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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Panel discussion on Equal Justice for All now available on YouTube

Last week's panel discussion on corporate influence over the federal courts is now available on YouTube. Use the playlist viewer below to watch the keynote address by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, as well as remarks by Suzette Malveaux of the Catholic University of America, Bill Luyre of AFL-CIO, and Jeffrey Rosen of the George Washington University.

Malveaux, an expert on the impact of procedural mechanisms on civil rights, spoke about the legal avenues everyday Americans must have in order to hold powerful corporate interests accountable, and how those methods have been undermined. She noted that “One of the biggest issues that we see coming out of the Supreme Court is access to justice, or just access to the court system in general…. If you look at the Constitution, we have a due process concern that people have their right to their day in court; and that is a fundamental notion of our judicial system. And… it's becoming harder and harder for people to have their day in court, or to actually have access to the system.”

Luyre addressed the fate of labor and employment law in the lower federal courts, which are often dominated by appointees friendly to business interests, saying, “Sometimes I wonder if those who are involved in the confirmation of judges and the selection of judges… understand just how important it is to have good judges.” He went on to point out that “The courts… lack for the most part union lawyers, civil rights lawyers, consumer lawyers, legal service lawyers, public defenders, folks who have had to deal with working people on a day-to-day basis in many different settings.”

Rosen, author of the widely-read and influential New York Times Magazine article “Supreme Court, Inc.,” talked about the trend in pro-corporate decisions at the Supreme Court and philosophical distinctions within the conservative majority. In discussing how pro-business trends can be countered, he asserted that “the one lesson that we can take from the Tea Party is the importance of grassroots activism. They mobilized people, they got them on the Mall, they proposed constitutional amendments. They also filed lawsuits, but they really created a national consensus around economic populism. And I think that if we neo-progressives are to have legal success in the courts, we need first to have political success, need to mobilize, need to make the case for why in these tough economic times a pro-corporate tilt is not advisable.”

The panel's question-and-answer session will be available soon.

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