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Legal News Round Up: March 2023

Arrest Warrant Issued for Vladamir Putin

By Annie Herington

In February 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine after thirty years of formally and internationally recognised independence from the Soviet Union. Historically, Russia held onto claims of cultural, economic, and political ties to Ukraine. However, Putin has been increasingly concerned with Ukraine’s closeness to NATO and the West whose expansion he perceives as a threat to Russia. Mr. Putin has tried to justify the invasion by crafting a narrative of demilitarising and de-Nazifying the country in order to, in his view, unite what has always been one people (Russia and Ukraine).

On 17 March 2023, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Mr. Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin as well as Russia's Children's Rights Commissioner, Ms Maria Alekseyeva Lvova-Belova. The arrest warrant was issued for the crimes committed from 24 February 2022. The ICC cites Article 8 of the Rome Statute concerning the unlawful deportation of population (children) and unlawful transfer of said population to Russia from Ukraine. Furthermore, under Article 25 Putin is considered to have personal criminal responsibility for acting directly, jointly, and/or through others. Lastly, Article 28 is concerned with his failure to control those military and civilian subordinates who committed the crimes. However, currently the Russian Federation is not a signatory of the Rome Statute and therefore does not recognise its authority.

Experts are calling this “abduction of children” to “re-education camps” only the beginning of the case against Vladimir Putin. Currently, the warrant only impacts his ability to travel, but does allow the 123 countries who recognise the Rome Statute to hand Mr. Putin over to the Hague as a war criminal. Since the issue of the ICC’s arrest warrant, there has been increasing support for prosecuting Validimir Putin for the entire invasion. As Karim Khan, the chief prosecutor of the ICC, stated, justice in the case against Mr. Putin will be an issue of stamina.

Silicon Valley Bank Collapses

By Ed MacDonald

On March 10th US regulators seized the assets of Silicon Valley Bank, a leading lender in the tech industry, after a run on the bank which saw clients withdraw $42 billion (roughly £34.3 billion) in a single day. The collapse of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) marks the largest failure of such an institution since the 2008 financial crisis and the second largest in US history after the collapse of Washington Mutual in 2008.

The incident follows an announcement from Silvergate Bank, a cryptocurrency-focused lender, that it intended to wind-down and liquidate on March 8th. Following the collapse of SVB on March 12th, financial regulators also closed Signature Bank, in what was the third largest bank failure in US history. In an attempt to prevent any potential contagion that might result from the collapse of SVB and Signature Bank, regulators announced that depositors with SVB and Signature Bank would have access to their funds on the morning of March 13th. The announcement came in a joint statement from the Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen, the Federal Reserve Chair, Jerome Powell, and the FDIC Chairman, Martin Gruenberg:

“Depositors will have access to all of their money starting Mondays, March 13. No losses associated with the resolution of Silicon Valley Bank will be borne by the taxpayer,” said the regulators in the statement. “We are also announcing a similar style systemic risk exception for Signature Bank, New York, New York, which was closed today by its state chartering authority.”

Since the collapse of SVB, the bank’s UK arm has been bought by HSBC, a move which secured the deposits of thousands of British tech firms. In a statement on March 13th, HSBC revealed the £1 deal to acquire SVB UK and stated that “the transaction completes immediately.” If SVB UK had not been rescued, then the Bank of England would have placed the bank into insolvency, meaning that clients would only have had deposits worth up to £85,000, or £170,000 for joint accounts, guaranteed.

UK ‘Illegal Migration Bill’ is a “Clear Breach” of International Law

By Emma Downey

On March 7th British Home Secretary Suella Braverman introduced an ‘Illegal Migration Bill’ that focuses on migration to the UK across the English Channel. This comes after at least four people died in a small boat that capsized in the English Channel last December. The boat was most likely carrying migrants.

This incident prompted the Government to adopt hardline policies in order to deter illegal entry into the country as well as help combat human smuggling and make it easier to remove people who do not legally have a right to remain in the UK Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, has stated that "the Illegal Migration Bill ensures that if you come to the UK illegally, you can’t stay." This has received significant criticism, particularly after Braverman’s admission that she could not make a definitive statement of compatibility between the Illegal Migration Bill and international human rights laws.

In an official statement, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said that it is profoundly concerned” by the bill’s provisions, which would allow the Government to criminalise, detain and even deport asylum seekers. The UNHCR says that, if passed, “the legislation […] would amount to an asylum ban – extinguishing the right to seek refugee protection in the United Kingdom.” The statement further argues that “this would be a clear breach of the Refugee Convention,” of which the UK was one of the original signatories in 1951. This means the UK has agreed to the obligations of the convention. Going against this agreement, which recognizes the fact that refugees may have to irregularly enter an asylum country, would “undermine a longstanding, humanitarian tradition of which the British people are rightly proud.”

This conspicuous criticism has led the Joint Committee on Human Rights of the Parliament of the United Kingdom to launch an inquiry to carry out legislative scrutiny of the Illegal Migration Bill.” They have also requested that Suella Braverman appear before the Committee to answer questions on the bill. The Committee has invited written submissions from interested groups and individuals to help inform their work. The deadline to submit this evidence is 6 April 2023.

Walgreens Restricts Access to Abortion Pills Across U.S.

By Greta Sporcich

Walgreens locations across twenty U.S. states will no longer offer the abortion pill mifepristone for purchase. Last year’s Supreme Court Dobbs ruling overturning Roe v. Wade inspired Republican politicians to target access to these abortion pills by putting pressure on drug stores like Walgreens and CVS.

