The Truth About “Tort Reform” And Corporate Immunity in Texas

By JG Preston
Protect Consumer Justice

The non-profit watchdog group Texas Watch has issued a report detailing the impact of the many changes in civil justice under the guise of “tort reform” that have been made under governor (and now presidential candidate) Rick Perry. That report, “Tort ‘Reform’ in Texas: Implementing the Corporate Immunity Agenda,” begins:

California’s Free Speech Protections Fairly Strong, But Federal Legislation Needed to Protect All Americans

By Evan Mascagni

In the early 1990s, the California Anti-SLAPP Project (CASP) led a statewide coalition to win enactment of the California anti-SLAPP law, Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16. This law protects against Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP). These damaging suits chill free speech and healthy debate by targeting those who communicate with their government or speak out on issues of public interest.

SLAPPs are used to silence and harass critics by forcing them to spend money to defend these baseless suits. SLAPP filers don’t go to court to seek justice.  Rather, SLAPPS are intended to intimidate those who disagree with them or their activities by draining the target’s financial resources. SLAPPs are effective because even a meritless lawsuit can take years and many thousands of dollars to defend. To end or prevent a SLAPP, those who speak out on issues of public interest frequently agree to muzzle themselves, apologize, or “correct” statements.

Release the Prop. 8 Tapes

By Shannon Price Minter, Esq.
National Center for Lesbian Rights Legal Director

On August 29, 2011, U.S. District Court Judge James Ware will hear arguments about whether to unseal the video recordings of the historic trial in Perry v. Brown, the federal court challenge to Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot measure that stripped the freedom to marry from same-sex couples in California. After a three-week trial in January 2010, now-retired Chief District Judge Vaughan Walker issued a decision in August 2010, holding that Prop 8 was based on anti-gay animus and blatantly violated the equality guarantees of the federal Constitution. That ruling has been on hold while the proponents of Prop 8 appeal Judge Walker’s ruling.

CA Supreme Court Comes Down in Favor of Big Insurance, Against Consumers

By J.G. Preston

In a decision delivered August 18, the California Supreme Court ruled those who cause injuries, not those who were injured, will benefit from the reduced prices for medical care and services negotiated by the insurance company of the person who was injured.

The ruling in Howell v. Hamilton Meats & Provisions found that “personal injury plaintiffs are not entitled to full recovery of medical bills if their insurers paid only a smaller, negotiated amount,” according to reporter Kate Moser of The Recorder (full access to her story is limited to subscribers only).

Supreme Court Tells Working Women, You're on Your Own

By Irma Herrera

Sitting in the majestic paneled courtroom in the U.S. Supreme Court three months ago, it did not take long to get that dreaded sense that Betty Dukes and 1.5 million other current and former women employees at Wal-Mart were not likely to prevail in their epic 10-year battle against the nation’s largest private employer.

On Monday, that premonition came true. The Supreme Court threw out several lower-court rulings and declared that the women’s claims of massive, persistent sex discrimination were not sufficiently similar to merit class-action status. Ladies, you are on your own!

The Patriot Act and the Quiet Death of the US Bill of Rights

By Zack Kaldveer
Consumer Federation of California

With the stroke of an autopen from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, the once articulate critic of the Patriot Act signed a four year extension of the most dangerous assault on American civil liberties in US history without a single additional privacy protection.

One would think that this reauthorization would have incited vigorous debate in the halls of Congress and at least a fraction of the breathless 24/7 media coverage allotted the Anthony Weiner “sexting” scandal. Instead, three weeks ago the House (250 to 153) and Senate (72 to 23) approved, and the President signed, an extension of this landmark attack on the Bill of Rights with little notice and even less debate.

Wisconsin Supreme Court Reinstates Anti-Union Law

By David Dayen

The Wisconsin Supreme Court, just hours before a deadline imposed by state legislative Republicans, reinstated the anti-union law which a district court judge had blocked because it violated state open meetings requirements. They made the novel interpretation that those requirements don’t apply to the legislature.

The court found a committee of lawmakers was not subject to the state’s open meetings law, and so did not violate that law when they hastily approved the measure and made it possible for the Senate to take it up. In doing so, the Supreme Court overruled a Dane County judge who had struck down the legislation, ending one challenge to the law even as new challenges are likely to emerge.

Arizona’s SB 1070 Could Face Long Road to the Supreme Court

By Valeria Fernández
New America Media

Gov. Jan Brewer plans to petition the U.S. Supreme Court to lift a federal court’s preliminary injunction that blocked major portions of a controversial state immigration law from going into effect. But whether the nation’s highest tribunal will consider ruling on SB 1070 is a whole other story, according to legal experts.

“It’s highly unlikely that the Supreme Court would take the case at this point,” said Thomas A. Saenz, president and legal counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), an organization involved in one of the lawsuits against SB 1070.

Saenz argued the higher court is more likely to be interested in rulings on the merits of a law – whether or not it is constitutional -- than deciding on an injunction.

Koch Brothers/Americans for Prosperity's New Target: Middle Class Californians Pensions

By Steven Maviglio

The last time we heard from the Oklahoma-based Koch Brothers, they'd dumped $1 million into Prop 23, the Texas oil companies dirty energy proposition. That ballot measure went down in flames, losing by more votes than any other initiative in the United States.

But they're back. And you have to admire the moxie of these two billionaires,  the world's 24th richest men, each worth $17.5 billion. The Oklahoma oil barons' conservative front group, Americans For Prosperity, is launching a "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous on Government Pensions" tour that will stop in Santa Clarita at Governor Brown's forum today, and plans other press events up and down the state.

Supreme Court Issues Quick Opinion in Wal-Mart Class Action Case

By Randy Shaw
Beyond Chron

In perhaps the quickest decision in its history, the United States Supreme Court ruled on April Fools Day that the free market could not withstand compensating victims of sex discrimination and that the nationwide class action case brought against Wal-Mart – for which oral arguments were heard March 29 – must be reversed. According to the 5-4 opinion written by Justice Alito, class action suits for discrimination are not available “absent a written statement promoting a purely discriminatory hiring policy.” Alito had signaled his view that sex discrimination should not be actionable during oral argument, when he stated that if a company’s pay and promotion is “typical of the entire American work force,” then it should be immune from a Title 7 claim.