The devastating LEGAL consequences of a
Republican government on the working class
History of how courts have treated the working class...Why we need trial lawyers: The Ford PintoExcerpts of the 10 Worst Corporations of 1988
Web Articles: Attack on trial lawyers is really an attack on citizens' ability to sue corporations
American hypocrisy and foreign law
Law between 1890 and 1937
To understand law cases [between 1890-1937] , it is important to recognize that the Supreme Court majority, and the entire political system during this era was deeply committed to a laissez-faire, unregulated economy. The hostility to government economic regulation reflected in the federalism cases of the time was paralleled by the Supreme court also invalidating state laws regulating the economy [Minimum wage laws, overtime protection, monopoly busting, child work protection laws, sweat shop laws, worker safety laws, could all be considered this type of law] …Until 1937, the Court often declared unconstitutional state laws regulating employment and commercial transactions as violating freedom of contract protected under the Due Process Clause…
The Supreme Court had hostility to government regulations.
If Congress, for example, enacted a minimum wage law, it would be invalidated based on federalism cases.
If a state government adopted the same minimum wage law, it would be invalidated based on freedom of contract under the Due Process Clause.
This era was the first time in American history in which the Court on a fairly regular basis invalidated important and popular [having the support of the majority of Americans] federal and state laws.--(Constitutional Law Text Book Page 106)
Law between 1937 - 1990
The expansive definition of Congress’s commerce power [Again minimum wage laws, overtime protection, monopoly busting, child work protection laws, sweat shop laws, worker safety laws, could all be considered this type of power] continued from 1937 [the great depression] until the 1990’s. The economic crisis caused by the Depression made the Supreme Court’s hostility to a laissez-faire economy seem anachronistic and harmful. Unemployment was widespread, and the wages of those with jobs was low. Business failure was endemic, and production was substantially lessened. Foreclosures of home and farm mortgages were common.
Strong political pressure developed for change [mass protests, May Day, strikes, many protestors killed in the streets]. President Franklin Roosevelt won a landslide reelection victory in 1936 and saw this as a strong endorsement for the New Deal Programs that the Court was invalidating. (Page 119-120)
From 1937 to 1992, not one federal law was invalidated as exceeding the scope of Congress’s Commerce Clause authority and only once was a federal law found to violate the Tenth Amendment, and that case was expressly overruled less than a decade later.
-- (Page 127)
Law after 1995
In the 1990’s, the Supreme Court once more changed course with regard to the scope of Congress’s powers under the Commerce Clause and whether the Tenth Amendment is a limit on the federal power.
In 1995, in US v Lopez, the Supreme Court in almost 60 years found that a federal law exceeded Congress’s Commerce Clause authority. The Lopez case led to challenges of literally dozens of federal laws. In 2000, the Court reaffirmed Lopez in US v. Morrison. Additionally, in 1992, in New York v US and in 1997, in Printz v US, the Court again used the Tenth Amendment to protect state governments from federal encroachments.
The landmark 5 to 4 1995 Lopez case showed as unconstitutional the Congressional Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990.
The “Gun-Free School Zones Act” is not important, what is important is if the Supreme Court has begun to roll back Congressional Commerce Clause laws beginning in 1995, what about minimum wage laws, overtime protection, monopoly busting, child work protection laws, sweat shop laws, and worker safety laws?
In 1990, who was on the Supreme Court at the time?
Rehnquist, the Chief Justice, a Republican appointee, appointed by Nixon
J. Stevens, a Republican appointee, appointed by Ford
O’Connor, a Republican appointee, appointed by Reagan
Scalia, a Republican appointee, appointed by Reagan
Kennedy, a Republican appointee, appointed by Reagan
Souter, a Republican appointee, appointed by Bush
Thomas, a Republican appointee, appointed by Bush
Ginsburg, a Democrat appointee, appointed by Clinton
Beyer, a Democrat appointee, appointed by Clinton1
The fruits of 30 years of Republican Presidents was finally coming to fruit.
In the 1990’s the Supreme Court began to severely restrict tort liability, which made jury awards much more difficult against large corporations.
This was in the cases:
BMW of North America v. Gore (Ginsburg and Rehnquist dissented) In this case, for the first time, the Supreme Court argued that a ratio of economic damages to punitive (punishing) damages was to high. (Page 211)
In State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company vs. Curtis the Supreme Court reduced punitive damages that a customer had won against a very dishonest and unethical auto insurance company.God help the working class as Republicans continue to dominate this country. The Republican working class deserves the economic destruction, because they helped created it, everyone else has to pay the price for their illogical decisions.
