LIAR PARADOX: Roberts v Consumer: Arbitration and Corporate America


Whatever Bush says is a lie? That MUST be a truth!

Friday, July 29, 2005

Roberts v Consumer: Arbitration and Corporate America

Many consumers don't realize that when we enter into a contract with corporations for services, from cable television to credit card services, pest control services, telephone services and even hospitals, we have waived our right to trial when we have signed those contracts. Many big employers require their employees to sign contracts with mandatory arbitration clauses to protect those businesses from being sued by its employees for unfair labor practices! Law firms such as Hogan and Hartson, the one that Roberts worked at in D.C., lead the way in advising their corporate clients as to the benefits of arbitration under consumer protection law.

Most arbitrators get the bulk of their business from repeat customers, the corporations themselves, and therefore favor the corporate interests during the arbitration process. Therefore the arbitrators browbeat the consumers into relenting.

Guess what? You never have an opportunity to litigate your issue before the courts. And when you leave the arbitration proceeding unsatisfied, you will never have the opportunity to appeal your case to higher courts.

Arbitration advocates argue that this is a less costly way of settling disputes. They are half right. It is less costly to resolve the disputes in arbitration for the corporations, but arbitration can cost up to 5000 times what it would cost a consumer or working class American to seek relief before our courts!

Most arbitrators cost around $400 per litigant per hour for arbitration. The attorney representing you before the arbitrator could cost around $200 per hour. So if the arbitration proceeding takes four hours, you will have to pay $2,400 in arbitration and attorney fees. And you probably will leave the process with a sour taste in your mouth and with a feeling of betrayal.

On the other hand, to bring a matter before our courts, the litigant pays a filing fee, anwhere from $12 to $150, depending on the state, county and type of claim you are bringing, along with approximately $200 per hour for your attorney. But guess what? If the consumer or worker wins in court, he can likely be awarded statutory attorneys' fees and punitive damages (punitive meaning punishment of the corporation for wrongdoing), and the losing corporation will be stuck with paying the court cost, including that filing fee I mentioned above.

Now under arbitration, win or lose, both parties are stuck with paying $400 an hour to the arbitrator, and on top of that are stuck with paying an hourly fee to their attorney for attorney's fees, so you're looking at at least $600 an hour for abritator and attorney fees, and as I mentioned, the arbitrators are basically extensions of the corporations themselves, and more than likely will rule in their favor over the consumer.

I'm not saying that abritration is inherently bad. Arbitration does serve its purpose between two parties of equal bargaining power, but a consumer does not have the same power as the corporation, and arbitration does not fit in consumer rights matters. It leaves too much room for conflicts of interest between arbitrators and corporations and deprives future consumers and workers of their rights to be treated fairly by corporations during day to day business transactions.

Arbitration between corporations and consumers further encourages less oversight and regulation by legislators because they are being done under the radar, taking advantage of a class of Americans out there that do not understand that they would have a better opportunity to equal justice in our court systems rather than under the hegemonic gavel of the corporation's arbitrator.

It's a corrupt deprivation of our constitutional rights, it's been going on for some time now, and Roberts' attorney experience reveals that he favors the arbitration process over our constitutional rights to trial.

In his capacity as attorney, Roberts has worked hard for corporations and against us little guys as consumers, workers, and inhabitants of Planet Earth. In Bragg v. West Virginia Coal, Roberts worked as a Private Attorney when he argued on behalf of National Coal for mountain top removal of coal, an extremely environmentally destructive method of removing coal from the Appalachian mountains, which has resulted in severe pollution of waters in the region, and which has caused serious asthma problems, sickness and death of the inhabitants of the Southeastern United States.

He has worked hard to erode the Americans with Disabilities Act, Affirmative Action, and other labor issues, he has worked to reduce federal spending on abortion clinics, and as Deputy Solicitor General, he filed an amicus brief on behalf of us, the American people, for harassment by anti-abortion activists of women at abortion clinics (see: BRAY V ALEXANDRIA WOMEN'S HEALTH CLINIC) and other right wing issues before the Supreme Court!

Click here for podcast of Roberts arguing on behalf of the anti-abortion activists in the name of the "People of the United States!!" before the Supreme Court. In this podcast you hear Roberts argue that harassment by anti-abortion activists is not an attack consisting of invidious discriminatory deprivation of women's rights. Note: The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Roberts' violent mob of anti-abortion activists.

I just wonder if Roberts would file an amicus brief on behalf of anti-war activists who were thrown in jail for criminal trespass for merely trying to talk to their U.S. Senator about his stance on the war in Iraq?

One could easily argue that anti-abortion activists should be classified as terrorists, seeing how several of them have bombed clinics, Olympic events and nightclubs. So if you want to argue like Karl Rove, you could claim that Roberts is a judicial activist that supports terrorist groups, merely by his vigorous support of the anti-abortion activists and their interference of women to get abortions, the issue which is the subject of the Bray Supreme Court Case.

Quoted in Legal Times, Roberts says, "private litigants in the Supreme Court gain significant advantage when the United States supports their position as Amicus Curiae."

Yep, Roberts just has a face of innocence but underneath that innocent cute little baby face is the sinister workings of a cog in the big business/religious right's steamroll over Middle America.

***sidenote: I talked with a U of Illinois law professor about the arbitration fiasco and consumers rights and he told me what the consumers should do to prevent waiving their rights to trial: Before signing a contract that has an arbitration clause in it, scratch out the arbitration clause and write "I do not agree to waive my rights to trial via arbitration should a dispute arise." MAKE A COPY OF THAT CONTRACT AND KEEP IT FOR YOUR RECORDS.

Hopefully, in my lifetime, someone will argue the Constitutionality of mandatory arbitration clauses in consumer and employment contracts before the Supreme Court. With justices like John Roberts, Jr. and Clarence Thomas, I just don't see how that Supreme Court will rule in our favor, on this, an issue which affects the very nature of American Constitutional rights to trial for redress of grievances.

For more information about arbitration clauses and consumer rights, please check out The National Consumer Law Center

And the American Constitution Society

See also:


At 4:22 PM, Blogger carla said...

Fascinating post. I wish I had time to go through it more carefully and comment more completely.

Welcome to the Progressive Women Bloggers webring.

At 4:12 PM, Anonymous observer said...

I heard that Roberts is also against affirmative action and civil rights. Banana, you might want to do a post about that subject on your blog...

Here is an EXCELLENT link:

At 7:51 PM, Blogger Johnny said...

Wow - what a thorough piece. You won't get many righties commenting on it, as you use big words and describe subtle nuances (sorry, I just love to take a poke at them whenever possible).

Seriously, it was Roberts' love affair with corporate rights that punched his ticket into the Bush Regime. I am afraid he is one of the quiet ones that your mother always warned you about -- you know, the quiet ones are the most dangerous ones.

I recently read that the Family Research Council (right-wing pro-lifers) gave Roberts a pass even though his firm had backed a gay rights case. The rationale was that since Roberts only spent 5 billable hours on the gay clients, he wasn't really responsible for the firm's actions. Now, if the FRC gives Roberts such leeway in a gay rights case, you know they are making an extraordinary exception... the question is: why?


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