ABA Journal

Precedents

168 ABA Journal Precedents articles.

Oct. 21, 1876: John B. West brings case law to lawyers with the Syllabi

Aug. 2, 1790: US conducts first constitutional census

June 30, 1983: Closing the books on Peoples Temple

On June 30, 1983, attorney Robert H. Fabian literally closed the books on one of the most painful proceedings in American jurisprudence: the court-ordered liquidation of assets owned by Peoples Temple, the organized following of the Rev. Jim Jones.

April 17, 1905: New York’s bakeshop labor law overturned

In October 1901, Joseph Lochner, who owned a bakery on South Street in Utica, New York, was indicted and subsequently convicted on two criminal counts of working his employees beyond the hourly limits of the Bakeshop Act, a relatively new state law that limited the working hours of bakery employees to 10 hours per day and 60 hours per week.

Feb. 29, 1984: Guilty plea in Three Mile Island disaster

Dec. 13, 1920: The Bisbee deportations are upheld

On the morning of July 12, 1917, Mrs. H.R. McLellan was startled by the sight of hundreds of men marching just below her Bisbee, Arizona, home. From her house on Chihuahua Hill, she could see them filing down Naco Road, escorted by men carrying rifles. Her husband immediately surmised what was happening: a roundup of the mining town’s striking smelter workers.

Nov. 30, 1920: Charlie Ponzi pleads guilty to larceny

By the time he reached his third stretch in prison, Carlo “Charlie” Ponzi was an American celebrity. In a single remarkable year, 1920, the smooth-talking Italian immigrant made money as fast as anyone, ever. In a matter of months, he took in more than $15 million ($200 million today); but by year’s end he had also been arrested, indicted and convicted for a scheme that came to bear his name.

Aug. 15, 1876: Congress passes the ‘Sell or Starve’ Act

Despite their historic victory at Little Bighorn in June 1876, the Sioux found little relief from the white onslaught. Accepting defeat, they returned to their reservations—unarmed and newly dependent on government rations. And on Aug. 15, 1876, Congress passed legislation that became known as the “Sell or Starve” Act, halting any aid to the Sioux until they relinquished both their hunting rights and their claim to the Black Hills.

June 15, 1992: Supreme Court upholds DEA’s kidnapping of Mexican doctor

May 18, 1926: The strange disappearance of Aimee Semple McPherson

March 27, 1876: Colfax massacre convictions tossed

On Easter Sunday in 1873, a heavily armed group of white men led by Christopher Columbus Nash laid siege to the Grant Parish courthouse in the Louisiana town of Colfax. The aim of the assault by 300 white Democrats, many of them former Confederate soldiers, was to dislodge an armed cadre of 150 freedmen and white Republicans who had barricaded themselves inside to protect what they believed was the integrity of their local election.

Jan. 13, 1914: Wright brothers awarded patent on flying machine

Oct. 24, 1865: The ‘Demon of Andersonville’ is convicted

Capt. Heinrich Hartmann Wirz wasn’t the only Confederate soldier prosecuted for war crimes after the Civil War—there were thousands of them—but Wirz was easily the most reviled.

Sept. 5, 1969: Murder charges in My Lai massacre

“The fog of war—the uncertainty and confusion of battle—makes prosecution of war crimes difficult, at best. Dead civilians become collateral damage—the lamentable result of bad aim, poor training and faulty intelligence. But when the chain of command is complicit, it becomes all but impossible.”

July 18, 1940: Democrats nominate FDR for unprecedented 3rd term

George Washington, having retired after two terms in office, set a precedent: that serving beyond two terms might suggest the office was intended for a ruler, not a democratically elected leader.

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