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 9/29/14: Suspension of Habeas Corpus

The first suspension of habeas corpus in the U.S. was by Abraham Lincoln in April 1861 in order to protect a railroad route between Annapolis and Philadelphia which pro-Confederate forces were threatening to destroy. His action was overturned by the U.S. … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 9/22/14: 17th Amendment

The Seventeenth Amendment, ratified in 1913, provides for the direct election of members of the Senate by popular vote in each state, and also allows governors to make temporary appointments until a special election is held to fill vacancies. Originally, members of … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 9/15/14: The Origins of ‘Barrister’

Barrister derives its medieval origins from the word bar, referring to the wooden barrier that commonly stood near the front of the courtroom that separated spectators from judges, lawyers, court officers and parties. People admitted to practice were said to have been called … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 9/8/14: Anti-Stalking Laws

California passed the first anti-stalking law in 1990, following the 1989 murder of actress Rebecca Schaeffer. Within 3 years every state had a similar law. Today all states have laws that also cover cyber-stalking and/or cyber-harassment. In recent years, a growing number … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 9/1/14: The Bill of Rights

James Madison introduced 39 proposed amendments to the Constitution before the House of Representatives in 1789; the House approved 17 of these, 12 of which were ultimately approved by Congress. Ten amendments, now known as the Bill of Rights, went on be ratified … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 4/28/14: Gifts and Windfalls

In U.S. tax law there is a distinction between gifts and windfalls. A windfall–which historically referred to fruit or trees blown down by the wind–now refers to any sudden, unearned gain such finding money on the street or buried treasure. A … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 3/24/14: The 19th 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 3/17/14: The Stupid Motorist Law

Arizona has a law popularly referred to as the “Stupid Motorist Law“, which renders motorists liable for the cost of their rescue. A response to the flash floods common in the Southwestern U.S., the law states that should a motorist ignore … 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.