WE'VE MOVED!


As part of our big, new redesign of the Alliance for Justice website, the Justice Watch blog has moved. Get the latest news about the fight for a fairer America at www.afj.org/blog

Thursday, November 21, 2013

AFJ commends Senate for changing rules

So many people wanted to know our take on this that it crashed our website for awhile, so we posted our statement on today's rules reform victory here.  But the site is back up and you can find out more about Senate rules reform and the D.C. Circuit at www.afj.org

WASHINGTON, D.C., November 21, 2013 – Alliance for Justice President Nan Aron issued the following statement in response to today’s vote to change the rules of the Senate: 

Alliance for Justice commends Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the Senators who voted to change Senate rules today for their courageous decision to end the unprecedented abuse of Senate rules by a Republican minority dedicated to obstruction-at-all-costs.

This was not a decision made easily or taken lightly. There was no choice. The Republican minority had turned the existing rules into weapons of mass obstruction. Most recently, they acknowledged that they had no grounds to oppose on the merits President Obama’s supremely-qualified nominees for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. But they filibustered those nominees anyway.

This change in the rules is the only way to return the Senate to its place as the world’s greatest deliberative body; it is the only way to ensure that the Senate can put the well-being of the American people ahead of the political interests of an extremist minority.

Now that the rules have changed, the Senate must move quickly to confirm President Obama’s D.C. Circuit nominees, and all of the other nominees that, until now, have been held hostage to obstruction. Those nominees include 14 more nominees for judgeships who are currently awaiting Senate floor votes, and executive branch nominees such as Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., whose nomination to run the Federal Housing Finance Agency was filibustered last month.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

GUEST BLOG: Will the Supreme Court Further Roll Back Accountability and Immunize Foreign Corporations from Judicial Scrutiny?

By Michelle Harrison, Human Rights Attorney and Bertha Foundation Fellow, EarthRights International

This week, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in DaimlerChrysler v. Bauman (docket 11-965), a case that has received little attention despite the fact that it has the potential to dramatically alter the ability of federal and state courts to assert jurisdiction over foreign corporations.

The case involves claims brought by former employees and family members of deceased employees of a Mercedes-Benz plant in Argentina who were violently kidnapped, tortured, and killed against DaimlerChrysler AG (now Daimler AG), a German corporation that owns the plant.  The company’s wholly-owned subsidiary, Mercedes-Benz Argentina, is accused of conspiring with, directing, and aiding and abetting state security forces to carry out egregious human rights violations during Argentina’s  “Dirty War” in order to silence union activism and maintain the company’s production levels.

The plaintiffs filed suit in 2004 in federal district court in California, asserting that jurisdiction was proper due to the substantial and systematic business Daimler conducts in the state through another wholly owned subsidiary, Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA).  Technically, MBUSA and Daimler are “separate” corporate entities; however, they shared the same chairman, MBUSA sold cars solely for Daimler, Daimler set prices for the cars, had authority over virtually all aspects of MBUSA’s operations, and received all of MBUSA’s profits.

The district court initially dismissed the case, agreeing with Daimler that it lacked jurisdiction.  On appeal, the Ninth Circuit reversed the decision, holding that a court may exercise general jurisdiction over a foreign corporation when its subsidiary acts as its agent in the forum state, performing a role important enough that, if the subsidiary went out of business or otherwise could not perform that role, the parent corporation would sell the product itself or through a new representative.  The Ninth Circuit found that because MBUSA acted as an agent for Daimler in California, jurisdiction was reasonable.

Now before the Supreme Court, the question presented is whether a U.S. court can assert jurisdiction over a foreign corporation on the basis of services performed in the forum state by the corporation’s wholly owned subsidiary.

The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case just days after issuing its decision in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, which limited the ability of victims of human rights abuse to bring cases against foreign corporations under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) when the abuse occurred outside the U.S.  Many commentators see Bauman as a sequel to that case because, like Kiobel, Bauman is a case against a foreign corporation, under the ATS, for human rights abuses that occurred in another country.  The issue here, however, is actually much broader.  While Kiobel considered only the narrow question of whether an ATS claim could be brought in a case involving foreign conduct, Bauman is not limited to claims brought under the ATS, and will raise questions about the ability to bring claims against a foreign corporation at all.

