or died by suffocation, as it was … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact for the Summer 6/27/16: The Nineteenth Amendment

As the Constitution gave power to the states to determine voting qualifications, prior to 1910 no states allowed women to vote. This changed with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, which prohibited United States citizens from being denied the right to … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 4/25/16: ‘Wobbler’ Offenses

A ‘wobbler’, otherwise known as a ‘hybrid crime’, is one that can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. These crimes are said to ‘wobble’ between these two categories, as they can be charged as either based on … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 4/18/16: Taxes!

The Sixteenth Amendment, passed in 1913, is probably one of the least well-known and yet most unpopular amendments, as it grants Congress the ability to levy a federal income tax. While the first federal income tax was levied during the Civil War as … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 4/11/16: Be Kind to Lawyers Day!

Distressingly, there is no official “Lawyer’s Day” in the U.S.–despite the fact that nearly half of the members of Congress are lawyers. In fact, a member of Congress in 2015 was 66x more likely to be a lawyer than the average … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 4/4/16: The Convention on the Rights of the Child

Of the 197 members of the United Nations, only the U.S. has failed to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1989, the CRC is now the most widely ratified … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 3/28/16: The 28th Amendment

The proposed amendment currently closest to ratification is the “Lawyers’ Rights Amendment” (LRA), which if ratified would become the 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The LRA would make lawyers a protected class, and treat “comments, jokes and statements that … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 3/21/16: Reading the Riot Act

‘To read the riot act’– meaning to warn someone that their current actions will not be tolerated — has its origins in an actual legislative enactment. Formally entitled An Act for preventing Tumults and riotous Assemblies, and for the more speedy and effectual punishing the Rioters … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 3/14/16: Insanity!

The words “insane” and “insanity” are legal, rather than medical, terms. Contemporary legal definitions of insanity are derived from the M’Naghten test, formulated by the House of Lords in 1843, which set out the test as whether (a) the defendant knew … Continue reading