What Is The Emoluments Clause And Why Should You Care About It?

Our founding fathers were worried about the introduction of business interests into government from the very beginning — surely if they could see what American government, and indeed, the very concept of American “Democracy,” has been reduced to, then they would in all likelihood be rolling around in their graves. Especially since they provided blatant and specific protections that should have prevented this kind of behavior.

Article I, Section 9 of the United States Constitution is the foreign emoluments clause, and it says: 

“No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”

Emolument basically translates to business income while in office. The framers of our Constitution most probably wanted to prevent our government officials from outside influence, including foreign governments and domestic business interests.

So when Donald Trump announced that the United States will hold the next G7 Summit at one of his very own resorts, you can imagine what the writers of the Constitution would have had to say.

But then again, he also got away with keeping all of his businesses. He handed over control of those businesses to his children, but he still owns them. He still receives the income while in office. Considering the precedent of former presidents — Jimmy Carter put his failing peanut farm into a blind trust — this is hardly appropriate conduct for the most powerful man in the world.

For Trump to use his own business property to hold the next G7 Summit isn’t just a major conflict of interest — it’s illegal. A number of high profile individuals have been saying as much: if anyone but the president tried to do this, they would be promptly arrested and put in jail.

John Cassidy wrote for the New Yorker: “The even greater scandal is that Trump continues to get away with this sort of thing. If an ordinary government official awarded a valuable federal contract to a company that he had an ownership stake in, he could well be arrested and sent to prison. As President, Trump is exempt from the federal conflict-of-interest statutes — a glaring omission that must have delighted him when he found out about it.”

In other words, his own officials aren’t exactly going to be looking into his choice.

But with impeachment proceedings looming — and in all likelihood those happy articles will be drafted very soon — he could well be looking at a greater number of potential charges than any other president has faced before.

Here’s What Immigration Law Looks Like Under An Authoritarian Government

Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt wrote about historical comparisons between Nazi Germany and the Trump administration in the Atlantic Monthly last year: “Equating the two is not only historically wrong, it is also strategically wrong. Glib comparisons to the Nazis provide the administration and its supporters with a chance to defend their position, something they do not deserve.”

But is that necessarily the truth? After all, Hitler didn’t just eradicate millions of people on the first day of his rule. He started somewhere else.

No one can argue that Hitler didn’t stoke nationalist and anti-immigrant sentiments. He did. Trump has been doing the same for about as long as Hitler did before his own rise to power. Hitler published a regularly released document summarizing the crimes of immigrants, something the Trump administration has also done. Why can’t we, then, compare Trump’s incarceration of immigrants and blatant disregard for immigration laws to Hitler’s concentration camps? 

Is it really so impossible to believe that it could all happen a second time — and on American soil, no less?

Not everyone thinks so.

But then again those comparisons serve to highlight a liberal talking point: the constant escalation is leading somewhere, and that place can’t possibly be good. Trump’s vitriol has led to increased attacks on minority populations here at home, and just because we’re not rounding up immigrants who already live here doesn’t mean it won’t happen someday soon. Even politicians take their crappy ideas and enact them one step at a time.

Right now, the Trump administration is trying to make it virtually impossible for anyone to seek asylum in the United States if they’re not coming from Canada or Mexico. The people who’ve been rounded up so far? They haven’t broken any laws (even though that’s not what you’ll hear from Trump supporters, many of whom think it’s perfectly okay to keep these “illegal immigrants” locked away even though that’s not what they are). 

Trump said, “We are taking unprecedented action to secure our Southern border and stop illegal immigration.”

Unprecedented is most definitely an accurate word to use when characterizing his actions, especially when the imprisoned people aren’t even immigrants. They’re asylum-seeking refugees. There’s a big difference. And all this when immigrants are among the least likely to commit violent crimes here at home.

But the real problem with Trump’s immigration policy isn’t the reality of the change — it’s what that change says about today’s America. No longer are we a country willing to accept the sick or poor or starving. Trump has distorted policy so much that only skilled workers will be accepted into the country. And certainly, Trump doesn’t want anyone coming into our country from foreign countries with predominantly Muslim populations.

So much for the great American melting pot.

Much of what trump has done and continues to do is blatantly illegal based on current laws (which is why he’s trying to change them), and he’s been sued for his disregard for the law dozens of times. That trend will likely continue for as long as he’s president.

