Access to Justice

RELEASE: Roberts Court Hands Business Another Win, Closes Courthouse Doors to Those Harmed by Corporation

WASHINGTON – Following the Supreme Court’s ruling in TransUnion LLC v. Ramirez, Constitutional Accountability Center President Elizabeth Wydra issued the following reaction:

Once again, the Roberts Court has closed the courthouse doors to people harmed by corporations. Between yesterday’s ruling in Cedar Point and today’s in TransUnion, a consistent theme emerges: a conservative majority bending over backward to find ways for corporations to prevail, and for working people and consumers to lose.

In what will surely be one of the Court’s most important cases on “standing” to sue, the Court’s 5-4 ruling today in TransUnion hampers the power of Congress to create new federal causes of action to redress harms suffered by consumers and others, and prevents corporations from being held accountable in federal court for flouting rights protected by federal law.

Today’s 5-4 majority opinion concludes, for the first time ever, that a private company’s deprivation of legal rights created by Congress cannot be redressed through a private lawsuit in federal court because a majority of the Court does not see the victims’ injuries as sufficiently “concrete.” This is a subjective standard that makes the courts, rather than the political branches, the arbiters of what kinds of interests can be protected by federal law. Although TransUnion employed shoddy procedures that mislabeled thousands of people as terrorists or national security threats in reports that were readily available to their creditors and potential employers, in violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the majority held that this violation of the victims’ legal rights was not a “real” injury over which they could sue for damages in federal court.

As Justice Thomas’s powerful dissent makes clear, this far-reaching ruling has no basis in the Constitution’s text and history.

Echoing our brief, Justice Thomas wrote, “The principle that the violation of an individual right gives rise to an actionable harm was widespread at the founding, in early American history, and in many modern Cases.” In discarding that history, the majority has deprived “the legislature of its power to create and define rights.” And as Justice Kagan wrote in her own dissent, also echoing our brief, “The Court here transforms standing law from a doctrine of judicial modesty into a tool of judicial aggrandizement,” taking power away from Congress to allow people to redress their injuries in court and instead giving it to the courts themselves to decide who may or may not seek justice.

This case is yet another reminder that bending the law to favor corporations is one of the long-term trends of the Roberts Court.

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Resources:

CAC case page in TransUnion LLC v. Ramirez: https://www.theusconstitution.org/litigation/transunion-llc-v-ramirez/

CAC RELEASE: In Cedar Point, Court’s Conservatives Turn to “Fauxriginalism” in Handing Business a Win Over Unions, Elizabeth Wydra, June 23, 2021: https://www.theusconstitution.org/news/release-courts-conservatives-turn-to-fauxriginalism-in-handing-business-a-win-over-unions/

CAC’s long-term study of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its record before the Roberts Court: https://www.theusconstitution.org/series/chamber-study/

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

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