Monday, July 7, 2014

The Best Supreme Court Money Can Buy

by Nomad

Supreme CourtThe disgrace of the Supreme Court's infatuation with corporations will, unfortunately, leave a stain on American justice long after the conservative Justices have retired.

The Alliance for Justice, (AFJ) an umbrella organization representing "a broad array of groups committed to progressive values and the creation of an equitable, just, and free society" has called the Supreme Court out for its unprecedented judgements favoring corporations.
With decision after decision coming down on the side of big business, the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts has proven itself to be willing and eager to twist the law to favor powerful corporate interests over everyday Americans.
The Supreme Court has clearly departed from its mandate to interpret the Constitution  and has taken upon itself to establish activist policies
In just the last few years, the Court has radically rewritten laws in order to shield big business from liability, insulate corporate interests from environmental and antitrust regulation, make it easier for companies to discriminate against women and the elderly, and enable powerful interests to flood our election process with special interest dollars. Fairness has been thrown out the window. The 1% keep winning while the 99% keep losing.
Its website lists the Court's infamous record of using the law to protect corporations. These are less widely known cases compared to the notorious Citizens United case or the recent Hobby Lobby decision. Nevertheless the legal precedents they set will have a negative impact for years to come.

In two 2008 cases, (Riegel v. Medtronic, Inc. and Exxon Shipping v. Baker) the Court's decisions will have profound effects on corporate liability in terms of damage to the environment and directly to consumers. In other words, accountability for corporate malpractice just went out the window. 

In Ledbetter v. Goodyear, the Court's ruling will, according to AFJ, make it easier for corporations to discriminate against women and the elderly.
As if that weren't bad enough, the court has tampered with the political process itself  by opening the floodgates to political corruption. Political campaigns, swamped with special interest financing, are now putting representative government up for sale to the highest bidder. 

If these were isolated cases. it would be bad enough. It is hard not to see an larger pattern. 

One extensive study authored by Lee Epstein, William Landes, and Judge Richard Posner reached some interesting conclusions after studying data from 1946 to 2011:
We find that five of the ten Justices who.. have been the most favorable to business are currently serving, with two of them ranking at the very top among the thirty-six Justices in our study.
In other words, there has never been a Supreme Court more in love with corporations. And that Court to Corporation loving comes at a cost to the environmental protections, to the separation of church and state, to the governmental authority to regulate corporations, to basic civil liberties and to long-established consumer protections.
Bit by bit, all of these are being ground to dust. 

Furthermore the study suggested something more:
Justices appointed by Republican Presidents are notably more favorable to business than Justices appointed by Democratic presidents.
Most of us had figured that out already. The nation is now reaping the harvest of a long-term Republican strategy to pack the court in favor of business, undermining years of well-established law.
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It would not be the first time in US history that the decisions of the Supreme Court have caused uproar. FDR went through his own battle with a high handed high court. That Supreme Court too was conservative and pro-business.  The president took his case before the American people, and explained the problem in clear terms. 
He argued that the Court had "improperly set itself up as a third House of Congress-.. reading into the Constitution words and implication which are not there and which were never intended to be there." 

When, in 1937, he proposed certain reforms to the Judicial branch- namely a modification of lifetime terms, he was accused of bullying and court packing. 
(That's a practice that has since been fairly well-accepted as the norm since Reagan's time.) 
In the end, despite the rejection of his reforms, Roosevelt's power-play won the day and the court dramatically reversed one of its more indefensible decisions regarding minimum wages for women. A Justice stepped down and an ideological balance was restored to the bench. It is important to note that the landslide of 1936 gave the president's party a majority in both houses. Without that advantage, Roosevelt's threat would have been hollow indeed.

That happy ending appears to be unlikely for our time.
Despite the public outrage, there seems to be no formal way to put an end to, what some see as, the corruption of the Judicial branch of government. This ongoing high court disgrace created by Justices Roberts, Scalia, Thomas and Kennedy will continue until one of them decides to retire. 
For the good of the country, we can only hope it will be soon.