CAC’s Brief explains the Constitutional mandate to preserve state laws protecting consumers from corporations’ unfair contracts

The story of the U.S. Supreme Court’s new Term so far has been its business-heavy docket.  Yesterday, Constitutional Accountability Center filed a brief in one of the centerpiece cases of that docket, AT&T Mobility, LLC v. Concepcion.  The case pits the Court’s pro-federalism leanings – dating from the Rehnquist Court era – against a remarkable expansion of pro-corporate federal arbitration rules that help shield corporations from liability in federal and state courts.

Read CAC’s brief here:

“Concepcion will test whether the Court’s federalism principles are trumped by its favoritism toward corporate America,” said Doug Kendall, President of Constitutional Accountability Center.  “Concepcion should be an easy case,” Kendall said, “because state courts are vital in protecting the rights of American consumers, and the Federal Arbitration Act specifically preserves a critical role for state law.  No plausible reading of the text and history of the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause supports AT&T’s argument for broad preemption of state court rulings in this case.  A ruling for AT&T and the Chamber of Commerce in this case,” Kendall continued, “would only make it harder for Americans – consumers, injured people, employees, and those who have faced discrimination – to secure justice in the face of corporate misconduct.”

In a welcome trend over the past five years, an eclectic mix of Justices – including Justice Clarence Thomas and recently retired Justice John Paul Stevens – has steadily moved the Court to a version of preemption law that respects the critical role of states as the laboratories of American democracy.   Yet as CAC’s Chief Counsel, Elizabeth Wydra, said, “The ‘wild card’ in Concepcion is that it deals with arbitration, an area where the Court’s conservatives have been very aggressive in interpreting the Federal Arbitration Act to protect businesses from liability in both federal and state courts.”  Wydra added, “Hopefully, all the Justices will agree that the policy favoring arbitration, which the Court has read into the Federal Arbitration Act in recent cases, cannot trump the words of the Act itself or the text and history of the Constitution.”

CAC has already filed a brief in a second business case on the Supreme Court’s docket this Term – Williamson v. Mazda Motors of America – arguing that strong state-level vehicle safety requirements imposed on auto manufacturers are not preempted by weaker federal minimum standards.  Both cases are being heard in the wake of the Court’s infamous Citizens United decision, which exemplified  what a recent Constitutional Accountability Center study found is “a cohesive five-Justice majority on the Court [which] has produced victories for the [U.S. Chamber of Commerce] in 64% of cases overall, and 71% of closely divided cases.”