Too Big To Fail, white collar crime, sovereign immunity, bailouts, paid off politicians and private prisons all add to the legal inequality causing the sudden awakening of the Occupy Wall Street movement. While monetary control of our court system caused the changes leading to legal inequality, lawsuits in the same court system could reverse the damage.
“Experience has shown that even under the best forms [of government] those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.”
America was founded under the basis of equal treatment under the law. Over the years the rich and powerful have become immunized while the powerless are prosecuted with increasing frequency. So frequent, in fact, that we have become the world’s largest and one of its harshest penal states.
Our system has become so corrupt and harsh that the average American cannot afford competent legal counsel. Thus, one is put at the mercy of an unforgiving system that regularly punishes with lengthy prison terms even for trivial infractions.
We understand that in any competition each competitor must compete by standard and equal guidelines. If one person gets a head start, the results are not fair. We cannot recognize the winner as legitimate.
Americans are waking up to the fact that the rich and powerful are not playing by the same rules. The laws do not apply to them. They are getting a head start and taking shortcuts along the way at our expense. They even profit from your incarceration by investing in the private prisons that keep you in your place and them in theirs.
Tim Noah described the process:
“During the late 1980s and the late 1990s, the United States experienced two unprecedentedly long periods of sustained economic growth — the ‘seven fat years’ and the ‘long boom.’ Yet from 1980 to 2005, more than 80% of total increase in Americans’ income went to the top 1%. Economic growth was more sluggish in the aughts, but the decade saw productivity increase by about 20%. Yet virtually none of the increase translated into wage growth at middle and lower incomes, an outcome that left many economists scratching their heads.”
One of the main disagreements with the British King was his ability to immunize anyone he pleased making them essentially ‘above the law’. Sovereign immunity laws in this country effectively do the same thing.
In Lexington we can see the disparity in sentences by comparing the Airport board members, the Library fiasco and the case of Glenn Doneghy or the false arrests and corruption in the Pleas Lucian Kavanaugh cases.
Nationally, banking institutions were caught red-handed engaging in systematic fraud to foreclose on people’s homes and the Obama administration acted to shield them from meaningful consequences.
A list of court cases that contributed to this legal inequality:
•Trustees of Dartmouth College v. Woodward (1819)
Corporate charters are ruled to have constitutional protection.
•Munn v. State of Illinois (1876)
Property cannot be used to unduly expropriate wealth from a community (later reversed).
•Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad (1886)
The substance of this case (a tax dispute) is of little significance, but this fateful case subsequently was cited as precedent for granting corporations constitutional rights. Several articles linked above detail how this happened.
•Noble v. Union River Logging Railroad Company (1893)
A corporation first successfully claims Bill of Rights protection (5th Amendment)
•Lochner v. New York (1905)
States cannot interfere with “private contracts” between workers and corporation — marks the ascension of “substantive due process” (later mitigated after President Roosevelt threatend to add Justices to the Court).
•Liggett v. Lee (1933)
Chain store taxes prohibited as violation of corporations’ “due process” rights.
•Ross v. Bernhard (1970)
7th Amendment right (jury trial) granted to corporations.
•U.S. v. Martin Linen Supply (1976)
A corporation successfully claims 5th Amendment protection against double jeopardy.
•Marshall v. Barlow (1978)
The Court creates 4th Amendment protection for corporations — federal inspectors must obtain a search warrant for a safety inspection on corporate property.
•First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti (1978)
Struck down a Massachusetts law that banned corporate spending to influence state ballot initiatives, even spending by corporate political action committees. Spending money to influence politics is now a corporate “right.” Justice Rehnquist’s dissent is a recommended read.
Related articles: * Ballot Initiatives Hijacked * Behind the Powell Memo
•Central Hudson Gas v. Public Service Comm. of NY (1980)
This oft-cited decision concerns a state ban on ads promoting electricity consumption.
•Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce (1990)
Upheld limits on corporate spending in elections.
•Nike v Kasky (2002)
Nike claims California cannot require factual accuracy of the corporation in its PR campaigns. California’s Supreme Court disagreed. The U.S. Supreme Court took up the case on appeal, then issued a non-ruling in 2003. See our comprehensive archive on this case.
•Randall v Sorrell (2006) While this case dealt with the legality of Vermont’s contribution limits, not corporations directly, it carried important implications for corporate political influence, as Daniel Greenwood detailed in our amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court.
•Citizens United v Federal Election Commission (2010). In a 5-4 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court overrules Austin and a century of federal legislative precedent to proclaim broad electioneering rights for corporations.
Financial sector compensation, CEO compensation and professional compensation all increase the rich and powerful’s ability to keep us in our place and the laws in their favor. The average American cannot afford an advanced degree or seven additional years of college that it takes to reach this level. While increasingly those with the degress dole out most of the work to subordinates such as paralegals, nurses and aids.
The legal system and thus the legal and financial inequality in this country can be fixed. It will take lawyers to stand up to the plate and do what’s right. Protesters will need to be represented. Some will need pro bono work.
Beyond that, legal precedents need to be made and some reversed.
It was lawyers who took on Bernie Madoff. Lawyers fought Wells Fargo and got $200 million in refunds for overcharges to customers. Ernst & Young have found themselves in a lawsuit for overstating the value of the company thus defrauding investors. Bank of America has also found itself in a courtroom over excessive overdraft fees. This resulted in a settlement for the customers as well.
Gordon Gibb states on Lawyers and Settlements:
Thus, when the #OccupyWallStreet participants come in from the cold, the attorneys and those in the legal profession will be at the ready to represent their interests in the courts of law—the place where the Occupy Wall Street message has the most value and holds the most promise for real change.
So, if you want to take back Lexington, New York, Wall Street, Oakland, Boston, Brussels and the world…we must take back the courtrooms first.
Who will stand up and represent the interests of the American people?
Copyright ©Christopher Hignite 2011 All Rights Reserved. This article cannot be copied for email or other websites.
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