- An earlier article discussed hurdles ordinary people
face before America's High Court, accessed through the following link:
- Saying pro-business rulings aren't new, it suggested
the most damaging one occurred in 1886. In Santa Clara County v. Southern
Pacific Railway, the High Court granted corporations legal personhood.
Ever since, they've had the same rights as people without the responsibilities.
Their limited liability status exempts them.
- As a result, they've profited hugely and continue winning
favorable rulings. Today more than ever from the Roberts Court, one observer
calling its first full (2006-07) term a "blockbuster" with the
Court's conservative wing prevailing most often.
- Through today, it's been much the same, notably in its
January 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision, ruling
government can't limit corporate political election spending as doing it
violates their First Amendment freedoms. Writing for the 5 - 4 majority,
Justice Anthony Kennedy called it legal "political speech," effectively
putting a price tag on democracy.
- The decision overruled Austin v. Michigan Chamber of
Commerce (1990), restricting corporate political spending because their
resources unfairly influence electoral politics, and McConnell v. Federal
Election Commission (2003), upholding part of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform
Act of 2002 (the McCain-Feingold Act), restricting corporate and union
- Citizen's United set a precedent, but does it matter
given the power of big money and past failures to curb it, Professor John
Kozy saying at the time:
- "Expecting the Congress, most if not all of whose
members reside deep in corporate pockets, to eliminate that influence can
be likened to expecting the rhinovirus to eliminate the common cold. Corporate
money (in large or smaller amounts) is the diseased life-blood of American
politics; it carries its cancerous spores to all extremities."
- Kozy also cited Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes' Lochner
dissent, saying "the Court has taken its task to be the constitutionalization
of a totally immoral, rapacious, economic system instead of the promotion
of justice, domestic tranquility, the general welfare, and the blessings
- Of course, the same judgment applies throughout Court
history with past civil libertarians far outnumbered by established order
supporters and big money interests that run it. As a result, for every
William Brennan and Thurgood Marshall there have been dozens of John Jays
(the first chief justice), Roger Taneys, William Howard Tafts, Scalias,
Burgers, Rehnquists, and Roberts.
- It's why Michael Parenti calls the Supreme Court America's
"autocratic branch" of government, affirmed shamelessly in its
April 27 AT&T v. Conception decision, accessed through the following
- America's Supremes Deny Class Action Redress
- After the ruling, Dow Jones Newswires Brent Kendall headlined,
"US Supreme Court Blocks Class Action Against AT&T Unit,"
- The Court blocked "a class action lawsuit alleging
AT&T Inc. (T) wireless subsidiary acted fraudulently by charging sales
tax on cellphones that it advertised as free. The case was considered a
test of the enforceability of arbitration agreements that bar individuals
from pooling their claims together in a class action."
- Earlier, two California federal courts ruled that AT&T
Mobility's wireless contract arbitration agreement was not enforceable
because it blocked class actions. On April 27, the Supreme Court overturned
them. Writing for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia said permitting
group suits runs afoul of federal law promoting arbitration.
- Dissenting, Justice Stephen Breyer said requiring consumers
to arbitrate individually forces them to abandon small claims, too costly
- The case involved Vincent and Liza Concepcion's complaint
about the $30.22 sales tax on AT&T's cellphone promoted as free. As
a result, Breyer added:
- "What rational lawyer would have signed on to represent
(them) in litigation for the possibility of fees stemming from" an
amount that small, effectively shutting them out entirely from judicial
- Still pending before the court is the largest class action
in US history - Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. It involves sexual job discrimination,
claiming the company violated Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act by
denying women equal promotion opportunities as men.
- Wal-Mart lawyers now want the case dismissed on behalf
of 1.5 million current and past female employees. Doing so, however, will
be a crushing blow to aggrieved company employees and millions of others
henceforth for redress it appears the ruling now denies.
- Public citizen attorney Deepak Gupta represented the
Concepcions before the High Court. After the decision he said:
- "This morning, the US Supreme Court dealt a crushing
blow to American consumers and employees, ruling that companies can ban
class actions in the fine print of contracts."
- So whenever you "sign a contract" for a cell
phone, bank account, credit card, employment, or other purpose, "you
may be giving up your right to hold companies accountable for fraud, discrimination
or other illegal practices."
- In its latest unprincipled decision, the Court ruled
5 - 4 that corporations may use arbitration clauses to prevent consumers
and employees from using class actions to hold them accountable, requiring
individual litigation instead.
- In fact, class actions, like Brown v. Board of Education,
are an essential litigation tool. Their fate shouldn't be decided by corporate
fine print "take-it-or-leave-it contracts" only lawyers understand.
- The 1925 Federal Arbitration Act facilitated private
arbitration settlements in state and federal courts, applicable to interstate
commerce transactions under the Constitution's Commerce Clause. Henceforth,
it will shield corporations from accountability, making it harder for people
to litigate "civil rights, labor, consumer, and other (type) claims,"
resulting from corporate wrongdoing by "join(ing) together to obtain
their rightful compensation."
- As a result, says Gupta, it's essential for Congress
to enact legislation "ending forced arbitration in consumer and employment
contracts," but expect no redress from a Republican controlled House
and a pro-business president claiming populist credentials.
- As a result, expect CEO's from AT&T, Wal-Mart and
other corporate predators to sleep comfortably henceforth, knowing America's
High Court backs their right rip off consumers and employees with impunity.
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com
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