Here is some of the legal news making the headlines this week:

The Supreme Court rejected a challenge that could have disbanded the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

  • Congress created the agency nearly 13 years ago to enforce federal consumer finance laws. The agency receives funding from the Federal Reserve rather than through the congressional appropriations process.
  • In a 7-2 vote, the justices ruled it was within Congress’s authority to determine how the CFPB is funded, and the funding plan fits squarely within the Constitution’s Appropriations Clause. Justice Clarence Thomas, in the majority opinion, wrote, “Under the Appropriations Clause, an appropriation is simply a law that authorizes expenditures from a specified source of public money for designated purposes. The statute that provides the Bureau’s funding meets these requirements.”
  • Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch dissented. In their view, the CFPB’s funding scheme violates the Appropriations Clause. Alito wrote, “The CFPB’s unprecedented combination of funding features affords it the very kind of financial independence that the Appropriations Clause was designed to prevent.”

A New York appellate court rejected former President Donald Trump’s appeal of the gag order against him in his Manhattan criminal trial.

  • New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan issued the gag order in the hush money case in late March. The gag order prevents Trump from publicly criticizing witnesses, jurors, and court staff, among others. 
  • Trump argued that the gag order violates his First Amendment right to free speech. The New York State Appellate Division First Department disagreed and affirmed an earlier decision by a lower court denying Trump’s request to strike down the gag order, writing the lower court “properly found that the order was necessary under the circumstances, holding that ‘Trump’s documented pattern of speech and its demonstrated real-time, real-world consequences pose a significant and imminent threat to the functioning of the criminal trial process.’”
  • Merchan has already held Trump in contempt for ten violations of the gag order and fined him $10,000. In a recent order, Merchan warned that further gag order violations could result in jail time.

New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez’s corruption trial started this week.

  • Menendez faces 16 criminal charges, including bribery, fraud, obstruction, and acting as a foreign agent. He was charged alongside his wife, Nadine Menendez, and others for allegedly taking part in schemes to benefit Egypt and Qatar. Nadine Menendez will stand on trial separately this summer.
  • On Wednesday, after three days, a jury was selected. Then, the lawyers delivered opening statements. Prosecutor Lara Pomerantz started her opening statement by characterizing Menendez as a public official “who put his power up for sale.” During the defense’s opening statement, Menendez’s lawyer, Avi Weitzman, said, “In short, the evidence will show Bob was doing his job, and he was doing it right.”
  • This is not Menendez’s first criminal trial. In 2017, a mistrial was declared after a jury deadlocked on corruption charges. (Those charges were separate from the ones Menendez is facing now.) Prosecutors declined to hold a second trial in that case.

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