What is the Logan Act?

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Is the Logan Act somehow related to the Marvel Universe’s Wolverine and a prohibition against lacing a mutant’s skeleton with adamantium?  Well, no, Wolverine is Canadian and the actual act wouldn’t apply to him.  But it does have to do with the acts that occur between private US citizens and foreign governments, so the other X-Men may want to read up.

The Logan Act has been in the news a lot lately thanks to the exploits of ex-National Security Advisor, Lieutenant General Michael Flynn.  The controversy there surrounds the communications that Flynn had with a Russian ambassador about the sanctions the Obama administration was imposing on Russia for their attempts at influencing the Presidential election.  Is what he did really a violation of the Logan Act?

Turning to the act, it reads:  “Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.”

Conflicts of Law Regarding Recreational Marijuana (Cannabis) Laws in the U.S.

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This post is a continuation of the exploration of this subject in an earlier blog post.

The 2016 election saw the voters of 4 states—California, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada-- elect to legalize recreational use by adults of marijuana in their jurisdictions while the 5th state where the issue was on the ballot, Arizona, voted not to legalize the use. This brings to 8 (the others being Colorado, Washington. Oregon and Alaska) the number of states where recreational use of cannabis has been legalized. (A complete listing of the status of laws regarding cannabis in U.S. jurisdictions can be found here.)

The New WhiteHouse.gov

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Since 1994, every President of the United States has had a website located at WhiteHouse.gov providing information and resources for citizens.  On Friday, January 20, 2017, President Trump’s new White House website was launched.  Though still under development, the site contains preliminary information about the new administration’s policies in a few areas.  It appears that, for the moment, the new administration has retained former President Obama’s We the People site, where citizens can petition the White House and receive responses, if they gather enough signatures.

Sugary Drinks Taxation

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Sugary drinks (including carbonated drinks or soda) taxes were on the ballot in several countries and cities this year. With the World Health Organization’s October 11, 2016 promotion of taxing sugary drinks as a way to curtail their consumption and health impacts, it is likely that more jurisdictions will join those who have instituted such taxes. However, there is not universal acceptance of the necessity or efficacy of such taxes.  It appears to be a good time to take a look at this global effort to improve health and the arguments for and against it.

The American Presidency Project

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With the Presidential election coming up very soon, now is a great time to reflect not only on the current candidates, but also on the Presidency itself and the individuals who have previously occupied the Oval Office.  There is a wealth of information available, but perhaps the best resource is the American Presidency Project (APP), hosted at the University of California, Santa Barbara.  The APP is a non-partisan website that collects almost every public statement ever made by a President, or more recently, a presidential candidate.  Whether you are interested in the history of Presidential elections or only want to hear what the current candidates think about the issues, the APP has some excellent ways to find what you need.  You can browse through the different collections, or you can search the entire archive.

Public Education and the Separation of Powers

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On September 15, 2016, Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen filed an application for certification to appeal Judge Moukawsher’s groundbreaking decision in Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding v. Rell directly to the Supreme Court, signaling a looming constitutional showdown between the legislature and judiciary over the future of public education in Connecticut.

Other states have had similar controversy over the legislature’s constitutional duty to provide education, prompting intense debate over the separation of powers on a par with the fundamental questions asked in Marbury v. MadisonIn Washington, for example, the court held the legislature in contempt for failing to adequately fund schools and fined them $100,000 a day until they came up with a plan to assuage the court’s concerns.  And yet, the legislature, in control of the purse strings, has not even set up the segregated account for the fines required of them by the court.  How can the judiciary force legislative action?

Panama Papers Database

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On May 9, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) posted the documents, known as the Panama Papers, leaked by “John Doe” from Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca.  Despite a cease and desist order being issued to prevent it being made public, the database can be found at offshoreleaks.icij.org.  The Panama Papers include over 11 million financial and legal records that give insight into the use of secret off-shore companies.

Paris Climate Agreement Updates: Progress and a Problem for U.S. Policy & the Future of the Agreement

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Progress
On April 22, 2016, Earth Day, at the Signing Ceremony at the United Nations Headquarters, the Paris Climate Agreement was signed by 175 countries-- more countries signed on the first day the agreement was open for signatures than had for any previous international agreement. This marks the first step toward ensuring that the Agreement enters into legal force as quickly as possible.  The agreement becomes operational when it is approved or ratified by 55 countries representing 55% of global greenhouse emissions.

The Passing of a Giant

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The political and legal world is reeling with the sudden passing of Justice Antonin Scalia.  Appointed to the Supreme Court in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan, Justice Scalia’s jurisprudence was steeped in originalism.  In his almost thirty years on the court, his conservative voice was equally lauded and abhorred.  Justice Scalias’s voice is silenced now, but will echo down the halls of history.  Visit the library's catalog to locate books and read articles authored by Justice Scalia.