Washington, DC, October 5, 2020- United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) released a new report detailing how President Donald Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court could solidify the corporate capture of our courts. The report highlights how The Roberts Five – the five-justice Republican majority led by Chief Justice Roberts – and President Donald Trump’s judiciary have shielded big corporations from accountability for misconduct and blocked access to the courts for millions of Americans. The report also outlines efforts by a host of corporate-funded front groups to use the courts to shield big corporations from accountability.
This is the second in a series of Captured Courts reports by Senate Democrats. In the report “Economic Justice: How the “Roberts Five” Have Protected Corporate Power by Closing the Courthouse Door to Americans,” the senators note that the same special interests that bolstered the nominations of Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court are expected to shell out millions more in support of President Trump’s nominee to replace Justice Ginsburg. Trump’s nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, has a long track record of favoring big corporations over the rights of the American people.
Under Chief Justice Roberts’s watch, the Court has issued decisions relating to forced arbitration, pleading standards, class actions, and punitive damages that have significantly limited Americans’ ability to access the court and hold corporations accountable. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a corporate lobbying group, has been on the winning side of a whopping 70% of cases in which it filed briefs. The report also highlights how this is a massive problem not just in the Supreme Court but across the federal judiciary. Nearly all Trump’s appellate court judges were hand-vetted and picked by the corporate-funded Federalist Society, and many nominees stand out as particularly biased in favor of corporations and against Americans. Justice Barrett is no exception.
“Our report shows what’s at stake in this Supreme Court fight: the completion of a decades-long assault on our judiciary by billionaires and giant corporations working to tilt the courts for the rich and powerful,” said Senator Warren. “Senate Democrats will fight efforts by giant corporations and their well-funded dark money groups to take over our courts and deny justice to millions of American workers and consumers.”
“Corporate special interests are sending millions on a campaign to capture Justice Ginsburg’s seat and help bar the courthouse door to Americans seeking to hold them accountable. That way, big corporations can get away with worker discrimination, dangerous products in the marketplace, violating consumer protection laws, and outright fraud,” said Senator Whitehouse. “Our report shows how that campaign works so the American people can stand up and push back.”
“The Republican-led court packing scheme has fundamentally shifted our judiciary to put corporate interests over workers’ rights. The Roberts Court has shielded billionaires and big corporations from accountability, and barred the door to the American workers and consumers seeking justice. This report shows exactly how the integrity of our courts and justice for ordinary Americans is on the line in the upcoming Supreme Court fight. My Senate Democrat colleagues and I are going to fight like hell to prevent this abhorrent assault on our judiciary,” said Senator Blumenthal.
“The Supreme Court is supposed to adhere to equal justice under the law. But this report highlights a disturbing pattern of the Court overwhelmingly siding with well-funded corporate interests over the interests of the American people. We need justices who will protect the rights of individuals, not merely shield big corporations from legal responsibilities,” said Senator Reed.
“Corporate greed is fundamental to the Wall Street business model. And when judges and justices put their thumbs on the scale against workers, corporations get away with stealing wages, discriminating against Black and brown workers, endangering their employees, and busting unions,” said Senator Brown. “Trump and McConnell have stacked the courts with pro-corporation, anti-worker judges, and this next nominee will be no different.”
Key Takeaways from the Captured Courts: Economic Justice
- Republicans and their corporate benefactors have increasingly turned to the courts to protect their interests and deny justice to American workers and consumers, and they have found willing allies in the Roberts Five.
- In a long line of 5-4 partisan decisions, the Supreme Court has expanded the ability of corporations to force individuals into arbitration-a corporate-friendly, private forum-rather than have their claims heard before an open, impartial jury.
- The Roberts Court has made it easier for cases to be thrown out of court before plaintiffs have any opportunity to develop evidence in support of their claims, issuing decisions limiting the availability of class action litigation to injured workers and consumers, and adopting a restrictive reading of civil rights and workers’ rights statutes to foreclose liability for employers who discriminate against employees.
- A host of corporate-funded front groups have used the courts to shield big corporations from legal accountability, like the Chamber of Commerce. Since 2006, the Roberts Court has sided with the Chamber’s position an overwhelming 70% of the time.
- Nearly all of Trump’s appellate court judges were hand-picked by the corporate-funded Federalist Society, and many nominees stand out as particularly biased in favor of corporations and against Americans.
- In under three years on the bench, Judge Barrett has already amassed a lengthy track record of opinions that close the courthouse door to workers and consumers and that help insulate corporations from accountability for wrongdoing.
The full report is available here.
Read Senate Democrats’ first Captured Courts report detailing how health care and reproductive rights are at risk with new Supreme Court vacancy.