Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Our Corporate Courts

Speaking of the ExxonMobil case, Left in Alabama has an excellent post about our pro-business Supreme Court. Two Alabama newspapers have reported that the ExxonMobil ruling is not the only heavily pro-business judgment to come down recently from Alabama's highest court.

Not long ago, right-wing types called Alabama "tort hell" because of large jury awards to victims of corporate wrongdoing. The Tuscaloosa News reports that Alabama now might be called "tort heaven." In addition to the ExxonMobil case, the court reversed a Public Service Commission regulatory decision and favored BellSouth Telecommunications.

Terry Butts, an attorney for the PSC who served on the Supreme Court from 1995-98, flat out says the court screwed up on the BellSouth case. "Perhaps the dangerous precedent here is that the court is substituting their judgment over the regulatory agency," Butts said. "And that essentially is not the law in Alabama because, historically, regulatory-agency decisions are given great deference by the courts."

The Florence Times Daily reports that the BellSouth ruling was worth about $18 million, which the PSC had ordered refunded to independent pay-phone companies.

David Lanoue, chair of the political science department at the University of Alabama summed it up: "If you elect Republicans to the court, then you can expect your ability to punish corporations for wrongdoing will be diminished. If you elect Democrats, then you can expect that people will have recourse when they're harmed, but some (lawsuits) will also be abused."

I applaud Butts and Lanoue for their public statements on this issue. But they don't go far enough. Here's the blunt truth: Our Republican-dominated appellate courts are corrupt. I will show it firsthand, in bold detail, in the Legal Schnauzer case. And it doesn't just involve big-money cases and corporate behemoths like Exxon and BellSouth. I got cheated on a case that didn't involve big money or a large corporation. But it involved an attorney who was tight with the state's GOP hierarchy, so justice took a distance backseat to "good ole boy" practices."

I strongly suspect that when we begin our review of the ExxonMobil case, we will find there was more going on than slightly favoring one party over the other. I suspect the ExxonMobil case wasn't even a close call; the trial-court ruling had, by law, to be upheld. But the law was not followed. And it certainly wasn't followed in my case.

Our appellate courts have left a trail of cheating the public, of violating their oath to uphold the law. And we will follow that trail and lay it out for all to see here at Legal Schnauzer.

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