In case you haven't heard, last thursday, the Senate approved a measure that would move class-action lawsuits to federal jurisdiction. Which would, in effect, kill a great many cases. For example, federal courts refused to hear class-action cases against Wal-Mart (that whole working-without-paying thing they were trying to pull --great way to be profitable!) although states --including Washington, Minnesota, California, Indiana and Massachusetts will.
According to the New York Times, (I'll post the article below, in comments) "federal judges have been constrained by a series of legal precedents from considering large class actions that involve varying laws of different states" --in other words, there will be many cases that will simply be impossible to press.
I woke up to hear W's voice on NPR droning on about how we need to "protect justice, not the interests of trial lawyers." At that point, I think I momentarily gained the ability to shoot lasers out of my eyes.
IF GWB is not so stupid as everyone says he is, which even I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on, he surely knows that class action lawsuits sometimes the last line of defense and redress for common Americans. He surely knows that it has consistently been one of the only ways to curtail unabashed infringements on worker's rights (WalMart), public health (tobacco lawsuits), institutional racial discrimination (Abercrombie and Fitch) and gender discrimination (Walmart again) and hundreds of other ways that criminals and corporations have sought to take advantage of consumers, workers, and other decent upstanding citizens of this fine land. And the suits speak to corporations in the only language they understand: money.
If he knows this, and he continues to oppose them, one can only conclude that he's not really on your side, middle America! wake up!
Much has been made of the "frivolous lawsuits" that get filed in this country. Guess what! That's what judges are for! They can dismiss cases that don't have sufficient evidence --hence the age old rituals of depositions, arraignments, grand juries, etc. Yes, some cases slip through that make no sense. OJ Simpson, anyone? But it goes both ways: hear the story of Or Collin Warner, who spent 21 years in jail for a crime he didn't commit (go to thislife.org).
But I digress. There's an amendment that will mitigate some of the damage of this bill, called the Bingaman Consumer Amendment (more info). You can write your congressperson and tell them to oppose the bill, or at least sign on to the amendment.
Or you can find out more about how class action lawsuits have helped regular ole people, at Alliance for Justice.
You haven't heard the end of this from me.