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The Supreme Court Is A Corporate Star Chamber
The high court has become one of the most powerful weapons of Big Business and billionaires.
Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court issued two commendable rulings that may have seemed off brand for a conservative judicial panel: In one case, the court prevented President Trump from deporting the children of undocumented immigrants; in another case, the court extended anti-discrimination protections to cover sexual orientation and gender identity.
Progressives rightly lauded these civil rights victories, which dominated the headlines. But amid the celebrations, the court also issued the three following rulings, which received relatively little attention:
The court limited Securities and Exchange Commission regulators’ power to punish financial firms that bilk investors.
Justices overturned a lower court’s ruling and fortified energy companies’ power to steamroll environmental objections to fossil fuel infrastructure.
The court prevented workers and retirees from suing Wall Street firms that bilk their pension systems (see this week’s previous story on that here).
Once again, the high court used business cases to fortify the power of the already-powerful. I say “once again” because for all the focus on the court’s rulings on important social issues, much of the justices’ work is on business litigation — and in that role, the court now serves as a reliable star chamber defending corporations and the wealthy.
This is a development that is only rarely spotlighted — and it is barely part of the discourse when Supreme Court appointments are referenced in national politics. Indeed, one of the very few times corporate power became an issue in a recent Supreme Court nomination fight was when a few senators briefly asked Neil Gorsuch about his legal defense of a company’s decision to fire a worker for trying to not freeze to death — but Gorsuch was confirmed anyway.
That confirmation helped the court continue to be a driving force behind the corporate takeover of our country and our democracy.