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Entries tagged "Supreme Court"Page 1 • 2 Next
July 31, 2012 · By Hilary Matfess
The media spectacle surrounding the Supreme Court’s upholding of the Affordable Care Act eclipsed another important judgment the Court made that week. In American Tradition Partnership, Inc. v. Bullock, the Court voted 5-4 to reaffirm its Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision, the controversial campaign finance case in 2010. In Citizens United, the court's majority argued that political spending is a form of speech and that restrictions upon that speech would violate corporations' first amendment rights. The Bullock ruling overturned a Montana Supreme Court decision that affirmed a century-old voter-approved ban on corporate spending in the state's elections. This reinforcement of the Citizens United decision has grave implications for the legitimacy of our democracy and our constitutional rights. It should serve as a rallying point for grassroots movements.
The Citizens United decision and the Bullock affirmation are both ushering in a stampede of corporate contributions to candidates and parties. The dismantling of regulations on corporate expenditure on elections has no clear stopping point, particularly when the nation's highest court seems intent upon granting them legal status as citizens. These precedents make it easier for corporations to exercise the rights of American citizens without corresponding civic responsibilities.
The Roberts Court apparently believes that corporate rights are more important than those of U.S. citizens. It's also making it harder to prosecute corporations. The Alliance for Justice, an advocacy group that compiles annual reports detailing the Supreme Court cases concerning corporate rights, has found that “under the leadership of Chief Justice John Roberts, 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.”
The Constitutional Accountability Center found that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a prominent business lobby, enjoys a 68 percent success rate when filing briefs with the Roberts Court, a significant improvement over the 43 percent success rate it experienced under Chief Justice Warren Burger and the 56 percent rate under Chief Justice William Rehnquist.
The Supreme Court is, ideally, divorced from ideology and committed to the notion of justice when considering the constitutionality of laws and events brought before it. The Roberts Court, however, has an ideologically motivated agenda that influences its decisions. The judicial activism this Court engages in doesn't benefit the people of the United States. One has to look no further than its Exxon Shipping Company v. Baker ruling, in which the majority ruled that the punitive damages that the oil behemoth owed the victims of the Valdez oil spill be slashed from $2.5 billion to $500 million, to see where the Roberts Court’s sympathies lie.
In light of the elevated legal status the Roberts court has bestowed upon corporations, a grassroots movement towards community-centered businesses and banks is essential. It's up to us to maintain the integrity of our rights. There are many ways for us to roll back the power the Roberts Court has handed corporations. Simply buying your peaches at a farmers market or moving your money to a community-based credit union are great first steps.
This fight, however, requires more than just an informed citizenry wielding the power of their purse strings. In addition to making community-conscious decisions, combating a Supreme Court at odds with the interests of the American public requires voting for legislators who will pass laws restricting the rights and powers of corporations and a president who will enforce these laws. The 2012 elections offer all Americans an opportunity to demonstrate our opposition to the Roberts Court's agenda.
Everyday decisions, such as where to buy our coffee, where to invest our money, and whom to elect, empower us to reshape our economy to value people over profits. Every community-conscious choice that we make pushes back against the agenda of the Court; just imagine the power of 300 million Americans mindfully choosing local businesses and progressive politicians over corporations.
Hilary Matfess is an Institute for Policy Studies intern and a Johns Hopkins University student.
July 19, 2012 · By Em Dickey
Em Dickey is an intern for the Break The Chain Campaign at the Institute for Policy Studies.
The Supreme Court split decision on Arizona’s controversial SB 1070 law came just 10 days after President Obama’s memo expanding prosecutorial discretion and granted immediate deferred status to all DREAM Act eligible youth. While both announcements deserve to be celebrated in light of the tenacious and courageous organizing that precipitated them, they are not lasting solutions.
Four provisions of SB 1070 were in question: Section 3, which would make it a state crime for immigrants to fail to carry federal registration papers; Section 5(C) which would make it a state crime to work in Arizona as an undocumented person; Section 6, which would give police the authority to make warrantless arrests of individuals suspected to be undocumented; and Section 2(B), which would require Arizona law enforcement to verify the citizenship of any individual they stop if they appear to be undocumented.
Of these provisions, all were struck down but Section 2(B), the notorious “show me your papers” section of the law.
The Supreme Court’s decision was based on an argument about whether or not the state of Arizona has the right to create its own immigration enforcement rules. The case did not address civil rights’ violations or racial profiling. In fact Solicitor General Donald Verrilli (representing the U.S. government), "unequivocally admitted in response to questioning from the Justices that racial profiling was not at issue in the case."
So, let’s name the elephant in the room. Racism is and has always been an issue in Arizona. SB 1070 is steeped in, produced by, and serves to perpetuate racism. From the beginning, racism has been shaping America, when the first immigrants (read: pilgrims) arrived and stole the land from the Native peoples who lived here and still live here. In fact, many Native people in Arizona are harassed and humiliated in the name of SB 1070's "show me your papers" provision by police officers whose ancestors were themselves this land’s original "illegal aliens."
So what is the result of this case neatly sidestepping the issue that is creating a real civil and human rights crisis for real people in Arizona right now? What impact, if any, will the Supreme Court’s decision have on people living in Arizona?
June 28, 2012 · By Karen Dolan
Chief Justice Roberts saves the day
Angers the Right that he voted this way
The individual mandate won't get the axe
The Court just affirmed that the key is the tax
Don't want to comply? Well here are the facts:
Don't buy the insurance, just pay the tax
So — sick people, kids, the poor and the wealthy
Can now pay through the nose
To profiteers to be healthy.