The Republican attorneys general from these states sent a letter to both pharmacies threatening legal consequences and claiming that distributing abortion pills via mail violated state and federal abortion laws in certain states; a Walgreens spokesperson confirmed that the new restriction was a direct response to the letter.

This decision by Walgreens counteracts the January announcement from the Food and Drug Administration, allowing pharmacies to sell mifepristone in person and by mail if they so choose. This made medication abortions in states where abortion was still legal more accessible, but left pharmacies left with the task of determining what action to take in states where abortions were no longer legal. Walgreens initially decided it would provide the pill in legal states, however, the threat of legal action caused them to retract their decision.

In the past, the FDA’s rulings have typically been unchallenged. However, with the overturning of Roe v. Wade, many states have reimplemented laws restricting abortions, targeting abortifacient medications. Large pharmacies now fear legal prosecution if they do not limit access to abortion pills, as they could face their licenses being removed for selling the drug in violation with state law.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, as of 2020, over one half of all U.S. abortions were by medication rather than by facility-based procedure. The elimination of the drug from pharmacies will greatly affect women in states where abortion is illegal, and will likely lead to the increase in inter-state travel for accessing abortion methods.

Democrats criticized the decision, using the discussion as momentum to call for the codification of Roe v. Wade protections. Adam Schiff, a Californian Congressman expressed his disapproval for Walgreens’ actions on Twitter, saying, “So much for putting a priority on the health of their customers.”

The decision has also been opposed by GenBioPro, a top manufacturer of the medication, which filed a federal lawsuit claiming that states impeding on the sale of a federally approved drug violates the supremacy and commerce clause of the Constitution.

Many conservative states are in support of Walgreens’ announcement; Attorneys general in these states have brought up the argument that selling mifepristone by mail violates a 19th century law prohibiting shipping items used for abortions.

Conservative groups have also been avidly targeting abortion access in the aftermath of Dobbs. In November 2022, one group in Texas filed a federal lawsuit aiming to revoke the FDA’s approval of the abortion pill, claiming that when the FDA approved mifepristone it overstepped its authority without sufficient evidence of safety.

The laws passed since the fall of Roe, both federal and state, trap pharmacists in the middle of a heated debate, and force them with a difficult choice. On one hand, refusing to dispense the drug goes against the FDA’s guidelines, and is subject to federal warning. On the contrary, pharmacists who choose to dispense the drug are threatened by prosecution by state laws.

Trump Pleads Not Guilty to 34 Felony Charges

By Owen Whaley

Donald J. Trump pled “not guilty” to 34 felony charges of falsifying business records in the first degree on April 4, after becoming the first U.S. president to be indicted by a grand jury on March 30. Prosecutors accuse the former president of seeking to influence the 2016 election by suppressing potentially damaging information from the public, committing fraud and violating state and federal election laws in the process. Trump and his allies are alleged to have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to numerous individuals, including an adult film actress with whom he allegedly had an affair, and a doorman who accused him of fathering a child out of wedlock, and attempted to conceal the payments by falsifying financial records.

The former president and leading Republican candidate in the 2024 presidential election called for widespread protests in the days before his arrest. “PROTEST, TAKE OUR NATION BACK!” he posted on his social media platform, Truth Social. Former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats said that Trump’s post was a “reckless” attempt “to keep himself in the news and to foment unrest among his supporters,” comparing it to statements he made before the Capitol riots on January 6, 2021.

Many have criticized the case against Trump, including some of his rivals. “The weaponization of the legal system to advance a political agenda turns the rule of law on its head. It is un-American,” said Florida governor Ron DeSantis, who is widely expected to challenge Trump for the Republican nomination, accusing Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg of “stretching the law to target a political opponent.” Former South Carolina governor and ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who has already begun campaigning for the Republican nomination, remarked that the prosecution is “more about revenge than it is about justice.” Senator Mitt Romney, who twice voted to impeach Trump during his presidency, stated that Bragg “stretched to reach felony criminal charges in order to fit a political agenda” and that “the prosecutor’s overreach sets a dangerous precedent for criminalizing political opponents and damages the public’s faith in our justice system.”

Support for Trump among Republican voters grew after the charges were revealed. Polls indicate that his lead in the primary campaign has increased from 44% to 48%, while support for his closest rival, DeSantis, has fallen from 30% to 19%.

Democrats have said relatively little about the case in order to avoid fueling claims that the prosecution is politically motivated. “I have no comment on Trump,” President Biden told reporters outside the White House the day following Trump’s indictment. David Axelrod, a

former advisor to President Barack Obama, said, “There’s nothing that Trump wants more than for the White House to try to chime in. It would help him make this whole thing look like a big Democratic political conspiracy, which it's not.” With few exceptions, Democrats in Congress

have issued statements about the importance of holding all individuals accountable under the law and focused their attention on other issues.

“We are a nation in decline, and now these radical left lunatics want to interfere in elections by using law enforcement,” Trump said in a press conference at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida immediately following his arraignment. “We can’t let that happen.”

Trump is facing several other criminal investigations concerning his handling of classified materials and his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, in addition to a civil case accusing him of financial fraud. Legal experts have widely asserted that Trump could not be disqualified from running for the presidency in 2024, even if he becomes a convicted and imprisoned felon. To the contrary, the cases could inadvertently bolster Trump’s 2024 campaign, which claims to have raked in millions of dollars in the days following his arrest, in part by selling t-shirts emblazoned with his fake mugshot.


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