Ever since Chief Justice Roberts joined the Supreme Court, the Chamber of Commerce has treated his Court as their personal genie, and Roberts has been more than happy to grant even many of their most outlandish wishes. Indeed, big business’ wins before the Supreme Court have spiked massively under Roberts’ leadership:
If the Roberts Court continues its pattern of favoritism to corporate interests, voters, workers and consumers could easily be left in the cold during three cases being argued this week:
- Buying Elections
In the wake of the Court’s infamous Citizens United decision, the Chamber pledged to spend a massive $75 million to elect corporate-aligned conservatives, and the Chamber’s right-wing allies kicked in hundreds of millions of dollars more. This kind of corporate influence over elections not only places a huge thumb on the scale in favor of pro-corporate candidates, it also corrupts existing lawmakers by forcing them to either play ball with corporate fundraisers or find some other source of funds in order to remain in the game.
Public financing provides a partial shield against this effect, but public financing schemes only work if they allow candidates who opt into them to remain competitive. If a state offers only a few thousand dollars in public funds to a candidate whose opponent is backed by tens of millions of corporate dollars, than the non-corporate candidate will have no choice but to raise money on their own. To defend against this problem, Arizona developed a two-tiered public financing system. Candidates receive additional funds if their opponent or corporate interest groups overwhelm them with attack ads, and thus candidates who are determined not to be tainted by the corrupting influence of major donors are not left defenseless.
Yet, in a case called McComish v. Bennett, the Court’s five conservatives appear poised to strike this two-tiered system down. If they do so, it could be the death knell for public financing, since no candidate is safe from massive infusions of corporate money after Citizens United.
- Making Courts Inaccessible
Many of the Court’s most corporate-friendly decisions create complicated and arcane procedural barriers to Americans seeking justice. The Court’s infamously Ledbetter decision didn’t literally take away women’s right to equal work for equal pay, it just created a procedural rule that made it nearly impossible for women to learn that they were victims of discrimination until after the statute of limitations to file a claim had run out. In Wal-Mart v. Dukes, the Supreme Court will decide whether to shut off another opportunity for women in the workplace to seek relief — class actions.
Class action lawsuits are brought by groups of plaintiffs who share a common injury with each other. These suits are essential to allow ordinary Americans, who often lack the resources to hire lawyers capable of taking on a major corporation on their own, to pool their resources in order to hire counsel that are capable of facing off against someone like Wal-Mart. There is substantial evidence that women who work for Wal-Mart stores have endured systematic pay and promotion discrimination and thus should be able to bring a class action. If the Supreme Court denies them this right, many of them will be left powerless before Wal-Mart’s legal team.
- Lawsuit Immunity
Finally, many corporate sectors have been given almost total lawsuit immunity by the Supreme Court. The justices gave sweeping legal immunity to medical device manufacturers and health insurers, and even gave the thumbs up to a biased system of corporate-owned courts that overwhelmingly rule against consumers and employees. In a case called PLIVA, Inc. v. Mensing, the justices will now decide whether to give lawsuit immunity to the makers of generic drugs.