Friday, June 29, 2007

Consensus at last!

With all the focus (including, of late, here) on the clear "moderate liberal" v. "twisted reactionary" fault line at the Supreme Court, little attention has been paid to an area where all those nasty differences just seemed to melt away: business cases. AP brings the word:
[J]ustices often found common ground when ruling on commercial issues such as shareholder rights and antitrust law. Seventy percent of the 30 business-related cases decided by the court over the eight-month term that ended this week produced majority votes of 7-2 or greater.

The justices' conformity in financial cases has resulted in a very business-friendly court. They have issued rulings that will make it harder to sue companies for securities fraud and antitrust violations, and have shielded businesses from large damage awards in tobacco lawsuits and other cases.

This "has been our best Supreme Court term ever," said Robin Conrad, executive vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's litigation group. Of the 15 cases decided this term in which the Chamber took a position, the court sided with the Chamber 13 times. ...

The court ruled against corporate America in just two cases, both dealing with the environment.
And if being praised by the US Chamber of Commerce doesn't tell you everything you needed and probably more than you wanted to know about the fawning devotion that liberals and reactionaries alike have to Big Business, I can't imagine what, short of video of them on their knees, chanting "Exxon-Mobil is God and Rupert Murdoch is His prophet," would.

And note well that I said the devotion is to Big Business, to corporate America, not to "The Market." Because in another decision announced Thursday, the Court said in the now-classic 5-4 split that manufacturers can set minimum retail prices for their products - that is, they can essentially engage in a form of price-fixing. That decision overturned 96 years of precedent and judicial practice holding that such price-fixing was per se a violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.

This Court does believe in a regulated market - they just want to make sure it's the economically powerful who get to do the regulating. Again, there is the intellectual consistency, the consistent favoring of the already-powerful.

Footnote: Another case of the same 5-4 divide, which I didn't comment on at the time, came in May when the Filthy Five dismissed a claim of pay discrimination filed by Lily Ledbetter against Goodyear Tire & Rubber. The reason, they said, was that she hadn't filed the complaint within 180 days of the discrimination, as required by the law.

To reach that really twisted decision, they had to declare that the discrimination consisted of the first act of pay discrimination - and only the first act. That not only means that an employer who successfully conceals illegal pay discrimination for six months can after that continue to discriminate against that employee without consequences, but the decision required - guess what - overturning tradition if not precedent, under which each discriminatory paycheck was regarded as a continuation of the same offense.

The fact is, precedent means nothing at all to the rightwing bozos now in the ascendant on the Court. I believe they should be impeached, tossed, and then brought up on charges of lying under oath during their Congressional testimony on their nominations. I know it won't happen, but the image of Roberts in the dock is a pleasant one on a dark night.

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