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Legal News Roundup: January 20

Here’s a roundup of recent legal stories in the news.

Notable Names on Donald Trump’s Pardon List

Reuters – Former President Donald Trump issued a flurry of presidential pardons and commutations for 143 people during his last day in office. The people he granted clemency to ranged from rappers to financiers and lobbyists. The list includes:

  • Steve Bannon
    • Bannon was a key adviser in Trump’s 2016 presidential run. He was charged last year with swindling Trump supporters over an effort to raise private funds to build the president’s wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. He has pleaded not guilty.
  • Kwame Kilpatrick
    • The former Detroit mayor was sentenced in 2013 to 28 years in prison following his conviction on two dozen charges including racketeering, bribery and extortion from a conspiracy, which prosecutors said had worsened the city’s financial crisis.
  • Lil Wayne
    • Lil Wayne, whose real name is Dwayne Michael Carter, pleaded guilty in federal court in December to illegally possessing a firearm and faced up to 10 years in prison.
  • Kodak Black
    • Black, who was born Bill Kahan Kapri, is in federal prison for making a false statement to buy a firearm. The rapper released the album “Bill Israel” from behind bars.
  • Sholam Weiss
    • Weiss was convicted of bilking $125 million from the National Heritage Life Insurance Co and its elderly policyholders. He fled the United States and was sentenced in absentia in 2000 to 845 years in prison, but he was eventually extradited from Austria.
  • Anthony Levandowski
    • Levandowski, a former Google engineer, pleaded guilty to stealing secret technology related to self-driving cars from the company before becoming the head of Uber Technologies Inc’s rival unit.
  • Elliott Broidy
    • Broidy, a major Republican Party fundraiser, pleaded guilty in October to acting as an unregistered foreign agent, admitting to accepting money to secretly lobby the Trump administration for Chinese and Malaysian interests.

Read the full story.

Mental Health Court Receives Certification

Court News Ohio – Lorain County Common Pleas Judge James Miraldi has created a specialty court to help untangle the complexities suffered by individuals with mental disorders who end up in the criminal justice system.

Recently certified by the Ohio Supreme Court, Lorain County’s Wellness Court is a two-year comprehensive rehabilitation program that strives to treat participants with varying conditions including post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolarism and severe depression.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 20 percent of adults in the United States live with mental illness. Among the 2 million people jailed annually, the National Alliance on Mental Health estimates approximately 15 percent of the men and 30 percent of the women have a serious mental health condition.

Read the full story.

Anonymous donor gifts $40 million for 50 future civil rights lawyers

NBC News – The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund launched a $40 million scholarship program on Monday to support a new generation of civil rights lawyers, dedicated to pursuing racial justice across the South.

With that whopping gift from a single anonymous donor, the fund plans to put 50 students through law schools around the country. In return, they must commit to eight years of racial justice work in the South, starting with a two-year post-graduate fellowship in a civil rights organization.

“The donor came to us,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the Legal Defense and Educational Fund. “The donor very much wanted to support the development of civil rights lawyers in the South. And we have a little bit of experience with that.”

Read the full story.

Fired attorney sues to block ‘illegitimately elected Congress’

ABA Journal – A lawyer who posted video of himself outside the U.S. Capitol during the January 6 riot has filed a lawsuit contending that voting changes made in response to the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in an illegal election and an “illegitimately elected Congress.”

Paul MacNeal Davis, who was fired from his in-house counsel job after posting the video, filed the suit on behalf of five individuals and the groups Latinos for Trump and Blacks for Trump.

Defendants include members of the 117th Congress and Mark Zuckerberg, accused of using his authority over Facebook to deny constitutionally protected free speech.

Read the full story.