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Today in Legal History: Sick Chickens and the President Gets Sued

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By Brian Kumnick on May 27, 2009 2:20 PM

If we're going to write a post on interesting legal happenings on this date, we should probably start by noting a couple of birthdays.  Today in 1907 was the birthday of biologist/ Silent Spring author Rachel Carson, who brought us modern environmentalism and the EPA.  And this date in 1923 gave the world Henry Kissinger, who is, interestingly enough, not the only Nobel Peace Prize winner to also suffer allegations of being a war criminal.

Of course, since it's late May, the more interesting legal events of the day are inevitably going to be the Supreme Court opinions which inevitably rain down upon us at this time of year.  And sure enough, we have two classics to bring you back to the finer points of torts and con law:

1935: A.L.A. Schechter Poultry Corp. v. United States, a/k/a the Sick Chicken case: who remembers their con law and can quickly recite the facts and holding?  No one?  Fine, we'll give you the holding at least: the court struck down the National Industrial Recovery Act, a major piece of New Deal legislation, as, among other things, not within Congress's power to enact under the Commerce Clause.  Sound familiar?  You'll also recall that the court had a change of heart the very next year, and that Congress would subsequently spend the next 60 years blissfully expanding its Commerce Clause authority to regulate absolutely anything it wanted to.
1997: Clinton v. Jones: in which a sitting president of the United States insisted that he could not be held accountable for sexually harassing women because, well, he was the president.  The court, not surprisingly, declined to grant such blanket immunity, and the suit was on.  While Jones eventually got a settlement from Clinton, the rest of us got to endure the Monica Lewinsky scandal and Clinton's impeachment and trial, all of it the fruit of the Jones suit.  Let's all be thankful.

And that's today's stroll down legal-memory lane.  Hopefully you learned, or re-learned, something useful; for our part, we are off to ponder Schechter Poultry for the rest of the day.

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