ABA Journal


ABA Journal Holiday Weekly

Most important legal stories in 2013

Dec 26, 2013, 07:15 pm CST


Although I won't quibble with the list of the "Most important legal stories in 2013" could easily be retitled the "Most important POLITICAL stories in 2013."

For some of these stories, the 'legal' component is inconsequential (bordering on nonexistent) when compared with the 'political' component. (Items 5 and 7 jump out at me in that regard.)

By Yankee on 2013 12 26, 8:24 pm CST

I agreemwith Yankee. Particularly 7 exhibits a political bias by a professional organization which has no business doing so. Some decades ago, the ABA took a position on abortion developed by some small committee. I dont recall the position (probably in favor) but I thought it was inappropriate and quit the ABA. This 7 comment comes periously close to the same result.

By David Oetting on 2013 12 27, 2:31 pm CST

I agree, these are stories of political, not legal, significance.
This list would be most improved by the addition of the Google copyright decision.

By aeaeiat on 2013 12 27, 3:42 pm CST

@1 and 2- is your conservative persecution complex really so severe that you think number 7 is a political opinion? The story is vitally important to our profession, as I live in a district that could easily use 4 or 5 more federal judges to deal with the backlog, and many other districts are short at least one judge. But more importantly, what was an opinion there?

Also, you do realize that most bar associations have a lobbying wing, correct?

By DCW on 2013 12 27, 7:46 pm CST

@4 Let me come at this from another direction.

Except for Items 6 and 8, the stories listed above are fodder for your typical radio and television opinion show, where the political/social component, overshadows the legal dimension of the story.

As I mentioned @1, Items 5 and 7, are primarily legislative issues, working their way through the rough-and-tumble of the legislative process, with opposing positions taken by conservatives and leftists.

Regarding Item 5, although the public was no doubt fascinated with the travails of the tragic George Zimmerman and the equally tragic Trayvon Martin, no significant new legal development arose from that case. What played out in public was a morality play, with the principal themes being the existence (or not) of so-called ‘white privilege’ and the menace posed by fatherless youth.

Other items, although having a legal component, are described using the language of politics or popular culture. For example, although the Supreme Court's holding in the DOMA is surely significant, the issue at Item 2 is described using the language of sociology: "Gay marriage gains acceptance." I recall that the holding in U.S. v. Windsor was purportedly based upon 14th Amendment considerations, and not whether or not the population was more accepting of two guys who wanted to marry.

Although Item 1 - - - “Edward Snowden blows the lid off the National Security Agency’s surveillance program” - - - is clearly the top legal story of the year, not once in the 129 word story is either the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution mentioned. Instead, the story focuses on the Snowden’s personal situation and activities underway in Congress. A review of the activities of the NSA no doubt will be working their way through the court system in the coming year, although you would not know that from the description above.

By Yankee on 2013 12 27, 8:48 pm CST

Everyone, what you YOU choose as the most important legal story of the year (whether covered by the ABA or not)?

By William Able on 2013 12 28, 12:59 am CST

It is disturbing in the extreme that people who are presumably trained in critical thinking to claim that things they disagree with are political and things that they agree with are not political. Every single thing that we do or say has political implications.

Everything is political. That begins with the most basic unit, the family unit, and spreads out from there.

By San Franciscan on 2013 12 28, 6:28 am CST

I have always found it odd that there are presumably educated people who believe that their is no space whatsoever between what is 'personal' and what is 'political', and for purposes of this board, what is 'political' and what is 'legal.'

The feminist philosophy - - - 'The personal is the political' - - - always struck me as a profoundly sad and tragic way to organize one's life.

By Yankee on 2013 12 28, 1:30 pm CST

Yes, Yankee, it is sad when you are not at the top of the food chain. You must be at the top or you could see it too.

By San Franciscan on 2013 12 28, 9:00 pm CST

I disagree with the "most important" judgment. Someday, when histories of the 21st century are compiled, a couple of these (most likely, 2 and 5) may be mentioned as historically significant, but the others will likely not even get a footnote.

By B. McLeod on 2013 12 29, 8:08 pm CST

Yep. Unfortunately, the ABA has become the arm of the liberal left. Not that there is anything wrong with its liberal positions, in an absolute sense; everyone is entited to his, her, or its own opinion. However, when I initially joined the ABA, I wanted an organization that would work for the betterment of the profession, not advance an ideologically political agenda.

I, too, have cancelled my membership.

By Brian on 2013 12 30, 3:51 pm CST

#5 is a top legal story for the years in which DC v. Heller and especially McDonald v. Chicago were decided; 2013, not so much. We are simply dealing with the effects of the past.

@6 William Able - The expansion of gay marriage at an ever increasing rate is to me the most important (and interesting, though increasingly less so as its continued expansion appears to be inevitable under current Equal Protection and Due Process jurisprudence) legal story of the year.

The NSA story is probably tied, or a near second. It highlights in a very accessible manner the erosion of the Fourth Amendment, and will hopefully galvanize society to reclaim it. Not too optimistic on that last point.

What is your top story/stories?

By NoleLaw on 2013 12 30, 7:46 pm CST

@Brian. Do you actually believe that your opinions are not political and that mine are? That's truly mind-boggling. The ABA is so not the "liberal left." If you want to know about a legal organization that is "left," check out the National Lawyers Guild The ABA is actually center-right or right. Just because they do not support discrimination based on immutable characteristics does not mean that they are left or liberal. I am sure that you will take this opportunity to learn about the political spectrum. Go to and take the fun little quiz.

