Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 10/17/16: The Freedom of Information Act

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was signed into law in 1966 after a twelve-year campaign to have it introduced and passed by Congress. Seen as controversial at the time of its passage, it was strengthened by Congressional amendment in 1974 in the … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 10/10/16: Gun Laws

A recent study in The Lancet, led by BU researchers, analyzed gun control laws across the U.S. and concluded that more than 80% of gun deaths could be prevented by national adoption of 3 laws: firearm identification through ballistic imprinting … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 10/3/16: The Origins of the Term ‘Boilerplate’

The legal term “boilerplate” — referring to standard language used in contracts, warranties, and other legal documents — has its origins in industry. A ‘boiler plate’ originally referred to sheet steel used in the manufacture of boilers which was pre-manufactured … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 9/26/16: The Bill of Rights

The Bill of Rights— the first 10 Amendments of the U.S. Constitution– was never an actual bill introduced before Congress. Its name was inspired by the U.K. Bill of Rights of 1689, and borrowed freely from its concepts and language, including terms such as “cruel and unusual … Continue reading

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