Corporations Are Robbing Us Of Our Right to a Fair Trial

Most Americans don't realize it, but our Seventh Amendment right to a fair jury trial against corporate wrongdoers has quietly been stripped from us. Instead, we are now shunted into a stacked-deck game called "Binding Mandatory Arbitration."

... today's process... it's the product of years of conceptual monkey-wrenching by corporate lobbyists, Congress, the Supreme Court and hired-gun lobbying firms looking to milk the system for steady profits. First and foremost, these fixers have turned a voluntary process into the exact opposite: mandatory. Let's look at this mess.

— Unlike courts, arbitration is not a public system, but a private business.

— Far from being neutral, "the third-party" arbitration firms are — get this! — usually hand-picked by the corporation involved in the case, chosen specifically because they have proven records of favoring the corporation.

— The corporation also gets to choose the city or town where the case is heard, allowing it to make the case inconvenient, expensive and unfair to individuals bringing a complaint.

— Arbitrators are not required to know the law relevant to the cases they judge or follow legal precedents.

— Normal procedural rules for gathering and sharing evidence and safeguarding fairness to both parties do not apply in arbitration cases.

— Arbitration proceedings are closed to the media and the public.

— Arbitrators need not reveal the reasons for their decisions, so they are not legally accountable for errors, and the decisions set no legal precedents for guiding future corporate conduct.

— Even if an arbitrator's decision is legally incorrect, it still is enforceable, carrying the full weight of the law.

— There is virtually no right to appeal an arbitrator's ruling.

That adds up to a kangaroo court! Who would choose such a rigged system? No one. Which is why corporate America has resorted to brute force and skullduggery to drag you into their arbitration wringer.

By "force," I mean practically every business relationship you have with a corporation (customer, employee, supplier, etc.) begins with you blindly signing away your right to go to court. Written in indecipherable legalese, these sneaky provisos are usually secluded in the tiny-type of pre-printed, take-it-or-leave-it, non-negotiable contracts.

By "you," I mean everyone one of us who: takes a job, gets a credit card, subscribes to cable TV, buys an insurance policy, rents an apartment, purchases nearly any new product (from cellphone to house), has a home remodeled or car repaired, enters a nursing home, becomes a franchisee or corporate supplier or signs up with a landscaping service.

If you seek justice because you've been gouged by your bank, discriminated against, sexually harassed, unfairly fired, cheated on wages, sold a shoddy product, denied health care coverage or otherwise harmed by a corporation, you'll most likely find that you're barred from the courthouse door. That document you unwittingly signed has shackled you to the corporation's own privatized court. [emphasis mine]

Tags: binding arbitration contracts

Views: 36

Replies to This Discussion

Hasn't there been some attempt to make binding arbitration provisions in those shrinkwrapped "take-it-or-leave-it" contracts unenforceable?

(Of course the politicians needed to have something like that pass are beholden to those same corporations. Perhaps some courageous judges could find them unconscionable and thus unenforceable.)

This over-writing of our constitutional rights, proves our government is subverting its people, and the law is arbitrarily being used to indenture its labor in service to special pay offs. No private contract at the duress of employment should remove a person from her or his constitutional protections, and rights to a public trial.  With liberty and justice for who?

I actually referred to this situation in my piece, "McDonalds, Hot Coffee ... and You," where I mentioned the conditions for arbitration for cell phone usage.  It seems we sign away our rights all the time because we want some convenience, whether it's a credit card or an iPhone or something else.  Also worth noting is that Senator from Minnesota Al Franken is fighting against these kinds of contracts.  How much headway he is making, I do not know.

Between tort reform and this kind of contract manipulation, it's getting to the point where corporations all but OWN US ... and don't be surprised if that's next.

I agree...We have been sold by our law makers.

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