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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Corporate Court Limits Access to Justice

The recent 5-4 ruling in Rent-A-Center v. Jackson has further limited the ability of Americans to have their day in court. The majority opinion, written by Justice Scalia, holds that the Federal Arbitration Act of 1925 only allows a court to review a complaint to an arbitration agreement within a larger contract if the person making the claim objects specifically to the delegation clause (compelling binding arbitration). This decision means the Supreme Court ruled that companies have even more power to strip people - unaware of the intricacies of filing a complaint about their contract - of their right to access the court. The Court’s decision Monday is another example of the Roberts Court judicial activism working on behalf of large corporations at the expense of ordinary Americans, in this case, by misinterpreting a 85-year-old law.

This decision affects all Americans who sign agreements with arbitration clauses including the hundreds-of-millions of cell phone subscribers, the estimated one-hundred-million Americans that work under binding arbitration agreements, and anyone else in America that signs a contract with a business that chooses to include this agreement in their contracts. The dissenting opinion, written by the soon to be retired Justice Stevens, defended employee and consumer rights against arbitration agreements. With the Kagan hearing just 6 days away, the question remains if the would-be replacement to Justice Stevens shares his conviction on the rights of Americans.