Court undermines individualPublished 11:32am Friday, July 11, 2014
Presidential appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court have often resulted in unexpected outcomes. Conservative appointments have seated justices who became more liberal once on the court and liberal appointments have made conservative decisions on a variety of issues.
That is a good reflection on a Court the nation needs to make decisions for the good of the people instead of for the good of the political parties.
But every court has its rulings over time that define its place in our history. The Warren Court of the 1960’s was a Court that actively expanded individual rights often in opposition to government and corporations. Conservatives still view the Warren Court as too extreme in its decisions.
Today the Roberts Court is also defined by its rulings and that definition has clearly emerged as the “Corporate Court” with Justice Samuel Alito the champion of all things corporate on the court.
Alito was nominated by President George Bush in 2005 to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Conner. During Alito’s confirmation hearings Senator Kohl, (D-Wis.) asked Mr. Alito about a Washington Post analysis of 221 civil rights cases where judges overall had a 2-1 split but Judge Alito ruled against individuals three out of four times in the cases.
It was to be an important window into what would become Alito’s blind spot…the rights of the individual in our constitution.
Alito would win confirmation by a 58-42 Senate vote.
In 2010 the court ruled in Citizens United that corporations are de facto people and, as people, have the right to contribute to political causes they support.
It is beyond dispute that following that decision significant increases in cash flowed into election coffers of candidates supported by Big Business. Alito sided with a written concurring opinion by Justice Scalia noting that the First Amendment protected speech, not speakers, thus corporations had the right to free speech.
This year the court doubled down on corporate personhood in Hobby Lobby granting corporations religious beliefs in addition to their free speech rights.
The ruling opens the concept that owners (corporations) may simply say they religiously oppose healthcare coverages and those coverages become prohibited.
In the Hobby Lobby example, the one family who owns the corporation has the right to decide for the other 13,000 people at the corporation that some contraceptives are unacceptable.
Alito wrote the Hobby Lobby decision. The Washington Post (6/30/14) writes: “In an oral statement from the bench, Alito argued that those who say corporations are “just a piece of paper” are making a “dangerous” argument and would turn religious executives “into second-class citizens.”
Really? But are they not now citizens who have two votes, their own and the fiction they represent that has become another person?
But the court was not finished attacking individuals and empowering corporations this year. The McCutcheon campaign finance case granted more freedom for wealthy Americans to make political contributions and noted that access and influence are not corruption. Only quid pro quo, i.e. direct benefits from contributions are disallowed.
Alito sided with the 5-4 majority on McCutcheon.
Finally, the court attacked unions in a manner that invites future cases and rulings against people organizing to improve their opportunity to share in the success of corporations.
In an Illinois case the court ruled that a new category of employee now exists, a “partial public employee” who can opt out of union dues while receiving the benefits of union membership. The author of this entirely creative work? Justice Samuel Alito.
The U.S. Supreme Corporate Court is now on vacation. It will return this fall to further undermine individual rights and advance the personhood of corporations.
Jim Crawford is a retired educator and political enthusiast living here in the Tri-State.