Daimler—and the Chamber of Commerce—have made a number of sweeping arguments that, if accepted, could fundamentally alter the jurisdictional reach of U.S. courts.  According to Daimler, the Due Process Clause prevents a court from exercising jurisdiction over it on the basis of its U.S. subsidiaries, even where the subsidiary carries out the parent’s business, on the parent’s behalf, and for the parent’s benefit.  Daimler and the Chamber have gone so far as to argue that there is a constitutional right for a parent corporation to be treated as separate from its subsidiary—an argument that has never before been recognized and is fundamentally at odds with the history of the corporate form.

Indeed, the Supreme Court has already rejected the notion that due process requires separate treatment of a parent and its subsidiary.  In Mobil Oil Corp v. Comm’r of Taxes of Vermont, the Supreme Court considered Vermont’s tax on companies doing business within the state, which was based upon a share of their total income earned inside and outside of the state.  Mobil argued that due process required that dividends from subsidiaries that were not incorporated in that state, did no business in the state, and were not managed in that state must be excluded from the calculation of total income because they lacked a sufficient nexus to Vermont.  The Supreme Court, however, concluded there was no due process problem because, irrespective of corporate formalities, Vermont’s tax treated a “functionally integrated enterprise” as a unitary business.

Such treatment is consistent with the fact that federal and state laws often treat corporations and their subsidiaries as single entities for purposes of attributing civil liability or other obligations.  Corporations are, and always have been, the creation of states, possessing only such rights as were expressly granted.  No corporation has a constitutional right to be a corporation, let alone a constitutional right to a particular organizational structure.

Daimler’s sweeping constitutional arguments are also contradicted by the historical understanding of corporate personality at the time of the passage of both the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. Corporations were in fact expressly prohibited from owning other companies until the end of the nineteenth century.  The parent-subsidiary relationship was unheard of; only the simple, single entity corporate structure was permitted.

Due process requires only that the maintenance of a suit not offend “traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.”  Corporations purposefully avail themselves of the privileges of doing business within a forum state by virtue of their subsidiaries.  Under Daimler’s view, however, that privilege does not come with any responsibilities.

The case deserves far more attention than it has received.  If the Court accepts Daimler’s position, it would call into question existing laws in areas as diverse as tax, labor, and antitrust.  Worse, it would effectively insulate foreign corporations from lawsuits anywhere in the United States—even when the plaintiffs are U.S. citizens.  As long as they keep a separation, on paper, from their U.S. subsidiaries, foreign corporations would be able to enjoy all of the privileges of doing business in the United States with the guarantee that their operations will not be subjected to scrutiny by U.S. courts.

Michelle Harrison is a Human Rights Attorney and Bertha Foundation Fellow at EarthRights International, a Washington-D.C. based non-profit organization specializing in legal actions against perpetrators of human rights abuses. EarthRights International submitted an amicus brief in this case.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

GUEST BLOG: Madigan v. Levin: Justices ask if they should be hearing the case at all


By Daniel B. Kohrman
Senior Attorney, AARP Foundation Litigation

Update, OCT. 15:  On Tuesday, October 15th, the Supreme Court dismissed Madigan v. Levin as improvidently granted.


The Fall 2013 Term of the U.S. Supreme Court began Monday with an age discrimination case, with broad implications for civil rights enforcement under the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution.  A lively argument left questions as to whether the Justices had chosen the right case to begin their year.  In fact, many justices expressed skepticism about whether Madigan v. Levin, No. 12-872, was properly before them.

Madigan v. Levin is a challenge to a 7th Circuit ruling, 692 F.3d 607, upholding the right of Harvey Levin, a former senior member of the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, to contest his termination, allegedly based on his age, under the Age Discrimination Employment Act (ADEA), the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act. 

The petitioner, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, argued that the ADEA is the exclusive remedy for age discrimination claims.  She asserted that federal anti-discrimination statutes, including the ADEA, are so comprehensive as to demonstrate Congress’ intent to preclude a parallel anti-discrimination claim under the Constitution,   and therefore that the ADEA displaced any competing, constitutional claim for age discrimination under the Constitution or § 1983. 

The 7th Circuit noted that "[a]ll other circuit courts to consider the issue have held that the ADEA is the exclusive remedy for age discrimination claims.” …  But they disagreed.  The court said the matter was “admittedly a close call, especially in light of the conflicting decisions from our sister circuits."

