Posts Tagged ‘scotus’

If you don’t know anything about AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion, you should. The case, which will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court on Nov. 9, has frightening implications for consumers.

Basically, the court will decide whether companies can deny consumers and employees the right to band together through class actions to fight fraud, discrimination and other illegal practices. AT&T argues that the courts must enforce the fine print of its contracts that ban class actions. Public Citizen attorney Deepak Gupta will argue before the court on behalf of consumers, claiming that the contracts are unconscionable and unenforceable.

When a large number of consumers have claims for small amounts, it is not feasible to pursue the claims without a class action. Concepcion is exactly that kind of case. The Concepcions allege that AT&T illegally charged them $30.11. Multiplied by the number of AT&T’s California customers alone, the allegations implicate ill-gotten gains in the millions of dollars. But if consumers can litigate the claims only one by one, no one will do so, and AT&T will keep the proceeds of its illegal activity.

In the video above, Public Citizen President Robert Weissman and Gupta give a telephone press briefing on the case.

If AT&T wins, not only will it be difficult for AT&T’s customers to hold that company accountable for its actions, but also for people with civil rights, labor, consumer and other kinds of claims that stem from corporate wrongdoing. Dozens of organizations, including leading civil rights and consumer groups, have filed briefs asking the court not to allow corporations to ban class actions. The briefs and other information about the case are available at the Consumer Law & Policy Blog.

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Two interviews with Public Citizen President Robert Weissman at last month’s Netroots Nation convention on the need to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s disastrous ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. That ruling opened the door for unlimited corporate spending on elections. Up top Weissman talks to The Uptake’s Jacob Wheeler about the need to overturn Citizens United and about Public Citizen’s and People For the American Way’s Pledge for Democracy campaign in which candidates for Congress are asked to take a pledge to support a constitutional amendment to undo Citizens United. And after the jump, an interview with Sum of Change that delves a little deeper into the legal issues behind the ruling. (more…)

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Political cartoonist Tom Toles has an excellent cartoon in today’s Washington Post about DISCLOSE and Citizens United.

By pointing out the importance of knowledge, Toles suggests something important about one of the fundamental pillars of our country. The media shapes the national debate. From discussions around the dinner table at home to debates in corporate boardrooms, this country is driven by the stories on television, in newspapers, books, magazines, on the radio, etc. Knowledge, as Toles notes, is power. Therefore those who control what knowledge we get and what knowledge remains hidden have immense power.

So even if Congress and the Supreme Court do not protect our right to know what our government does and who is behind its actions, the media has the ability to correct that wrong. In fact, the media must tell the country who are involved and what they are doing. To put it colloquially, the media has to tell us what’s up.

Some readers might see an immediate problem. There is a serious conflict of interest in the media. The media is funded almost exclusively by corporations running advertisements alongside the news. One can see how this precarious situation might pose a very serious dilemma.

Luckily for us, we have one more tool for those times (and they are increasingly more frequent) when the media fails to report or misrepresents an important issue. We have each other. We can fact-check and report stories on blogs,  Twitter, Facebook and in so many different ways. We can petition the government and media outlets for fairer reporting and for more transparency. Public Citizen fights for all people, because, as global citizens, people are the ones who must run the world.

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From Consumer Law & Policy Blog: On the Senate floor, Senator Al Franken condemned the Supreme Court’s decision in Rent-A-Center v. Jackson (in which a 5-4 majority of the Court upheld the power of arbitration agreements to remove even threshold questions of validity from review by a court) and discussed how the case of Jamie Leigh Jones illustrates the effect of cases like Circuit City Stores v. Adams.

“Clearly this is a ruling that Congress needs to fix and I look forward to working with my colleagues to do so,” said Franken. “Sometimes it’s easy to forget that Supreme Court matters to average people, to our neighbors and our kids.”

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When the Supreme Court ruled last week in favor of Rent-A-Center in another controversial 5-4 decision, the justices again put the interests of corporations above those of the people.

The New York Times published this great editorial about it over the weekend, highlighting the absurdity of SCOTUS’s decision:

The court ruled last Monday there was nothing wrong with requiring that the fairness of an arbitration clause be determined by — an arbitrator.

Congress is working to fix the problems with mandatory binding arbitration agreements as the members hash through the Arbitration Fairness Act (H.R. 1020 and S. 931) and the Fairness in Nursing Home Arbitration Act (H.R. 1237 and S. 512).

While it was scheduled for markup last week, the committee did not get to the AFA and the nursing home bill last Wednesday. Stay tuned for a rescheduled date for Congressional action on these bills because your representatives in Congress will need to hear from you.

Learn more about forced arbitration and the problems with it.

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Progressive leaders agree — SCOTUS went too far, granting corporations the same rights as people, in the justices’ controversial decision in Citizens United v. FEC. In fact, Public Citizen’s call for a constitutional amendment to overturn the decision has been picking up steam.

Alan Colmes, progressive political commentator and blogger, featured Public Citizen president Robert Weissman and his proposal for an amendment on his blog, Liberaland. (I wonder what his political leanings are…) His posting also links to The Nation story, in which Weissman reacts to Justice Alito’s “not true” comment during President Obama’s State of the Union address last Wednesday.

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The Citizens United decision is a very unfortunate ruling for both the integrity of our political system and the reputation of the Court. It represents nothing less than a rebuke of a century of deliberated political culture and an affirmation that the Roberts Court intends to be an activist court when it comes to writing this nation’s laws.

Despite a century of repeated congressional deliberations on corporate money in politics – beginning with the 1907 Tillman Act, followed by the 1925 Federal Corrupt Practices Act, the 1943 War Labor Disputes Act, the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act, the 1971 FECA, and the 2002 BCRA – the new Supreme Court decided it knows best. The Roberts Court concluded it even knows better than all previous courts, which have generally upheld the same restrictions.

It is difficult to know how much new money the ruling will bring into politics – after all, the nation has never lived in this kind of political environment – but it is likely to be very substantial and very threatening. The ambiguous Wisconsin Right to Life ruling, which poked a hole in BCRA, immediately resulted in $100 million in new corporate spending in the last two months of the 2008 elections. The unambiguous Citizens United decision takes away what’s left of the dam limiting corporate money. The Chamber of Commerce alone reported spending $144 million in lobbying Capitol Hill in 2009 and have pledged even greater political expenditures in the coming year.

Citizens United provides corporations with a powerful club indeed to bring to Capitol Hill, as Congress next grapples with global warming and the abuses of the financial industry. The recent healthy rise in small donors staking claim to helping finance candidates and shape the political agenda will be (more…)

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