BY JONATHAN VALANIA FOR THE PHILLY POST On the morning of March 27th, the corporations finally won their war on the people. A little after 10 a.m., before hearing oral arguments on a same-sex marriage lawsuit that burned up all the media oxygen that day, Justice Antonin Scalia announced that the Supreme Court was throwing out an anti-trust class action lawsuit brought against Comcast by two million cable subscribers. It was the other shoe dropping in a pair of decisions that will have a profoundly debilitating effect on the the average citizen’s capacity to seek judicial remedies for the destructive and/or discriminatory actions of giant corporations.
The first shoe was Wal-Mart v. Dukes, a 2011 sexual discrimination class action lawsuit brought against Wal-Mart by 1.4 million of its female employees, which SCOTUS also threw out claiming that the plaintiffs did not have enough in common for a class action suit despite the fact that they were all A) Wal-Mart employees B) females and C) alleging Wal-Mart discriminated against them based on their gender.
By throwing out the Comcast suit — again claiming that the two million plaintiffs didn’t have enough in common to qualify for class action despite the fact that they were all Comcast subscribers complaining that the cable giant’s monopolistic practices resulted in poor service and artificially high cable rates — and doubling down on Wal-Mart v. Dukes, SCOTUS has effectively ended class action lawsuits in this country for at least a generation, if not forever, and with it the last line of defense consumers have against the profit-driven predations of ginormous corporations.
Class action lawsuits enable wronged people of little or no means, who otherwise would never be able to sustain, let alone initiate, legal action against corporate America, with its bottomless pockets and legions of legal eagle shock troops, to seek relief in the courts. In other words, they give David a fighting chance at bringing down Goliath.
Over the years class action lawsuits have profoundly changed American society, inarguably for the better. Class action lawsuits are the reason public school classrooms are no longer segregated. Class action lawsuits are the reason Big Tobacco can no longer market cigarettes to children. Class action lawsuits are the reason buildings are no longer larded with asbestos. Class action lawsuits are the reason schools and subdivisions are no longer built on top of toxic waste dumps (see Love Canal).
Class action lawsuits are the reason sexual harassment and racial profiling are actionable. Class action lawsuits are the reason credit card companies can no longer demand confiscatory interest rates from card holders. Class action lawsuits are the reason soldiers no longer have to lie about their sexual orientation if they want to serve their country. Class action lawsuits are the reason states can no longer sterilize poor women against their will. Class action lawsuits are the reason employers can’t discriminate on the basis of sex.
Or at least they couldn’t up until 2011. MORE