By San Franciscan on 2013 12 30, 8:53 pm CST

@13 The ABA should not be anywhere on the political spectrum. Not Left. Not Right. Not Center-Right. Not Center Left.

That's the problem . . .

By Yankee on 2013 12 31, 2:21 am CST

You CANNOT not be anywhere on the spectrum. It's impossible. It's not even a spectrum. It's a grid.

To see what I mean go to and take the fun little quiz.

By San Franciscan on 2013 12 31, 4:48 am CST

@Brian. As a matter of fact, the NLG was formed as a reaction to the ABA's policy of not admitting anyone to their organization unless they were white males, almost always Protestant. The ABA is a centrist organization based on the merit system now more than anything else, and it is NOT forward-looking except as how to induct people from other cultures into our legal community so that all parts of society feel underrepresented.

The College Republicans/Federalist Societies are a tool of the Reagan/Rove dirty-tricks wing of the Republican Party and are despicable. I used to be a Republican. The ABA used to rate judicial picks. I was OK with that. When Bush came in (who cares which one) they would not use ABA picks because they weren't wing-nutty enough for them.

Speaking of which I think I would rather have Bush I instead of Obama right now.

I just want to howl with laughter when I hear right-wig religious people talk about how they are persecuted.Look around any town in the USA. Valuable prime properties for religious institutions are automatically set aside as part of the town plan. Because these are prime properties that need parking capacity, on corners or hillsides or suchlike, the foregone property taxes are substantial.

By San Franciscan on 2013 12 31, 6:16 am CST

@11, I agree the ABA is political rather than focused on the law or profession. The choice of stories and the slant given reveal this. But so does the lazy way they don't bother to accurately explain legal issues in the stories and often confuse legalities and legally operative facts with abandon. The law is secondary to their purpose.

By Santana on 2013 12 31, 9:11 am CST

@15 You opine: "You CANNOT not be anywhere on the spectrum."

Yet, other trade associations manage to stay politically neutral, staking out political positions only when it supports the specific purpose for which the trade associations was created.

By Yankee on 2013 12 31, 12:54 pm CST

Hello ;happy new ear to all of you.

By Karl on 2013 12 31, 4:36 pm CST

@Yankee, You don't really think that, do you? Trade associations exist in order to influence legislation in their favor. They hire very expensive lobbyists to effectuate this. There are 250 or so lobbyists for every congressman and senator. Those lobbyists are influencing political positions. Corporate political support to politicians creates political positions. Yes I know what you are going to say: unions have lobbyists and money too. They have about 1/10 or less of the money and power that corporations have. That percentage goes more in favor of business every day. Why? Because business makes money by quashing unions, so its all a happy circle for the businessmen.

By San Franciscan on 2013 12 31, 8:15 pm CST

@Yankee: This from today's new throws cold water all over your portrayal of trade groups as apolitical. I still can't even believe you said that.

"The news came in the Wall Street Journal, where the Chamber of Commerce disclosed that it will be teaming up with Republican establishment leaders to spend $50 million in an effort to stem the tide of "fools" who have overwhelmed Republican ballots in recent seasons.

By San Franciscan on 2014 01 01, 9:01 pm CST

I don't think of a "Chamber of Commerce" as being a "trade association." They tend to be general apologists for business in general. They are also on a fool's errand with that campaign. Both alleged "parties" today are little more than loose confederations of special interest groups, which, at the end of the day, depend on common bankers and common masters. The Republican party can no more divest itself of all the special-interest extremists it has embraced than can the Democrats. Politics will continue to become crazier and crazier as each "party" has to placate its lunatic fringe.

By B. McLeod on 2014 01 01, 10:47 pm CST

Oh, B. The interests of all trade associations are pretty much the same damn thing. Limit worker rights and limit government regulation. What I find "amusing" is that regulating business was first proposed by robber barons such as J.P. Morgan, who would rather have regs than laws. It is more difficult to evade laws than ignore regulations and the punishments for breaking laws are more harsh as a rule. The center cannot hold. And here, the center is a bad thing. Look at all the current robber barons who are fltting about in private jets and should be stuck in a 8x6 cell. There is no such thing as a level playing field. Power abhors a vacuum. For starters we need a global minimum and global maximum wage to contain the excesses of the terminally avaricious. Think I am wrong? Ask any manufacturer the source of their wealth and they will tell you that if you can get 10,000 people working for you and pay them $1 less an hour than the selling price of what they produce, you have made $10,000 an hour.

By San Franciscan on 2014 01 01, 11:40 pm CST

I think of "trade associations" as including unions and the few remaining professional associations and guilds that have actually continued as they set out.

I also note the irony in your observations as you identify the robber barons of today as the like of J.P. Morgan, but then resort to outmoded wage and production discussions. J.P. Morgan and all of the financial middlemen and market makers do not produce anything. They simply scheme to siphon wealth away from those who do.

By B. McLeod on 2014 01 02, 3:13 am CST

The biggest legal story from my corner was the change for patent applications from a first-to-invent to first-to-file system. It could squeeze individuals and smaller firms out of some areas of R&D. This may be a small piece of the legal realm, but the small start-up ventures of today are the roots of the Microsofts, Apples and Googles of tomorrow.

By William Able on 2014 01 03, 7:19 pm CST

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