The 7th Circuit also affirmed a judgment that qualified immunity did not shield Madigan from Levin’s § 1983 claim for damages.  To establish a qualified immunity defense, a defendant may show either that the plaintiff failed to set forth a viable claim, or that the rights allegedly violated were not clearly established at the relevant time.   The 7th Circuit’s ruling did not disturb the trial court’s decision that Levin had no age discrimination claim under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), because his former job fit within an exemption to ADEA coverage.

 The themes presented by Madigan are essentially threefold:

1.    To what extent may civil rights plaintiffs rely on multiple, overlapping claims to remedy injustices, or are various civil rights protections – here for older workers – mutually exclusive?
2.    To what extent does the doctrine of “qualified immunity” prevent state employees from invoking federal civil rights protections?
3.    To what extent will the Court reach out to issue rulings in civil rights cases, even when full briefing and argument reveals that the issue(s) the Court elected to hear are not those actually presented?

Arguing for Madigan, Illinois Solicitor General Michael Scodro began with a straightforward recital of the issue.  Illinois sought the Court to decide:
Congress has crafted a comprehensive body of administrative and judicial procedures and remedies that are tailored specifically to combatting discrimination against older workers. In extending these procedures and remedies to government employees, Congress did not intend to permit State and municipal workers alone to frustrate this regime or bypass it entirely using the more general remedies of Section 1983.

That is, the ADEA requires exhaustion of private and state and local government employee age discrimination charges before the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).  Allowing state employees like Levin (and many municipal employees as well) to assert claims of employment discrimination by government employers (whose alleged misconduct constitutes state action) under the Constitution, via the Civil War era statute 42 U.S. C. § 1983 (ch.22, §1 of the 1871 Civil Rights Act), would “frustrate” the legislative scheme Congress enacted in the ADEA.

The fight in Madigan over a constitutional claim of age discrimination is ironic because proving such a claim, the parties agree, is very difficult, and it is far easier to prove a violation of the ADEA.  Thus, plaintiffs only are likely to bring such a claim if they cannot sue under the ADEA, such as when they have failed to follow EEOC filing requirements, or, as here, when the ADEA does not provide a claim in the first place. 

But before Scodro got to address the merits, he was bombarded by a series of preliminary, jurisdictional questions.  Justice Ginsburg launched the first salvo:  The case came to the 7th Circuit on an interlocutory appeal, which is a rare type of appeal that takes place to contest an issue that the court has decided but occurs before a final decision is handed down.  In this case the appeal dealt only with the trial cout’s finding that there was no qualified immunity.  That raised a fundamental question: What authority did the Court of Appeals have to also address other aspects of the interplay between  the ADEA and Section 1983?

Justice Alito came to Scodro’s defense, pointing out that “although the Seventh Circuit should not have considered the question of whether there was a cause of action under Section 1983,” the Supreme Court itself has “jurisdiction to consider that question” as “a matter of discretion.”  But Justice Kennedy, the swing vote in most major cases, sounded skeptical:  “What’s the rationale that we can exercise jurisdiction where a court of appeals could not?”  Is there “authority to grant certiorari before judgment?” 

Justices Kagan, Scalia and Sotomayor then each pressed Scodro still further to justify the Court’s jurisdiction to consider anything more than the issue of qualified immunity – which Justice Ginsburg characterized as clear, in that the record establishes that the Equal Protection Clause prohibits irrational age bias.  Only Justice Alito returned to Scodro’s defense, worrying that for the Court to ignore the issue of ADEA preclusion of a Section 1983 claim until the end of the case might be wasteful.

Scodro seemed to be struggling mightily to stay afloat when Justice Scalia intervened to suggest he “say a few words about the merits.”  But Scodro was on the defensive almost immediately once more.

This time his struggle centered on the fact that that, as Justice Ginsburg noted, petitioners acknowledge it would be very difficult for Levin to sustain an ADEA claim because, as the district court found, he is an “appointee on the policymaking level” exempt from ADEA coverage.  See 29 USC § 630(f).  Thus, key premises of petitioners’ case – that Levin has rights under the ADEA he failed to invoke, that he seeks to invoke alternative rights and thus would “bypass” his actual ADEA rights, and that he would thereby “frustrate” Congress’ intent that he invoke those rights and no others—are  highly misleading.