Note 1: The presidents who appointed these justices may be incorrect, I am basing this on the composition of the courts in my Black’s Law Dictionary
In September of 1977, the fledgling Mother Jones magazine exposed how Ford Motor Company, deliberately and with shocking disregard for human life, produced the Pinto, an automobile it knew could turn into a burning deathtrap. Documents obtained by Mother Jones revealed that Ford executives knew very well they could save the lives of the 28 people who ultimately burned to death in Ford Pintos—if they just spent about $10 per vehicle to protect the poorly designed fuel tank, so vulnerable that it was easily punctured in rear-end collisions of just 30 miles per hour.
The most shocking evidence was a Ford internal document with a cost/benefit analysis in which the company weighed the cost of a human life (appraised at a tidy $200,000) against the cost of repairing the Pinto fuel tanks—and concluded that the cheaper option was to let Ford customers die.
So what happened to Ford after this devastating report? And what has Ford been up to since then?
The Mother Jones exposé led to the largest and most expensive auto recall in history at that time. Within a month of the article's publication, pressure from the media, angry Pinto owners, and grassroots groups formed by Ralph Nader led the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to re-test the 1971-1976 Ford Pintos. In May 1978 the Department of Transportation announced that the Pinto fuel system had a "safety related defect" and called for a recall. Ford agreed, and on June 9, 1978 the company recalled 1.5 million Pintos.
---Click here for the full article: Safety Last
By conservative estimates Pinto crashes have caused 500 burn deaths to people who would not have been seriously injured if the car had not burst into flames. The figure could be as high as 900. Burning Pintos have become such an embarrassment to Ford that its advertising agency, J. Walter Thompson, dropped a line from the end of a radio spot that read "Pinto leaves you with that warm feeling."
---1977 Mother Jones Issue :Pinto Madness
The History Channel: Ford Pinto reckless homicide trial
Ralph Nader's "Nader's Raiders" later called The Center for Study of Responsive Law, helped fight for a Pinto recall.
After the book was published, GMC hired private eyes to follow Nader, Nader found out and sued GMC and won over $200,000. He used the money to start several consumer organizations.
One of the most significant safety innovations instigated by Nader and the consumer movement was federal authority to force automakers to recall motor vehicles with potential safety defects. Before 1966, automakers occasionally conducted secret, ad hoc recalls for motorists who happened to bring in their cars for other reasons. Automakers considered the repairs "customer goodwill adjustments," and made no mention of safety defects. Now, automakers are forced to formally inform each car owner by individual letter about recalls, and the agency began giving them wide publicity...Since its creation, manufacturers have had to recall more than 100 million motor vehicles and components with potentially dangerous defects. Untold thousands of lives have been saved from such products as the Firestone 500 radial tire (prone to blowouts), the Ford Pinto (gas tanks that may explode in crashes, accelerators that may stick) and 1965-1969 Chevrolets (defective front engine mounts).
--A fascinating history of the accomplishments of Nader. All chapters here.
General Motors, the world's largest automobile producer, has so consistently exhibited reckless disregard for its workers, customers and neighbors that it is difficult to imagine the company emerging from its self-created swamp of anti-social behavior without a management revolution.
Most recently, in October, 1988 a Washington Post article revealed that officials at General Motors were told in 1970 that one of its gas tanks was vulnerable to puncture during some high-speed crashes. In 1971, according to the Post, GM decided not to move the tank to a more protected location even after top engineers concluded that the existing design was inadequate, because the design change was too expensive and would reduce trunk space. GM estimated that the cost of the change per car ranged from $8.59 to $11.59.
Two years later, according to the Post, when engineers were assigned to study the fuel tank location again, the question of cost arose once more, and a "Value Analysis" was prepared in a two-page memo dated June 29, 1973. A GM engineer, Edward C. Ivey, assigned a $200,000 value to each human life and assumed that a maximum of 500 people died annually in GM cars "where bodies were burnt," the Post reported. Ivey then determined what level of expenditure could be justified to try to avoid the fiery deaths in the 5 million GM cars produced annually. "This analysis indicates that for GM it would be worth approximately $2.20 per new model auto to prevent a fuel-fed fire in all accidents," Ivey wrote, but warned, according to the Post, that "it is really impossible to put a value on human life."
A brief review of the company's history reveals an unparalleled pattern of callousness. Recently, a group of workers at GM's Lordstown, Ohio production facility called on GM and the United Auto Workers to conduct a study that would compare death rates for cancer, and respiratory and heart disease among former GM Lordstown workers with the death rate from the same disease in the general population.
