A Legal History Of Thanksgiving

From the National Archives:

On September 28, 1789, just before leaving for recess, the first Federal Congress passed a resolution asking that the President of the United States recommend to the nation a day of thanksgiving. A few days later, President George Washington issued a proclamation naming Thursday, November 26, 1789 as a “Day of Publick Thanksgivin” – the first time Thanksgiving was celebrated under the new Constitution. Subsequent presidents issued Thanksgiving Proclamations, but the dates and even months of the celebrations varied. It wasn’t until President Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Proclamation that Thanksgiving was regularly commemorated each year on the last Thursday of November.

In 1939, however, the last Thursday in November fell on the last day of the month. Concerned that the shortened Christmas shopping season might dampen the economic recovery, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued a Presidential Proclamation moving Thanksgiving to the second to last Thursday of November. As a result of the proclamation, 32 states issued similar proclamations while 16 states refused to accept the change and proclaimed Thanksgiving to be the last Thursday in November. For two years two days were celebrated as Thanksgiving – the President and part of the nation celebrated it on the second to last Thursday in November, while the rest of the country celebrated it the following week.

To end the confusion, Congress decided to set a fixed-date for the holiday. On October 6, 1941, the House passed a joint resolution declaring the last Thursday in November to be the legal Thanksgiving Day. The Senate, however, amended the resolution establishing the holiday as the fourth Thursday, which would take into account those years when November has five Thursdays. The House agreed to the amendment, and President Roosevelt signed the resolution on December 26, 1941, thus establishing the fourth Thursday in November as the Federal Thanksgiving Day holiday.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!!

AG Jepsen: “Spending Cap Is Unenforceable.”

Few things are more gratifying to a lawyer than when another lawyer of great stature agrees with the first lawyer’s legal opinion on some matter of significance. So, needless to say, I was quite pleased yesterday when I read Attorney General George Jepsen’s legal opinion that the state’s constitutional spending cap “has no current legal effect,” i.e., it is unenforceable. I wrote a couple of blog posts last April that reached that same conclusion.

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Shine The Light On The UConn Foundation

Open government advocates have been pressing hard the past few years for the UConn Foundation, the private, non-profit entity that raises money for our state’s flagship university, to be more transparent. Senator Michael McLachlan (R.-24), has been one of the leaders in the Connecticut General Assembly to make the foundation subject to the state’s Freedom of Information Act. UConn’s powerful alumni and lobbyists, however, have successfully opposed those efforts–so far. Another legislative session will shortly be upon us, and although it is a short session, I anticipate UConn foundation transparency will continue to be an issue.

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Some Thoughtful Perspectives On The Turmoil At Yale And Mizzou

As a free speech advocate, I have been following closely the recent student protests at Yale and the University of Missouri. A number of thoughtful writers are  beginning to share their perspectives on the protests.  Today two articles caught my attention and are, IMHO, worth taking time to read:

Conor Friedersdorf, writing at The Atlantic, has this piece on the Yale protests, entitled “The New Intolerance of Student Activism.”

Univ. of Missouri law prof Thom Lambert, writing on his blog, has this piece on the Mizzou controversy.

I’ll add more links to other thoughtful articles as I come across them.

UPDATE (11/12/15):

Here are a few more links to thoughtful articles on the Yale controversy:

Mark Oppenheimer’s column at Tabletmag.com

Colin McEnroe’s column in the Hartford Courant

Nicholas Kristof’s column in the New York Times

When Felons Rule, Ctd

A comment posted on my initial post about changing the law that allowed convicted felon Joe Ganim to run for office again pointed out that former Republican candidate for Secretary of State Peter Lumaj made a similar proposal in 2013.  Responding to that proposal, CT Newsjunkie reports that Secretary of the State Denise Merrill “said she had faith in voters’ ability to choose their candidates. She said prior felons running for office was not one of the state’s pressing election issues. Merrill said Lumaj’s proposal also raised constitutional concerns. ‘It contradicts the principle that once you have served your time and paid your debt to society, you can resume as a citizen,’ Merrill said. ‘I’m not sure it would pass constitutional muster.'”

In reading articles about Ganim’s comeback victory, I’ve seen others raise the same concern about whether denying a convicted felon the right to vote and/or run for state or local office would be constitutional.  As I explain below, these concerns are without any basis in law. (Laws that impose limitations on candidates seeking federal office are a different matter and are beyond the scope of this post.) It troubles me that the Secretary of the State would suggest otherwise. Her words carry great weight and authority. She is certainly entitled to express her opinion on whether she thinks such a law would be good public policy. But she should not comment negatively on proposed legislation based on groundless legal concerns.

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Some Thoughts On Stare Decisis And Connecticut’s Recent Death Penalty Decision

In recent weeks, lawyers, the legal press in Connecticut, and this blog, have been discussing the possibility that a pending death penalty case in the Connecticut Supreme Court, State v. Peeler, could overrule the court’s recent decision in State v. Santiago. Santiago held that a statute passed in 2012, which expressly repealed the death penalty prospectively, had the unintended effect of rendering capital punishment unconstitutional under the state constitution for the 11 men already on death row. More accurately, the discussion has focused on whether the Supreme Court should use the Peeler case to overrule Santiago.

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When Felons Rule

So, disgraced public servant and convicted felon Joe Ganim is back in office in Bridgeport, Connecticut’s largest city. As I’ve written in the past, Connecticut law (General Statutes § 9-46a) allows convicted felons to run for office if they have completed their sentence and paid all fines and penalties. What I haven’t discussed is whether I think that law is good or should be changed.

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Some Thoughts On Making A Transportation “Lock Box” Judicially Enforceable

Governor Malloy has renewed his call for a constitutional amendment that would create a “lock box” for tax revenues dedicated to transportation infrastructure projects. He wants to ensure that certain sales tax and other revenues are actually used for the purpose for which they were levied.

I express no opinion on [have no expertise germane] to whether a transportation lock box makes good sense as a matter of public policy. I do have an opinion, however, on whether a lock box amendment would be judicially enforceable. My opinion is that unless the proposed amendment contains specific language vesting jurisdiction in the state courts to decide cases involving alleged violations of the lock box, the Connecticut Supreme Court will is likely to treat lock box disputes as “political questions” over which the judicial branch has no jurisdiction. The end result will be “feel good,” but legally meaningless, language in the state constitution.

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How Trial Judges’ Personal Motion Filing Procedures Can Ruin Your Appeal

Many trial judges, particularly federal district court judges, have special rules governing the procedure for filing motions in cases on their dockets. If a lawyer is not careful, those special rules can result in the dismissal of an appeal as untimely, as the Second Circuit recently explained in its opinion in Weitzner, et al. v. Cynosure, Inc. (Hat Tip to Orrick appellate lawyer (and my cousin by marriage) Bob Loeb.)

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Live From New York, It’s Saturday Night (Election Law?)!

Hillary Clinton appeared in a three-minute skit on Saturday Night Live the other week.  Donald Trump is set to host an entire SNL show next month.  Are Clinton’s and Trump’s competitors in the Democratic and Republican presidential primaries entitled to equal time on NBC?  Yes, although not necessarily on SNL.

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