Madigan’s merits briefs argued for the first time that Levin has a sort of ADEA claim in the form of a claim under the Government Employee Rights Act of 1991 (GERA), 42 USC 2000e-16a to16c.  The GERA created a claim for  employees like Levin exempted by the ADEA.  But Levin never asserted such a claim, and until the case came to the Supreme Court Madigan never asserted that the GERA provided rights to Levin that would support preclusion of a §1983 age discrimination claim under the Equal Protection Clause.

Justices Kagan, Breyer and most significantly, Alito, hit Scodro hard on the GERA.  Kagan:  “the point here is that Mr. Levin is covered not by the ADEA, but by a separate statute, the GERA.  And there's a separate question whether the GERA would displace constitutional relief, which apparently has -- has never been argued to anybody in this case.”  Breyer:  “I looked to see what the Seventh Circuit said [about the GERA]. Nothing. I looked to see what you argued below. Nothing. I looked to see whether it's obvious that GERA does apply or doesn't apply and simply picks it up or not. I don't know. Maybe I'm just being thick. But nonetheless, where I don't know so much and the whole case turns on it, why are we hearing an issue that might not even be in the case?”  And Alito:  “Has the Court ever held that an antidiscrimination statute that does not provide any rights for a particular class of plaintiffs nevertheless extinguishes the right of action that those plaintiffs would have under Section 1983?”  Justice Breyer suggested Scodro wanted an “advisory opinion,” and then said, “Sometime on occasion we dismiss a case as improvidently granted, which is not a particularly desirable thing to do. But how could we avoid doing that here?”

At the outset, Levin’s Attorney, Edward Theobald, spent an extended period on a losing gambit:  fencing with Justice Alito and Chief Justice Roberts about whether his client is an “employee” under the ADEA.  Justice Breyer bluntly opined that, but for the GERA, Levin had no such argument.

Justice Kennedy seemed to explore with Theobald another approach that would have the Court dodge a decision on the merits.  He asked about sending the case back to the lower courts, to decide “whether or not the GERA issue has been properly presented or waived and to consider that[.]”  Theobald objected that the case was scheduled for trial in 2014, and Justice Kennedy responded “that argument could be made in the district court.”

On rebuttal Justices Ginsburg and Kagan focused on the merits, alluding to support for Levin’s claim that both the ADEA and the Constitution are open to age discrimination in employment claims.  Kagan:  “All you have is a complicated remedial scheme, which would be enough to say, look, you can't bring 1983 suits to vindicate this statute. But seems as though it's not enough under our case law to repeal preexisting rights and remedies.”  Ginsburg: “isn't it strange to think that Congress at the same time wanted employees to have these expanded [ADEA] rights and to do away with the preexisting remedies?” 

By the end, while several of the so-called “liberal” Justices expressed support for a 14th Amendment age discrimination claim, none of the Justices articulated clear enthusiasm for a decision on the merits.

The arguments in Madigan v. Levin leave unclear whether there is a majority for recognition of an age discrimination claim under §1983 and the Equal Protection Clause.  More apparent are signs of majority support for a decision acknowledging, or at least demonstrating, that the case is not ready for resolution of the issues for which certiorari was granted.  Many of the comments and questions of the Justices suggest the most likely result is some sort of remand for further consideration of all or some of the issues addressed by the parties.

Links to briefs in this case, and additional coverage from SCOTUSblog

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Nan Aron: Justice system already in crisis worsened by shutdown, sequester

UPDATE, OCT. 11: Alliance for Justice President Nan Aron was among the witnesses testifying at a forum on the impact on justice of the sequester and the government shutdown convened by Rep. John Conyers, D-Michigan, ranking minority member of the House Judiciary Committee.  

Watch video of the event from C-SPAN (Nan's testimony starts at about 54 minutes in):



This is Nan's statement:

Mr. Conyers, distinguished members of the Judiciary Committee, thank you for inviting me to join you for this important conversation about the sequester, the shutdown, and access to justice.

As President of Alliance for Justice, I am proud to speak on behalf of our more than 100 member organizations, all of which are committed to a justice system that truly serves all Americans.  Yet today, we see the evenhanded administration of justice being threatened at every turn.

Nan Aron
Even before the shutdown, even before the sequester, our justice system was in crisis. The reason will be familiar to everyone in this room—politically-motivated obstruction.  Today’s budget crisis is appalling, but it’s important to understand that it is just one more manifestation of the relentless attacks on the courts and their ability to effectively and efficiently dispense justice that have characterized the last five years.

