The chamber’s success rate is but one indication of the Roberts court’s leanings on business issues. A new study, prepared for The New York Times by scholars at Northwestern University and the University of Chicago, analyzed some 1,450 decisions since 1953. It showed that the percentage of business cases on the Supreme Court docket has grown in the Roberts years, as has the percentage of cases won by business interests.
The Roberts court, which has completed five terms, ruled for business interests 61 percent of the time, compared with 46 percent in the last five years of the court led by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, who died in 2005, and 42 percent by all courts since 1953. Those differences are statistically significant, the study found…..
A study prepared by the Constitutional Accountability Center, a liberal group, examined the center’s success rate in the Supreme Court. It found that the positions supported by the chamber prevailed 68 percent of the time in the Roberts court, compared with 56 percent in the last 11 years of the Rehnquist court, a period without changes in the court’s membership….
Doug Kendall, president of the Constitutional Accountability Center, [said] the numbers proved that the Roberts court increasingly sided with corporate interests. He also said the study documented “a sharp ideological divide that did not exist before 2005.” In the last 11 terms of the Rehnquist court, the five more conservative justices voted for the chamber’s position 61 percent of the time, while the four more liberal justices voted for it 48 percent of the time.
In the first five terms of the Roberts court, the corresponding bloc of five more conservative justices voted for the chamber’s position 74 percent of the time, and the four more liberal justices 43 percent of the time.
Lewis Powell, generally considered a “moderate” on the court, but at the time a corporate cadre, wrote a strategy memo encouraging corporations to argue systematically in the courts for free speech and other rights like any other “persons” (as part of the vast corporate assault on democracy he recommended). We see how this systematic perversion of the Bill of Rights was a strategy prescribed by the supreme court itself, as it were . The Citizens United case is just the latest and most visibly egregious of its toxic fruits.
The chamber now files briefs in most major business cases. The side it supported in the last term won 13 of 16 cases. Six of those were decided with a majority vote of five justices, and five of those decisions favored the chamber’s side. One of the them was Citizens United, in which the chamber successfully urged the court to guarantee what it called “free corporate speech” by lifting restrictions on campaign spending….
The Chamber of Commerce spent tens of millions of dollars in the recent midterm elections, mostly to help Republican candidates. It says that it has 300,000 members, businesses and organizations “of every size, sector and region,” and that its spending furthered the interests of some three million businesses, most of them small ones.
But the chamber’s mission is by no means limited to the elected branches of government. “A central function of the chamber,” it told the Supreme Court in a recent brief, “is to represent the interests of its members in important matters before the courts.”
The vehicle for that is the litigation unit that was envisioned by Mr. Powell, the National Chamber Litigation Center, which says it is “the voice of business in the courts on issues of national concern to the business community.
From 1952 to 1981….former solicitors general usually became judges, joined law schools or worked as public servants. In the next 15 years, they split their time between academic and legal work, often consulting with law firms with specialized Supreme Court practices.
Starting in 1996, every former solicitor general, with one exception, has gone on to supervise a Supreme Court practice at a major law firm, earning as much as $5 million a year. The exception is Justice Elena Kagan, who joined the court in August.
These specialists make their livings representing business interests, and they have used the skills they honed in government service to achieve notable successes in the Supreme Court.
Hence it is, that there can be but few men in the society who will have sufficient skill in the laws to qualify them for the stations of judges. And making the proper deductions for the ordinary depravity of human nature, the number must be still smaller of those who unite the requisite integrity with the requisite knowledge. These considerations apprise us, that the government can have no great option between fit character; and that a temporary duration in office, which would naturally discourage such characters from quitting a lucrative line of practice to accept a seat on the bench, would have a tendency to throw the administration of justice into hands less able, and less well qualified, to conduct it with utility and dignity.
David L. Franklin, a law professor at DePaul University, wrote in another article in The Santa Clara Law Review last year that the chamber had been quite successful in the Roberts court in four of what he considered five main categories of cases — punitive damages, arbitration of consumer and other disputes, the standards for early dismissal of lawsuits, and federal pre-emption of state laws governing injury and other suits. The “conspicuous exception,” he said, was employment discrimination…….
Even in employment discrimination cases, however, the available numbers are subject to two interpretations. True, the Roberts court’s 16 decisions have been evenly divided, according to an analysis by Professor Epstein at Northwestern. But the Rehnquist court ruled in favor of people claiming discrimination more often — 64 percent of the time.
A prominent Supreme Court advocate who often represents businesses, Maureen E. Mahoney, chose her words carefully when asked at a chamber news briefing in September whether the Roberts court was especially receptive to the kinds of arguments pressed by corporations.
“The best court for getting a fair hearing on those issues,” she said, “is the Supreme Court.”