Saturday, January 10, 2004

Schumer, Dodd cave on corporate wrongdoing.

A bit back, Kos of Daily Kos suggested Schumer (among others) as a replacement for Daschle as Democratic Leader, as Schumer would be less likely to place his "parochial interests" before those of the Democratic Party and its ideals.  Today, Schumer proves that any Democrat is vulnerable to their "parochial interests."

One of the few Democratic victories in the Senate has been the successful filibuster of Republican attempts to protect corporate criminals from lawsuits.  Among these attempts is the Class Action Fairness Act, which would effectively deny the victims of corporate wrongdoing the right to sue for damages.

According to Patrick Leahy,

At its core, this bill deprives citizens of the right to sue on state law claims in their own state courts if the principal defendant is a citizen of another state, even if that defendant has a substantial presence in the plaintiffs' home state, and even if the harm done was in the plaintiffs' home state.  And less than a week ago, mass tort actions were included in the bill along with true class actions, despite the fact that such a provision was struck from the bill during mark-up in the Judiciary Committee.  This simply amplifies the harm done to citizens' rights, and to the possibility of vindicating those rights in their own state courts.
Some special interest groups are distorting the state of class action litigation by relying on a few anecdotes in an ends-oriented attempt to impede plaintiffs bringing class action cases.  We should take steps to correct actual problems in class action litigation, but simply shoving most suits into federal court with new one-sided rules will not correct the real problems faced by plaintiffs and defendants.
Our state-based tort system remains one of the greatest and most powerful vehicles for justice anywhere in the world.  One reason for that is the availability of class action litigation to let ordinary people band together to take on powerful corporations or even their own government.   Defrauded investors, deceived consumers, victims of defective products and environmental torts, and thousands of other ordinary people have been able to rely on class action lawsuits in our state court systems to seek and receive justice.
Sometimes that is what cheaters count on, and it is how they get away with their schemes. Cheating thousands of people "just a little" is still cheating.  Class actions allow the little guys to band together, allow them to afford a competent lawyer, and allow them to redress wrongdoing.
Whether those little guys are getting together to force manufacturers to recall and correct dangerous products, to clean up after devastating environmental harms, or to vindicate the basic civil rights they are entitled to as citizens of our great country, they are using class actions.  And they should be able to continue doing so.
The so-called Class Action Fairness Act will leave many injured parties who have valid claims with no effective way to seek relief.  Class action suits have helped win justice and expose wrongdoing by corporate and government wrong-doers.  They have given average Americans at least a chance for justice.  We should not take that chance for justice away from the American people.

Apparently, Chuck Shumer has decided to join those who would take that chance for justice away from the American people.  The Associated Press reports that he and Christopher Dodd have struck a deal with Republicans on the issue, and with their votes, Republicans should be able to pass the bill.

Although Schumer now claims that "Lawsuits have gotten out of control in America and something needs to be done to rein them in," Public Citizen sees his change of heart differently: "He's a big fund-raiser and he sees an opportunity to raise money here so he jumped on this bandwagon."

So much for his ability to place Democratic ideals before his parochial interests.