Articles Posted in American Politics

Former Republican U.S. Senator John Danforth has left the St. Louis law firm of Bryan Cave because of a high-profile case that involved a $77 million jury verdict against Wells Fargo & Company. It was an odd ending to a long relationship of a stalwart of Missouri politics and law. Danforth’s family has a long, proud history in business, law, politics and philanthropy in St. Louis and the state of Missouri.

Danforth has worked at the St. Louis-based law firm Bryan Cave for decades but left because of a dispute over a claimed conflict of interest. He testified in a St. Louis court supporting the plaintiff Barbara Morriss, who sued Wells Fargo Bank because it was claimed to have mismanaged the family’s trust allegedly costing her millions of dollars. Bryan Cave had represented Reuben Morriss, a former chairman of a now merged St. Louis bank, Boatmen’s Trust Co. Wells Fargo through two predecessors was acting a custodian of one of the Morriss trusts and a trustee of another trust fund.

Danforth testified that the bank was legally to blame for the losses of the family’s trust and thus took the side of Ms. Morriss, the plaintiff against the firm’s client, Wells Fargo. It was reported that Danforth was a longtime family friend of Ms. Morriss and her husband, Reuben Morriss, who died in 2006. The case centered on the claim that while Reuben Morriss was in a “stupor” caused by Alzheimer’s disease his son Doug Morriss in cooperation with Wells Fargo lost millions of dollars from the family’s trust. The law firm of Dowd, Bennett represented Morriss in the lawsuit. It was claimed that Wells Fargo chose not to inform Barbara Morriss that the investment strategies taken were risky and that the bank had a conflict of interest in that it loaned $40 million to Doug Morriss using the family trust as collateral.

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The United States Constitution and the Illinois Constitution have to credit many key provisions and the foundation of American laws and freedoms to the June 15, 1215 signing of the Magna Carta at Runnymede, England, by then King John of England.

The origin of the 13th century Magna Carta began as the rebellion by numerous barons who found that King John’s tyrannical rule needed to be curtailed. The Magna Carta was drafted with some 63 individual clauses. When the final draft was finally completed, it was signed at Runnymede because it was located in a place that was far enough away from King John’s castle at Windsor and still far enough away from some who rebelled against the king to make it the ideal location for the sealing of the Great Charter.

Just six weeks after the Magna Carta was sealed, the Pope in Rome ordered that the Magna Carta be revoked calling it antithetical to the right of the kings of Europe and elsewhere. With the Pope’s order revocation, a civil war broke out in England. King John, however, died five months later and his eldest son Henry became the king. When King Henry took over the realm, he reinstated the Magna Carta to restore peace in the land, ending the English civil war.

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In this year 2015, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (“VRA”) was heralded as “the most effective civil rights law in the history of the United States,” Richard L. Engstrom, Race and Seven Politics, 10 ELECTION, L.J. 53, 53 (2011). The 50 years since the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was made law was predated by many U.S. Congressional acts or attempts to enact protection of the voting rights of all American citizens. In fact, in 1870, Henry Cabot Lodge proposed a “Forced Bill,” a law that would reinforce an 1870 law that gave force to the federal government to make sure that all phases of registration and voting, particularly in Southern states, was protected. This bill passed the House of Representatives but failed in the Senate. From that time, through the 1880s, right up to the present day and including 1965, the right to vote has been under attack or has been in some places limited by voter IDs and other state law measures to limit the number of poor, elderly, convicted felons and others from voting in local, state and national elections.

In the 2013 decision of Shelby County, the 1965 Voting Rights Act was weakened by a 5-4 decision in the U.S. Supreme Court that held that Section 4 coverage formula was unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court asserted that that section was not adequately grounded in “current conditions.” Shelby County, 133 S.Ct. at 26-29.

Interestingly enough, the Supreme Court, in limiting the impact of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, did so even though Congress reauthorized the Voting Rights Acts in 2006 by overwhelming votes in both the U.S. House and the Senate. There were reports that Congress reviewed 15,000 pages of evidence showing persistent discrimination in voting in the 9 southern states of jurisdictions that were covered under the Act.

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Wisconsin has a long history of protecting private and public labor unions. In fact, before 2011, Wisconsin granted broad protections and privileges to public-sector unions. This all changed when the Wisconsin legislature passed a new budget bill known as Act 10. This act reduced state and municipal employers’ collective-bargaining obligations to non-public safety employees in the public sector.

In a lawsuit brought by two public employee unions and an individual union member, the defendants argued that the changes by the Wisconsin legislature infringed on their First Amendment petition and association rights, and that Act 10 denied the union members equal protection under the law.

The U.S. District Court granted the state’s motion for judgment on the pleadings and the unions, the plaintiffs, brought this appeal.

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The City of Country Club Hills, a Chicago suburb west of the Tri-State Tollway along Interstate 80, maintained a governing body of  ten aldermen — two aldermen from each of the city’s five wards. 

In the 2012 general election, a referendum was put to the vote of the citizenry asking them whether they wanted to reduce the number of aldermen to five, one from each ward. 

The current ten aldermen would continue to serve to the end of their terms and then the number of aldermen would be reduced to five if the referendum passed. There were no objections filed, and the referendum question was referred to the county clerk to be put on the ballot. 

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On Nov. 21, 2013, the Union League of Chicago hosted political analysts and co-authors Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, who wrote the newly released book, Double Down 2012.  The program, featuring Halperin and Heilemann, centered on the authors’ discussion about their book, which covers the Republican primary battle through election night Nov. 6, 2012 when President Barack Obama was re-elected to his second term.

The book is revealing about many of the political actors leading up to and concluding with that election. It focuses on primary candidates on the Republican side and features the aftermath of the first presidential debate when Obama appeared so listless. The book also reports on the sense of how things were going from advisers and consultants closest to the candidates. Halperin and Heilemann look at the behind-the-scenes puzzlement that produced the Clint Eastwood “chair speech” during the Republican National Convention’s final evening and how a Neil Diamond song may have inspired that weird event.

Halperin and Heilemann also co-authored their bestseller and New York Times No. 1 best-selling book recounting the 2008 presidential campaign and election, Game Change:  Obama and the Clinton, Palin and McCain, and the Race of a Lifetime. In 2012, Game Change was made into an HBO film, which also was well-received and won accolades from reviewers.

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