April 1, 2012 · By Karen Dolan
Supporters of Obama's health care reform are "keeping a stiff upper lip" reports The Hill as reaction to three tough days of oral argument and questioning on aspects of President Obama's Affordable Care Act (ACA).
The entire health reform effort seems to hang in balance, dangerously. It looks like a very real possibility that Americans who do and will need health care, and who do or will have health conditions -- i.e., pretty much everyone -- will again be excluded from coverage for pre-existing conditions and others priced out of coverage at alarming rates if the unusually conservative and ideological Supreme Court backs the GOP.
It didn't have to be this way. We had the power to make things different. In fact, we still have the power to make things different.
As poorly as the administration calculated, strategized, composed and communicated their reforms, they did what Administrations do. They brought industry to the table, they excluded single payer advocates, they vastly overestimated their ability to bring the other side on board, they vastly underestimated the extreme ideology that opposed reform and they botched the messaging of all of it.
Candidate Barack Obama campaigned on universal coverage. He told would-be supporters that, if he were "starting from scratch," single-payer would be ideal. Indeed, he even understood that the only true reform, that would sufficiently control costs and actually achieve universal coverage, was a single payer, government-sponsored health care system. The evidence is overwhelming that only such a system can achieve those goals.
President Barack Obama however, not only quickly abandoned any thought of a fight for a true universal system, he set his left flank where he wanted to end up: the public option. In addition to current private plans, geographical regions would have another choice, a "public option" which would have the power of the federal government behind it to negotiate down premiums. Absent a single payer system, there could be some real cost savings this way and, some thought, an opening to a future single payer system. Though perhaps this weak option is all one could expect from a centrist administration, it was not what progressives and the Democratic base either really wanted nor should have fought for.
But progressives did fight for the public option. With some notable exceptions, almost exclusively. Instead of being the rallying grassroots campaign and reasonable solution desired by all progressives, universal, single-ayer health care became the pariah of the organized progressives, scoffed at and scorned as unachievable.
It should have come with no surprise that starting where you want to end in a negotiation is a sure way to not get what you want. Progressives could have not only kept their integrity, but they could have provided a left flank as a foil for the administration. Centrist Dems and less-extreme Repubs could have seen a public option as a place to go. The administration should have allowed it, encouraged it, engaged it, used it. Progressives should have fought like hell for it.
No one can say that the outcome then would have been the public option, or wouldn't have. No one knows what the political climate could have been with a strong, organized fight from progressives for Medicare for all. But without a strategy that included such a fight, it could easily have been predicted that public option would not be the outcome.
If we had ended up with a single-payer system, then of course the "individual mandate problem" is non-existent. Even if we had ended up with a "public option," we would not have had this the question before the Supreme Court this spring. Justice Kennedy himself suggested so in his comments that the Individual Mandate problem could be avoided by a tax funded single payer national health service.
So, while progressives, Democrats, Americans who want affordable health care for all of us go forward wringing our hands and "keeping a stiff upper lip," blaming the misinformed conservative ideologues in Congress, in the Supreme Court, in Tea Party get-ups, perhaps we should take a long look in the mirror.
This is a fight for the most basic value a society can have. Will we care for our people or let them become sick, bankrupt, disabled and die unnecessarily because we failed to fight for an affordable quality health care system that covers everyone. Will we slash every other government program virtually out of existence to fund an ever-escalating for-profit insurance system? Isn't it time to fight for Medicare for all?
February 29, 2012 · By Emily Schwartz Greco
The Supreme Court heard arguments in a crucial case yesterday that could have major ramifications for corporate accountability.
In Kiobel vs. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., the multinational oil giant commonly known as Shell is accused of helping the Nigerian government commit atrocities.
A dozen Nigerian citizens, all granted political asylum in the United States, filed the lawsuit. These refugees include victims of torture and people with relatives who were executed. The suit is named after Esther Kiobel, the widow of one of the victims. The court's conservative justices, who are in the majority, indicated that they may opt to side with the corporations, the Los Angeles Times reports.
To get a firm grasp of the importance of this case, please read this op-ed that Peter Weiss published last week in The New York Times. Weiss, a human rights law expert, pioneered efforts to use the Alien Tort Statute as a way to try the perpetrators of human rights crimes committed abroad in U.S. courts. In the commentary, he wrote:
If the Supreme Court rules in favor of Royal Dutch Shell and against the plaintiffs, multinational corporations — particularly in mining and other extractive industries — could draw the lesson that it is now safer to forge alliances with autocratic regimes that have poor human rights records because they will not be judged culpable in the way individuals can be.
Today, the Times' online edition features a debate about corporate and human rights. It includes an essay by Vincent Warren of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), who argues that since corporations obtained "extensive rights," in the Citizens United ruling, "now we must enforce their responsibilities."
Weiss is CCR's vice president and a former chair of the Institute for Policy Studies board of trustees. His op-ed concludes with a comparison of Citizens United and Kiobel:
The Supreme Court has "an extraordinary choice to make, in juxtaposition to its previous ruling in Citizens United: whether to accept an argument that, in effect, leaves corporations less culpable than individuals are for human rights violations committed abroad — or whether to hold that if a 200-year-old law can be used to hold individual violators to account, it can be used against corporate violators as well.
A decision affirming that Shell should go unpunished in the Niger Delta case would leave us with a Supreme Court that seems of two minds: in the words of Justice John Paul Stevens’s dissent from Citizens United, it threatens “to undermine the integrity of elected institutions across the nation” by treating corporations as people to let them make unlimited political contributions, even as it treats corporations as if they are not people to immunize them from prosecution for the most grievous human rights violations.
A more startling paradox is difficult to imagine.
Emily Schwartz Greco is the managing editor of OtherWords, the Institute's non-profit editorial service.