U.S. Chamber of Commerce No “Friend of the Court”

Nice to see someone calling out the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which frequently inserts itself into national litigation as a “friend of the court.”

In reality, the Chamber is almost always an advocate for a dues paying corporate member and espouses a position that is anti-employee and anti-consumer. In 2014, I argued the Chamber was a federal court lobbyist.

According to Reuters, the firm of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein has opposed  the Chamber’s request to file an amicus or “friend of the court” brief in a case involving a challenge by Direct TV to the certification of a class action by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.  Lieff’s brief argues the Chamber, the Chamber’s lawyers, DirectTV and Direct TV’s lawyers are bound so closely together that even under a liberal reading of the definition of an amicus curiae, the Chamber cannot legitimately be regarded as a friend of the court.

“The Chamber is not merely a friend of the party, but essentially the party itself.” – Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein

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Support for American Workers is Hard to Find

Who is standing up for the rights of American workers?

GOP President Donald Trump and the GOP-led U.S. Congress seem to be determined to eliminate worker rights rather than to expand them. Trump has reversed a bevy of pro-labor measures that former Democratic President Barack Obama enacted on his own without Congressional backing. Meanwhile, workers continue to seethe about mostly Democratic trade policies that sent American jobs to other countries.

Labor unions are barely hanging on, despite the fact that unions pioneered many of the employment benefits that workers take for granted today. In 2016, the union rate for private sector workers was 6.4 percent – down from 20.1 percent in 1983.  Organized labor is currently battling a potentially crippling effort by Trump and the GOP to prevent unions from requiring nonmembers to pay representation fees.

It may be an understatement to say that advocacy of worker rights  does not appear to be high on the agendas of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and US. Department of Labor.

Under the Democratic administration of President Barack Obama,  the EEOC shifted its focus away from filing lawsuits and prosecuting employers who engaged in illegal discrimination. Instead, the EEOC is focused on providing free dispute resolution services to these very same employers. Mediation is often a lousy deal for discrimination victims, who walk away with a pittance to compensate for the loss of a decent job, but it’s always a great deal for employers, who avoid potentially catastrophic fees and damages stemming from a lawsuit.  Also, mediation is completely secret so other potential litigants are kept in the dark.  Meanwhile, the EEOC has for years ignored one of the most pressing civil rights issues of our day – blatant and epidemic age discrimination in hiring that is particularly devastating to older women, who suffer twice the poverty rate of men in their old age.  The EEOC received more than 20,000 age discrimination complaints in 2016; it  filed only TWO lawsuits with “age discrimination claims.” [Read more…]

Labor Day and the Problem with Government by Fiat

The  dysfunction of American government is on parade this Labor Day, as Republican President Donald Trump reverses labor advances instituted by his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama.

Trump, ostensibly to eliminate job-killing regulations, has overturned a bevy of Obama-era policies that represented a step forward for women and minority workers. Many of these rules were promulgated by Obama in the form of an executive order, which lacks the imprimatur of Congress and the assurance of permanence. Obama said he was forced to act unilaterally because Republicans wouldn’t cooperate with him.

Government by fiat causes cynicism, wastes government resources and leads to the suffering of vulnerable people

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Sen. Blumenthal v. Pres. Trump: Is Trump a Bully?

A sad series of tweets and counter-tweets this week have led to cries of bullying in our nation’s capitol.

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-CT, was quoted on television as calling for a law to prevent President Donald Trump from firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who has impaneled a grand jury and may be expanding his initial investigation into Russian interference in the election.  This prompted Trump to accuse Blumenthal of being “a phony Vietnam con artist.”

Blumenthal is a man of integrity with a record of distinguished public service… but he isn’t perfect. Some years ago, in the heat of politics, Blumenthal exaggerated his military experience. Blumenthal let voters in Connecticut believe that he had served in Vietnam. He was forced to call a press conference in 2010 and admit that while he served as a member of the Marines Corps Reserves from 1970-1976 he had never served overseas.  Blumenthal was emotional at the press conference and reportedly cried.

Trump, who got five draft deferments and never served in the military, has astutely observed that the Vietnam War flap is an acute embarrassment to Blumenthal. So Trump brings it up every time Blumenthal has the temerity to criticize Trump’s administration.  On Monday, he tweeted: “I think Senator Blumenthal should take a nice long vacation in Vietnam, where he lied about his service, so he can at least say he was there.”

A few months ago,  Blumenthal objected to Trump’s dismissal of FBI Director James Comey and Trump tweeted that Blumenthal had “cried like a baby and begged for forgiveness” at the 2010 press conference. The reference to “baby” appeared to be an attempt to demean Blumenthal’s manhood. In a gross overstatement, Trump also accused “‘Richie” of devising “one of the greatest military frauds in U.S. history.”

Blumenthal has vowed that Trump’s bullying won’t intimidate him ( though one worries it may deter some of Blumenthal’s less courageous and equally imperfect colleagues). And if anyone can stand up to Trump’s tweets, Blumenthal is up for the task.   “It’s not about me… Our national security and rule of law is at risk. And that’s where our focus should be. It is not about me,” he told The Hill.

Is Trump bullying Blumenthal? Not in the traditional sense of the word. Bullying is associated with a power differential. A bully has more power than his or her victim and uses that power to repeatedly harm the victim.  Blumenthal is not a 99-pound weakling.  Blumenthal is a powerful Democrat whose intent is clear – he knows the Special Prosecutor could severely damage Trump’s presidency. And Trump poses no threat to Blumenthal, who was elected to a second term in the Senate by Connecticut voters last year with the largest vote margin in the history of statewide elections in the state. [Read more…]