California Brick-And-Mortar Liquor Stores Take Aim At Amazon’s Shady Business Practices

California law stipulates that in order for a retailer to sell wine and spirits online, the company must first have a brick-and-mortar location. Because Amazon wants to sell as much alcohol online as possible, the internet giant went about securing liquor licenses in seven locations throughout the state. Where are the company’s new “stores” located? Directly next to seven of its giant warehouses. And you might be surprised what you’ll find there if you decide to go on a booze run.

Alcoholic beverage control (or ABC) laws exist for a number of reasons — like reducing the amount of under-age drinking or illegal alcohol purchases — but brick-and-mortar liquor stores contend that the aforementioned ABC law was actually designed specifically to eliminate online sales of alcohol for big companies like Amazon. The online retailer simply found a loophole and ran with it. 

That might be why Amazon doesn’t seem to be taking the brick-and-mortar law very seriously. Many opponents of the company’s policies are intent of reining in its shady brick-and-mortar business practices.

One undercover consumer decided to take a look at Amazon’s brick-and-mortar stores for himself. What did he find?

The store in Sacramento sold about four types of wine and a few spirits. That’s not much considering what you can buy online in the same Sacramento zip code. With a few clicks you can purchase 230 different bottles of wine and 82 kinds of whiskey, along with dozens of other kinds of spirits. The numbers are similar at other locations. You can always find more to buy online than in person. 

What did Amazon have to say about this practice? “We are not required to offer the full selection for sale in person,” the spokesperson said. “We are in compliance with the law.”

Amazon is now the proud owner of Whole Foods and Sousa’s Wine Beer Spirits as well, which means the company really can sell alcohol at a brick-and-mortar location. Amazon Go in Seattle is a popular tourist destination, so why not set up a number of similar shops in California — with the attached liquor licenses to guarantee better compliance with the laws?

In the future, Amazon might just do that. But it’s easier for Amazon to do the bare minimum now, knowing that the company can still make a quick mountain of cash through online sales. Brick-and-mortar stores — real stores — require a lot of groundwork, and maybe Amazon just isn’t ready for the commitment. Especially since it does already have the ultra-popular Whole Foods. 

Smaller alcohol retailers have made veiled threats of lawsuits, but likely nothing would come of them.

Monsanto Found Liable For Sonoma County Man’s Lymphoma

In San Francisco, a federal judge ruled that exposure to Monsanto Co’s Roundup herbicide was a leading cause of a local resident’s development of non-Hodkin’s lymphoma, Edwin Harderman, 70 years old. The trial moves to phase 2 which will determine the financial liability of Monsanto.

The verdict was determined by a 6 person jury and declared on their fifth day of deliberation. Hardeman’s lawsuit is one of many that will be upcoming for Monsanto. There are more than 760 lawsuits filed against Monsanto around the country regarding their product RoundUp. However, this decision does not set precedent for other cases because each has its own unique circumstances.

However, this is the second time though that Monsanto has been found guilty in San Francisco of their Roundup causing non-Hodkin’s lymphoma. Last year, a different jury awarded DeWayne Johnson, a Bay Area gardener, $289 million when he also developed non-Hodkin’s lymphoma from Roundup. A judge then decreased the amount awarded to $78 million. Monsanto has appealed. Monsanto firmly believes that science will show that the chemical found in its herbicides glyphosate does not cause cancer. The World Health Organization’s International Agency For Research of Cancer published a report showing a link that the chemical does. However, the link shows that it comes from heavy use of the chemical (like on farms) and not from limited exposure (like on home gardens).

Monsanto is notorious for having a myriad of legal trouble, warranting its own Wikipedia page dedicated to the subject. Lawsuits against Monsanto stem all the way back to the Vietnam war with the chemical Agent Orange. It has also been in legal hot water regarding chemicals such as Dioxin, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and alachlor. Monsanto has also had legal trouble with the Securities and Exchange Commission when it inaccurately reported its earnings over a three year period. They were fined $80 million.

My Boss Touched My Butt. What Should I Do?

By now, most of us are becoming accustomed to the growing publicity of the female perspective on mostly male-perpetrated sexual harassment both in and out of the workplace. The #MeToo movement has ripped the veil off this societally accepted conundrum, which had reached epidemic proportions long, long ago. Sexual harassment is something of a burden for both employees and employers in the workplace because it’s a stressful, time-consuming affair, and shouldn’t happen. But what do you do if your boss is the perpetrator? Here are your first steps when you boss touches your butt (or anything else).

First and foremost, tell him (or her) immediately that the advances are unwanted. Express your belief that workplace relationships should remain friendly but professional, and sexual attractions should only be explored between consenting adults in other environments. Consider making a quick call to human resources in order to have the event documented. You can probably ask HR to take no further action, if that’s your wish. Sometimes they will be forced to, based on company policy.