In 1981, General Motors joined with the City of Detroit to level Poletown, an integrated, Polish-Black neighborhood on the northeast side of the city so that GM could build a manufacturing plant on the cleared Poletown site. For more than 20 years, General Motors has backed a national campaign to prevent federal lawmakers from savings tens of thousands of lives each year by requiring that all cars marketed in the United States include a life-saving, cost-efficient technology, the air bag, that would inflate instantly if the automobile was involved in a serious head-on collision. GM's decision to wage this fight against passive restraints has condemned thousands of Americans to premature death on the highways.
During the 1970s, the work force at GM's Tech Center in Warren, Michigan suffered high rates of cancer. In February, 1980, the Michigan Cancer Foundation reported that wood-model workshop workers at the GM auto plants experienced a 50 percent higher rate of cancer than the general population.
In 1977, GM sold at least 128,000 Oldsmobiles equipped with Chevrolet engines. GM did not tell its customers about the Chevrolet engines.
A 1974 U.S. Senate report outlined how, during World War II, General Motors sought to maximize profits by supplying both the Allied and Axis powers with material needed to win the war.
During the late 1950s, GM produced the sporty Corvair. GM executives knew the care was unsafe, yet they went ahead and produced, marketed and sold it to thousands of unsuspecting customers.
During the 1930s, General Motors, along with other auto, tire and oil companies, engaged in a systematic and largely successful effort to destroy many of the nation's mass transit systems.
In 1949, GM was indicted and convicted of conspiring to restrain trade in criminal violation of the federal antitrust laws and was fined $5000.
During the late 1920s and early 1930s, GM refused to include safety glass as standard equipment in their automobiles. "Accidents or no accidents, my concern in this problem is a matter of profit and loss," explained Alfred P. Sloan, then president of General Motors.
GM needs a complete management overhaul, and a new moral direction. Until then, if you have to buy a car, make sure it's not a product of GM indifference.
Excellent, excellent article on the Republican attack on lawsuits.
reclaimdemocracy.org: The attack on trial lawyers is really an attack on citizens' ability to sue corporations
“The situation may be paradoxical, but is also universal. For decades Americans have experienced a populist uprising that only benefits the people it is supposed to be targeting. The angry workers, mighty in their numbers, are marching irresistibly against the arrogant. They are shacking their fists at the sons of privilege….They are massing at the gates of Mission Hills (a wealthy suburb in Kansas) , hoisting the black flag, and while the millionaires tremble in their mansion, they are bellowing out their terrifying demands. ‘We are here,’ they scream, ‘to cut your taxes.’”
"Tens of millions of Americans, who neither know nor understand [their own country’s bloody historical struggle for the material benefits they all enjoy today], march in the army of the night with their Bibles held high. And they are a strong and frightening force, impervious to, and immunized against, the feeble lance of mere reason."
–--Alteration of a quote by Isaac Asimov
Corporate America has succeeded to a great extent in buying up our legislators and capturing regulatory bodies. We must not let them wrest control of the judicial system as well.
Other articles on the subject:
Boston Globe: Now, Smearing the Trial Lawyers
Newsday (New York, New York): 'Greedy' Lawyers Are Often the Public's Allies
Trial Lawyers for Public Justice web page
California passed a tort reform bill, limiting what one can recover in a lawsuit, in 1975 and waited expectantly for insurance premiums to go down. They nearly tripled in the next 12 years, finally leveling off in the early '90s. And, amazingly enough, California just happened to have passed strict insurance regulations in 1988.
---Creators Syndicate: Health Care Crisis: Sometimes the Sheer Stupidity of Our Choices is Amazing
Tort reform is little more than a legislated escape from accountability; a free pass to abuse consumers so that business can march on unfettered by those nasty little attempts to hold it responsible in a court of law for negligent actions. When it comes to molding our judicial system, the corporations know few limits to their contempt for Americans right to trial by jury. They do demand that corporation remain free to sue anyone without restrictions.
--Ralph Nader:The Public Deserves to Hear the Facts on Tort Reform
Jackie Smith has a hard time with the idea that suing over her mother’s rape in a nursing home is “frivolous.
