Judicial Conference: To Whom it May Concern

to whom it may concern

The evidence has been building for years that federal courts are hostile to discrimination plaintiffs, and that corporate plaintiffs fare much better than individual plaintiffs.

The U.S. Courts were created under Article III of the Constitution to administer justice fairly and impartially.  So  it doesn’t seem right that federal judges appear to be biased, either consciously or unconsciously, against the discrimination victims and the individual plaintiffs who appear before them.

Individual federal judges are working to improve the operation of federal courts but this obviously is a systemic problem that deserves a systemic solution. Shouldn’t the entity that runs our nation’s federal court system be working to insure that our courts are independent and unbiased forums for all.

It seems the Judicial Conference of the United States runs our federal court system. The Conference describes itself as the “national policy making body” for U.S. courts and it is charged with “studying the operation and effect of the general rules of practice and procedure in the federal courts.”  The conference appears to be a 16-member body (with two observers) that is run by Chief Justice John G. Roberts. It includes the Chief Judge of the Court of International Trade and a district judge from each regional judicial circuit. There are no citizen representatives.

How do you contact the Judicial Conference? The web site of the Judicial Conference lacks  contact information, stating: “Requests for consideration of items by the Judicial Conference of the United States or one of its committees should be directed to the Director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts.” There is no contact information or link to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts but I did a web search and found it here.

Nothing on the AOC landing page indicates how to contact the director of the AOC or what other individual(s) might receive a complaint about apparent systemic discrimination in federal courts. At the bottom of the page there is a “contact us” tab that leads to the AOC’s Washington D.C. address, the phone number of the “Public Information Officer” and a “Send us a Message” form. The “Send us a Message” form states: “Have a comment about uscourts.gov? Find a broken link? Need help finding a publication or statistics? Send us a message by filling out the form below. If you’d like a response, be sure to include your email address.”

I don’t have a comment, didn’t find a broken link and I’m not trying to find a publication. My problem deals with the nationwide apparent systemic unfairness of our federal courts toward discrimination victims and the apparent preferential treatment accorded to corporations. I want to know what, if anything, the leadership of our nation’s federal courts is doing to insure that these courts are independent and unbiased forums for all. Still, I left the following message on the AOC’s web site;

To Whom it May Concern:

I don’t have a comment, haven’t found a broken link, and don’t need a publication or statistics. I am contacting your because I think there is a major systemic problem in our federal court system that has existed for years. There is significant research showing that federal judges dismiss employment discrimination cases at a far higher rate than other types of cases, and that they accord preferential treatment to corporate plaintiffs. This doesn’t seem fair. What, if anything, are you doing to address this? Oh, I guess I do want a statistic after-all. What is the racial composition of the conference?  Thanks! Patricia G. Barnes

I might have directed them to my book, Betrayed: The Legalization of Age Discrimination in the Workplace, which contains several suggestions for improving federal courts, but I don’t want to seem impudent.

AOC Public  Information Officer, Karen Redmond said the Judicial Conference ordinarily addresses issues that are brought to its attention by the various federal circuits.  She said American citizens who have a problem normally go to the federal circuit court in their geographical area to seek redress.

Frankly, I won’t hold my breath waiting for the  answer from the Judicial Conference.  I get the feeling from its web site that the Judicial Conference isn’t keen on citizen input. But if I do get a response, I’ll be sure to tell you.

More Evidence Fed. Cts Hostile to Individual Plaintiffs

Supreme Court Building

New evidence shows that a 2009 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that allows judges to dismiss cases based on their “common sense” has led to a sharp increase in the dismissal lawsuits filed by individuals  but virtually no change in the dismissal rate of lawsuits filed by corporations.

The New York Times this week reported the results of a new study by Alexander A. Reinert, a professor at Cardoza Law School at Yeshiva University in New York, who represented the losing side in  Ashcroft v. Iqbal, the case that led to the Court’s  5-4 ruling.

The study found the rate of dismissal of cases brought by individuals who are represented by lawyers has risen from 42 percent to 59 percent since the Iqbal decision. Employment discrimination and civil rights claims were hit particularly hard. Meanwhile, the rate of dismissal remained flat for corporate plaintiffs – rising only one point to 38 percent.

Prior to Iqbal, a pleading could not be dismissed “unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim.” Post Iqbal, judges may use their own “judicial experience and common sense” to determine whether claimants have set forth facts sufficient to “nudge[] their claims across the line from conceivable to plausible.” When a case is dismissed at this early stage, the plaintiff is denied the opportunity to engage in discovery, which may be necessary to elicit facts  to support a claim.

Iqbal is a Pakistani Muslim who was picked up on immigration charges in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.  He claimed he was subjected to humiliating searches and vicious beatings during his detention and filed a lawsuit against then Attorney General John Ashcroft and then-FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III. The court dismissed Iqbal’s complaint, denying him the opportunity to obtain court documents and statements through pre-trial discovery.

Other studies also show that a pro-business majority on the U.S. Supreme Court has made it much more difficult for victims of employment discrimination – especially age discrimination plaintiffs – to sue their employers.

New Blog on Age Discrimination in Employment

Age Discrimination in Employment .com

My interest in the problem of age discrimination in recent months has increasingly dominated this blog, which I created about five years ago to address the separate and equally important issue of workplace bullying and abuse.  Therefore, I have created a new blog called Age Discrimination in Employment.  Recent articles from this blog on the topic of age discrimination, and  future articles about age discrimination, will be posted at AgeDiscriminationinEmployment.com. Meanwhile, this blog, When the Abuser Goes to Work, will continue to feature articles relating to general workplace discrimination, bullying and abuse on this blog.

Fair Pay for White-Collar Workers

justice-scale-761665_1

Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez has submitted a proposed rule addressing employer abuse of the white-collar overtime exemption in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review.

The FSLA was passed in 1938 and established the 40-hour workweek. The white-collar exemption allows employers to deny overtime compensation to executive, administrative, professional, and outside sales employees.

President Obama issued a directive last March ordering Perez to proposed a revision of the FLSA  “white-collar exemption” to address employer abuse and to increase to the rule’s salary basis test which has not been changed since 2004.

The details of Perez’ proposal have not been disclosed. He is expected to recommend increasing the number of people entitled to overtime wages by making it more difficult to qualify for the white-collar exemption.

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