Should the harassment continue, be sure to make another call, and be sure to urge HR to investigate the matter fully and take corrective action, even if that means your boss is transferred or terminated. We don’t always want to take actions that might affect other people’s lives, but remember: you were the victim of harassment, and the perpetrator made that choice before you were forced to react.

After you do that, consider requesting a meeting with a lawyer who specializes in workplace harassment in order to explore your next options. Should HR fail to deliver a resolution to your problem (as is so often the case), then you’re free to open a Pandora’s Box of legal alternatives. No one should have to deal with this kind of behavior, and employment lawyers are dedicated to making sure you receive compensation for any potential emotional side effects or even damage done to your career.

Your lawyer will likely request that you file an administrative charge with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (or EEOC) in order to ensure that there is a timely investigation into the claim. If HR didn’t do its job, then the EEOC will give it another try. When they fail to deliver, they’ll offer you a “right to sue” letter. What better way to kick off litigation than with government permission to do so?

When Does It Make Sense To Declare Bankruptcy?

Believe it or not, bankruptcy isn’t just for rich people. Bankruptcy is one of the most stressful situations in which a person can be placed, and it isn’t always beneficial. Your circumstances are unique, and if you file, then you should make sure that the decision is the best one you can make under those circumstances. So when does it make sense to file for bankruptcy? Here are a few things to keep in mind as you consider the process.

First and foremost, if you think any of the items on this list apply to your situation, then get a bankruptcy lawyer. The first sit-down is almost always free, and it’s a good way to discuss your options before you make any decisions you can’t reverse later on.

Bankruptcy is a second chance, but most people view it as a punishment for those who let themselves fall into extreme debt. Even as you’re enjoying your second chance, it’s not without consequences, both financial and social. Be sure you’re ready to acknowledge and deal with both.

Other life choices may force you down the path to bankruptcy. Divorce is one such reason. If the financial situation after you split from a spouse looks dire, you might need a better option. Other reasons include potential lawsuits from a creditor, foreclosure, or finding yourself with no other choice but to pay bills by withdrawing from a 401(k) or using another credit card. If you can’t afford to eat without spending cold hard cash, then bankruptcy might be your last safe bet.

Before you file for bankruptcy, you should explore other avenues to debt-relief. You might start getting phone calls from organizations promising debt relief, but most are bogus. Anyone looking to profit from your situation isn’t offering a real solution. That said, there are nonprofits out there who may be able to offer you credit counseling services to better manage your debt or cut expenditures more efficiently than you’re doing on your own. If you find that you can’t budget, then it’s time to talk to people who can help.

Once you figure out that you absolutely cannot defeat your debt problems through any other means, try to talk to your creditor or consider programs that will help you negotiate down to a smaller sum. If all else fails, then and only then is it time to consider bankruptcy as a viable option. Be careful of upcoming bills: you won’t want to pay any big ones until you make your big decision.

When Is A Pro Bono Attorney Right For Your Case?

Attorneys provide pro bono services for a number of reasons. Some just want to help out those in need. Sometimes there are other incentives, like tax deductions. Lawyers are also told that they should offer a small number of pro bono hours each year, and some take this obligation more seriously than others. These attorneys work free of charge, and they usually provide their services most often to those who can’t afford to pay.

There are other options if you fall into that category. You could visit a law school to ask for advice from a law student who is certified to practice under a faculty member. You could find a legal aid society willing to help. Or you could find a pro bono lawyer. When is a pro bono attorney right for your case?

Well, there is no situation in which pro bono services would be inappropriate if you can’t afford the services of a lawyer on your own. There are situations in which pro bono services are more likely. One of these situations is a call for asylum.

If you’re living in a country where you’re persecuted or your life is threatened, then you might ask for asylum in the United States. Many of those seeking asylum are poor or in poverty. Many human rights attorneys and volunteers provide their services free of charge to these individuals. Organizations where these attorneys work will mentor, train, and guide lawyers through the process to ensure that asylum-seekers and their lawyers are fully supported.

Another situation is David versus Goliath. If you’ve been taken advantage of by a big company or corporation, but can’t hope to compete with a huge, expensive team of lawyers attacking you on every front, then you’re more likely to find a law firm whose lawyers will provide you with help on a pro bono basis.

Remember: if a lawyer or firm offer you their services pro bono, they’re doing you a favor. They have to run a business, but they’re giving up significant time and money on your behalf. Make sure you provide them with the information they need to properly help you.