As of today, more than 90 federal court judgeships sit vacant—that’s more than one in 10 federal judgeships across the country.  The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts has deemed 39 of those vacancies “judicial emergencies,” meaning there are simply not enough judges to handle the caseload in those courts.
 
When there are too few judges, the wait for justice can be unbearable.  Individuals and businesses often have to wait months and even years to stand up for their rights in court.  Memories may fade, witnesses may die, financial and personal calamities may be compounded.

For example, in the Eastern District of California, which was home to two judicial emergencies until one was finally filled in March, it took nearly four years for a civil case to get to trial.  With waits like those, victims too often give up on ever seeing justice served.

Republican obstruction at every step of the judicial selection process is to blame.  This obstruction takes many forms:  Republican senators refuse to work with the President to recommend nominees for vacancies in their states. Some refuse to return “blue slips” for nominees they previously supported—as we’ve recently seen in Florida. Votes are delayed for months, even on noncontroversial nominees, while a huge number of nominees are filibustered. 

The games being played with the budget will do enormous damage to our system of justice, but those problems are being piled on top of a mountain of dysfunction that already exists.

In Texas, for example, there are currently nine federal judicial vacancies without nominees, six of which are judicial emergencies.  One of those judicial emergencies is Judge Furgeson’s seat, which he vacated nearly five years ago.  If you add up the time those nine seats have been vacant, it amounts to more than 15 years.  Each day, each month, each year without a judge means justice is being denied to the people of Texas.

Yet the Texas senators—one of whom, Ted Cruz, will be familiar to anyone following the government shutdown—are all too happy to let these benches sit empty.  The judicial selection commission they set up to recommend nominees for the vacant district court seats has not even started interviewing candidates. 

And now we’ve added the sequester and the shutdown to this already untenable situation.  Court personnel, Department of Justice lawyers, and federal defenders have been furloughed and downsized.  Despite growing caseloads, court staffing levels are at their lowest since 1999.  Many civil cases are on hold. 

This will only get worse as the shutdown persists. More court staff could face furloughs, and judges will be forced to devote scarce resources to their criminal dockets, slamming the brakes on the civil justice system. 
The upshot is that plaintiffs seeking to vindicate civil rights, collect disability benefits, resolve business disputes, recover lost wages, or prevent some imminent environmental harm will be stuck in a holding pattern.

The impact on indigent criminal defendants—some of the most vulnerable members of our society—has been particularly dire.  About 90 percent of federal criminal defendants require court-appointed counsel to satisfy their constitutional right to adequate representation.  But the sequester has forced Federal Public Defender offices, which were already stretched tight, to cut and furlough their ranks, and the shutdown promises more of the same.

In August, former Ohio Federal Public Defender Steven Nolder wrote on AFJ’s Justice Watch blog about why he fired himself rather than having to sacrifice his staff attorneys to the sequester.  As Nolder wrote, “If the intention is to dismantle the ‘gold standard’ of our nation’s public defense systems, our lawmakers are succeeding.”

In fact, the status of our entire justice system as the world’s “gold standard” is at risk. 

When the courts and the entire judicial system are starved for funds, justice is weakened.  But when that harsh reality is combined with a court system already reeling from the effects of political gamesmanship and endless obstruction, we jeopardize not just the ability of courts to resolve disputes and dispense justice, but faith in our democratic system itself.

 If we are to be a beacon for people all over the world who long for justice, the obstruction must end.

Thank you, and I am happy to answer questions at the appropriate time.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Previewing First Monday: Cases to watch in the Supreme Court’s coming term

UPDATE, Oct. 7, 2013: Our full report on the current term is available here.

Much of the government still may be shut down on Monday, but the Supreme Court will be open for business.  Every year, the first Monday in October ushers in a new Supreme Court term, during which the nine justices of the Supreme Court will decide critical constitutional and statutory questions that will shape the future of our rights and our everyday lives.

Chief Justice John Roberts
Last term, the Roberts Court continued its trend of favoring corporate and other powerful interests over those of everyday Americans.  The conservative bloc of five justices shielded generic-drug manufacturers from liability for harm caused by their drugs, curbed  access to justice for consumers by making it more difficult to litigate against big business, and greatly restricted the ability of individuals facing workplace discrimination to bring  claims against their employers.