Smith voted against Proposition 12, a constitutional amendment on the Texas ballot in September 2003 that capped medical malpractice awards. No state in history had ever taken the radical step of changing its constitution to restrict lawsuits. Nevertheless, Proposition 12 passed by a razor-thin majority...It fell to Frank Ivy, an Austin lawyer, to explain that tort reform in Texas had made her suit almost impossible financially no matter how negligent Heritage had been. Since the assault took place in the course of delivering medical care, it was considered malpractice—but that wouldn’t help Smith. A nursing-home patient can’t sue for loss of future income, a type of award that had been separately capped. Punitive damages were unlikely because the standard of proof was raised under then-Governor George W. Bush, requiring Smith to prove that Heritage intended to harm her mother, the so-called “malice” standard.”
--The Nation: Look Who's Behind 'Tort Reform'
U.S. Businesses File Four Times More Lawsuits Than Private Citizens And Are Sanctioned Much More Often for Frivolous Suits. But Corporate America and Their Political Allies Bush and Cheney Campaign to Limit Citizens' Rights to Sue
Associated press: Gun Industry Close to Winning Nationwide Exemption From Liability Lawsuits
Eroding Americans' Last Defense: The Civil Justice System by Ralph Nader
Greg Palast: The senate votes to grant immunity from law suits to gun makers
Mr Bush has pulled America out of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the Kyoto agreement on the environment, ignored international laws of war and sent terrorist suspects into legal limbo in Guantánamo; yet America is among the strongest backers of global rules on trade, finance and international investment...
George Bush senior...was quite keen on the International Court of Justice in The Hague (the World Court), calling it “a central and indispensable element of an international legal order”. By contrast, at a crisis meeting in the White House after the terrorist attacks on September 11th 2001 (admittedly strong provocation), his son is reported as saying: “I don't care what the international lawyers say. We're going to kick some ass!” And so he did. There followed a string of violations of international humanitarian law, including the indefinite detention of “enemy combatants” at Guantánamo and the torture of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib.
The infamous “torture memos” were part of this tendency. In them, administration lawyers argued that the president, as commander-in-chief, had the “inherent constitutional authority” to approve any interrogation techniques needed to protect the nation's security—regardless of the 1949 UN Convention Against Torture, ratified by America in 1994. Human Rights Watch, a non-partisan monitoring group, claims that America's abuse of detainees was the “predictable result” of Mr Bush's decision to circumvent the law.
In virtually every other country in the world, an international treaty or convention, once ratified, overrides domestic law. Not so in the United States; it simply becomes part of the ordinary body of American law. As such, it can be ignored by the president or Senate if national security, or even ideology, seems more important.
After the World Court found against the United States in 1986 for mining Nicaragua's harbours, President Ronald Reagan is said to have told his advisers to tear up the relevant treaty giving the court jurisdiction. When informed that this required two years' notice, he reportedly told them to tear up that provision too.
...For court conservatives, such as Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, [making passing reference to foreign sources] is anathema. The court should not impose “foreign moods, fads or fashions” on Americans, argues Justice Scalia, who may succeed William Rehnquist as chief justice. To him, the practices of the “world community” are irrelevant: “Either America's principles are its own, or they follow the world; one cannot have it both ways.”
Yet Americans are happy to impose their own “fads and fashions” on others. Last week, a London court ruled that Ian Norris, the former head of Morgan Crucible, a British engineering firm, could be extradited to the United States because of price-fixing by two of the firm's American subsidiaries. The alleged offences took place between 1989 and 2000, when cartel activity was not a criminal offence in Britain. Mr Norris's lawyers said the case, the first involving extradition for an alleged antitrust offence, meant that no English executive with American subsidiaries or operations could any longer feel safe.
Under a treaty that came into force last year, extradition rules have been eased between Britain and the United States. America no longer has to present supporting evidence against someone it wants to extradite from Britain. It simply has to claim that an “extraditable” offence—one carrying a prison sentence of at least a year—has been committed. But because the Senate has so far declined to ratify the treaty, the new rules do not apply the other way round. If Britain wants to extradite a suspect from America, it still has to make out a prima facie case against him.
America's crackdown on white-collar crime goes further. Under its wire-fraud laws, anyone using an American internet server to contact colleagues or clients could face extradition, even though the alleged offence did not take place in America or involve American victims.
Foreign companies are getting worried, too, about the use of America's Alien Tort Claims Act, passed in 1789, which grants jurisdiction to American federal courts over “any civil action by an alien for a tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States”. This is increasingly being invoked by foreigners in America to sue international companies for alleged wrongs suffered outside the United States. One can imagine the rumpus if such a law were invoked, abroad, against an American company.
---Economist "The insidious wiles of foreign influence" Jun 9th 2005