- 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.
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