This term the Court will be deciding issues affecting corporate accountability, abortion rights, racial discrimination, affirmative action,  rights of criminal defendants, human rights, separation of powers, separation of church and state, and more.  They will be answering questions like:

●How easily may the police search our homes or our cars?
● What are the rights of the indigent when it comes to effective counsel and fair sentencing?
● What recourse do consumers have when they are harmed by corporations?
● When can people who have been discriminated against seek redress in the courts?

Alliance for Justice will release our full report previewing the 2013-2014 Supreme Court term on Monday.  Today, we highlight just a few of the cases we’re following.

Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action:  In 2006 the state of Michigan put affirmative action to a vote.  As a result, voters passed Proposal 2, which amended the state constitution to prohibit race- and sex-based affirmative action in public-university admissions.   The constitutional amendment went so far as to bar university admission officials from even considering whether to use race as a relevant factor in admission.

As a result, a student who wants her race to be considered in admission must seek an amendment to the state constitution, but a student who wants the university to consider something like the fact that her father and grandfather attended the same school may petition the regents directly.  As the Sixth Circuit held, the voter-initiated ban violated equal protection because it “unconstitutionally alters Michigan’s political structure by impermissibly burdening racial minorities.”  If the Supreme Court were to reverse the Sixth Circuit’s decision, it would severely limit backers of racial diversity seeking recourse through the political process.

Mount Holly v. Mount Holly Gardens Citizens in Action:  In this case, the Supreme Court will consider whether individuals suing for discrimination under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) can sue based on a “disparate impact” theory—in which a policy that seems to be race-neutral has such a strong, negative effect on particular groups of minorities that the effect of the law constitutes discrimination—or whether they must prove that there was an intent to discriminate.

When the Court agreed to hear the case, 11 circuit courts had found that the FHA was meant to apply to discrimination based on disparate impact, despite a lack of explicit text to that effect.  Not a single circuit court has found otherwise.

While the case was pending, the Department of Housing and Urban Development even promulgated a rule stating that the FHA is violated by disparate impact discrimination, and the Solicitor General advocated against the Supreme Court hearing the case.

Nonetheless, the Supreme Court accepted the case.  A decision striking down disparate impact theory under the FHA could have dire consequences for the enforcement of many civil rights statutes.

McCullen v. Coakley:  This case, where the Supreme Court will revisit the constitutionality of buffer zone laws outside of clinics where abortions are performed, may have broad implications for women’s safety and access to reproductive services.  In the 2000 case Hill v. Colorado, the Supreme Court upheld Colorado’s “buffer zone” law, which created a 100-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics that protesters cannot cross.  The zones are needed to prevent patients and staff from being harassed and intimidated.

The buffer zone law in McCullen is even more modest:  it mandates a 35-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics in Massachusetts, and allows clinic employees and representatives, law enforcement officials, and passers-by to enter the buffer zone.  Opponents urge the Court to strike the law down as a violation of the First Amendment, while supporters argue such laws are necessary to protect the safety of patients accessing clinics.  Although this case is very similar to the decade-old precedent upholding a similar and more restrictive law, one thing has changed since 2000:  the makeup of the Supreme Court.

Unite Here Local 335 v. Mulhall: In order to avoid the strife and recrimination that sometimes accompanies efforts to unionize a workplace, unions and employers often enter into “neutrality agreements.” These agreements set ground rules for organizing where both sides make promises and concessions.

Although such agreements are common and viewed as a useful tool by both labor and management, they are being challenged by anti-union forces.

Based on an obscure legal theory, the Eleventh Circuit held that neutrality agreements violate an anti-bribery statute from 1947 that forbids employers from paying any money or other valuables to labor unions.  If the Supreme Court affirms the Eleventh Circuit and finds against neutrality agreements, it could mean the end to one of labor’s most powerful and successful organizing tools.

These cases represent just a few of the many cases the Court will hear this term that will have important consequences for all of us.  In addition to these cases, the Court could:

• Provide police with a loophole to conduct a warrantless search of a defendant’s home despite his or her explicit objections;
• Severely impair criminal defendants’ ability to receive a fair trial and a just sentence;
• Make it easier for corporate interests to escape accountability for harming  consumers;
• Drastically curb  the president of authority to appoint officials to vital government positions;
• Weaken the constitutional wall between church and state; and

Eliminate limits on aggregate direct contributions to candidates and party committees.

Read our full report on all of the cases Alliance for Justice is following.