Corporate Accountability

RELEASE: In Advance of November’s Corporate Cases at Supreme Court CAC Compares Roberts and Burger Courts, Documents New Ideological Divide and Tilt Towards Chamber

CAC President Doug Kendall: “Justice Breyer is flat wrong to the extent he’s arguing the Chamber has always done well before the Court.”

Washington, DC – The U.S. Supreme Court’s business-heavy docket this term will come into focus during the first two weeks of November, when it will hear Williamson v. Mazda Motor and AT&T v. Concepcion – cases that directly concern the safety and fair treatment of American consumers. Although a study by Constitutional Accountability Center in June showed the pro-corporate leaning of the current Supreme Court, according to a published report earlier this month, Justice Stephen Breyer downplayed any pro-corporate tilt on the Court, saying “They’ve always done pretty well.”

Today, Constitutional Accountability Center released a follow-up study that helps sets the record straight. Titled, “A Tale of Two Courts: Comparing Corporate Rulings by the Roberts and Burger Courts,” CAC’s new study compared the years 2006-2010, since Justice Samuel Alito took the bench under Chief Justice John Roberts, to the terms 1981-1986, under former Chief Justice Warren Burger, before any of Court’s current conservative majority joined the bench.

Read the study here: http://theusconstitution.org/think-tank/issue-brief/tale-two-courts-comparing-corporate-rulings-roberts-and-burger-courts

“Justice Breyer is flat wrong to the extent he’s arguing the Chamber has always done well before the Court,” said Constitutional Accountability Center President Doug Kendall. “We studied the five years before any of the Court’s current conservatives joined the Court and the Chamber won less than half their cases and, even more strikingly, there was no significant ideological split on the Court in Chamber cases. The Supreme Court’s modern pro-corporate tilt – and particularly its sharp ideological split in favor of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – are relatively new developments, traceable to the Court’s current conservative majority,” Kendall said.

In June of this year, CAC released a study examining Supreme Court cases in which the U.S. Chamber of Commerce participated since Justice Samuel Alito joined the bench in January 2006. In that study, the Chamber won 68% of the cases in which it participated, mainly the product of a cohesive conservative majority. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Alito, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas collectively voted for the Chamber 74% of the time. In contrast, the Court’s liberal/moderate bloc voted for the Chamber 44% of the time during this period. In the October Term 2009 alone, the Chamber won 81% of its cases.

Today’s report contrasts this recent period in the Roberts Court with cases in which the Chamber participated during the years 1981-1986 – five terms immediately before Justice Scalia joined the Court. During this five-year period under the leadership Chief Justice Warren Burger, the Chamber lost more cases than it won (a percentage of 43%) and, perhaps even more important, there was no similar ideological division among the Justices in favor of, or against, the Chamber’s position. Justice Brennan, the Burger Court’s liberal lion, voted for the Chamber 43% of the time; then-Justice Rehnquist voted for the Chamber 46% of the time.

CAC Litigation and Policy Counsel Neil Weare, the lead researcher on the study, added, “Our report shows that there is a dramatic shift between the voting patterns of each of the Court’s current conservative members and the Justices they replaced, with the Chamber the clear beneficiary of the shift.”

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Resources:

CAC Issue Brief, “A Tale of Two Courts: Comparing Corporate Rulings by the Roberts and Burger Courts,” October 2010: http://theusconstitution.org/think-tank/issue-brief/tale-two-courts-comparing-corporate-rulings-roberts-and-burger-courts

CAC Issue Brief, “The Roberts Court and Corporations: The Numbers Tell the Story,” June 2010: http://theusconstitution.org/think-tank/issue-brief/roberts-court-and-corporations-numbers-tell-story

“Breyer Says Supreme Court Doesn’t Have Pro-Business Slant,” Greg Stohr, October 7, 2010:http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-10-07/breyer-rejects-the-notion-that-u-s-supreme-court-has-a-pro-business-bias.html

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Constitutional Accountability Center (www.theusconstitution.org) is a think tank, public interest law firm, and action center dedicated to fulfilling the progressive promise of the Constitution’s text and history.

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