You are here

Law & Justice

Law & Justice Logo

Oil in the Courts

  • No matter how much BP spends on clean up efforts, ultimately the accountability of BP and the other companies involved in the Gulf of Mexico disaster -- Transocean and Halliburton -- will be determined in the courts.
  • A New Debate on the Court and the Constitution
  • The Corporate Courts: Fifth Circuit Judges Are Marinating in Oil

Michael B. Keegan, People For the American Way

No matter how much BP spends on clean up efforts, ultimately the accountability of BP and the other companies involved in the Gulf of Mexico disaster -- Transocean and Halliburton -- will be determined in the courts.

Think the courts don't have much impact on our everyday lives?

In 2008, the Supreme Court gave Exxon Mobil a $2 billion gift by reducing the punitive damage award from $2.5 billion to $507.5 million for the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. The Roberts Court's willingness to invent a rule capping punitive damages against Exxon does not bode well for those hoping to hold BP accountable for this most recent disaster.

As detailed in our report, "Rise of the Corporate Court," the Court's decision in Exxon Shipping v. Baker was part of a larger trend of the Court's conservative bloc of justices bending over backwards to distort, reinterpret and even rewrite the law in order to rule in favor of big corporate interests over the rights of ordinary Americans. And this extreme corporatist model of judging is encouraged wholeheartedly by Republican lawmakers.

The business lobby and Republican Senators are trying to keep Rhode Island environmental lawyer John McConnell off the federal bench because he represented that state in a lawsuit to get a lead paint manufacturer to clean up the damage caused by its toxic product. (In that case, a jury awarded the state $2.4 billion in cleanup costs but the Rhode Island Supreme Court later overturned the verdict.)

A lawyer representing BP in current and pending litigation over the Gulf leak was, up until last year, a justice on the Texas Supreme Court -- a court that was friendly to BP in litigation over a 2005 major refinery fire. Right now BP is trying to have all litigation heard in Texas, where even federal courts pay deference to the oil industry, and pushing for specific, industry-sympathetic judges.

If we are to avoid more catastrophes at the hands of Big Oil and other corporate polluters, these companies must be held accountable by the courts for the environmental and public health disasters they cause.

It's imperative that President Obama nominate -- and the Senate confirm -- federal judges, including Supreme Court Justices, who understand that protecting the constitutionally guaranteed rights of individuals is more important than doing favors for corporations. Governors who appoint judges need to do the same. And, in places where voters elect judges, citizens must be diligent about casting their votes for judges who appreciate the law's impact on regular people and who won't contort the law to help corporations and the powerful.

Related:

Michael B. Keegan wrote a piece for the Huffington Post yesterday (June 3) titled, "A New Debate on the Court and the Constitution," which discusses how thanks to the Roberts Court's recent string of pro-corporate decisions, culminating in the infamous Citizens United v. FEC, progressives have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to take back the debate on the Supreme Court.

The Corporate Courts: Fifth Circuit Judges Are Marinating in Oil, Nan Aron, Alliance for Justice

  • Alliance for Justice has issued a report, "Judicial Gusher: The Fifth Circuit's Ties to Oil," detailing the extensive connections between these three judges and their Fifth Circuit brethren and the oil and gas industry.
  • Slick Justice? More on the Fifth Circuit and Its Ties to Oil
  • 5th Circuit Judges in Drilling Moratorium Case Have Oil Ties, Report Says
  • Majority Of Judges Hearing Drilling Moratorium Appeal Attended Oil-Funded Junkets

Section(s): 

Change? Obama's "Crimmigration" Policies Mimic Bush's

  • The Obama administration has chosen to follow its predecessor in pursuing the criminal prosecution of unauthorized immigrants for minor, nonviolent offenses.
  • DHS under the Obama administration is needlessly clogging the federal courts with people who have not committed any serious crime.

Walter Ewing, Immigration Impact

It would seem that the Obama administration has chosen to mimic its predecessor in its zeal to pursue the criminal prosecution of unauthorized immigrants for minor, nonviolent offenses such as crossing the border. As the Associated Press reported recently, “federal prosecutions of immigrants soared to new levels this spring, as the Obama administration continued an aggressive enforcement strategy championed under President George W. Bush.”

However, the IPC has noted that this “dramatic increase in criminal prosecutions can be traced in large part to Operation Streamline, a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) program which mandates federal criminal prosecution and subsequent imprisonment of all persons caught crossing the border unlawfully.” Yet large numbers of these federal immigration prosecutions “have focused on non-violent border crossers.” In other words, DHS under the Obama administration is needlessly clogging the federal courts with people who have not committed any serious crime.

More...

Related:

Federal prosecutions of immigrants soar, Garance Burke, Associated Press, on MSNBC
Obama continues enforcement tactic championed under Bush

Section(s): 

Facing the Future as a Media Felon on the Gulf Coast

Gulf Coast now a BP police state as law enforcement conspires with BP to intimidate journalists
Media, boaters could face criminal penalties by entering oil cleanup 'safety zone'

Georgianne Nienaber, Reader Supported News

Submitted by Evergreene Digest Contributing Editor Lydia Howell

God forbid you should see this.

The United States Coast Guard considers me a felon now, because I "willfully" want to obtain more photos like these to show you the utter devastation occurring in Barataria Bay, Louisiana, as a result of the BP oil catastrophe. If the Coast Guard has its way, all media, not just independent writers and photographers like myself and Jerry Moran, will be fined $40,000 and receive Class D felony convictions for providing the truth about oiled birds and dolphins, in addition to broken, filthy, unmanned boom material that is trapping oil in the marshlands and estuaries. We don't have $40,000 to spare, and have had to scrape the bottoms of our checkbooks as is to hire boats to take us to the devastation the Coast Guard, under the direction of BP, does not want you to see.

More...
Related:

Gulf Coast now a BP police state as law enforcement conspires with BP to intimidate journalists, Mike Adams, Natural News

  • This is scary stuff, folks. Now we have a police state in America. No one can deny it. You can't argue the point anymore. It is documented fact, and it's happening right now in the Gulf Coast.
  • First Amendment suspended in the Gulf of Mexico as spill cover-up goes Orwellian
  • White House Enacts Rules Inhibiting Media From Covering Oil Spill

Media, boaters could face criminal penalties by entering oil cleanup 'safety zone' Chris Kirkham, New Orleans Times-Picayune | LA

Section(s): 

Is Health Care Reform Constitutional?

Although challenges to the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act are valuable for inspiring dialogue within and outside the legal community, they are unlikely to succeed in the face of decades of Supreme Court case law.

Sallie Sanford, Jurist

The ink had barely dried on the president’s signature when the lawsuits commenced. Three lawsuits filed in federal court now challenge the constitutionality of key provisions in the new health care reform law.

If a court does reach the merits in these lawsuits, it will almost certainly uphold the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Under existing case law, Congress has appropriate authority under either its power to regulate interstate commerce or its power to tax and spend for the general welfare. To find otherwise would require a significant shift in Constitutional jurisprudence.

More...

Section(s): 

Pages