Will the Pro-Civil Justice Candidates Please Stand Up?
Public Citizen is proud to join the Drum Major Institute and its coalition of organizations to support the “Pro Civil Justice Presidential Platform.” Our goal is to get the attention of the presidential candidates and ask them to support our civil justice platform:
•Provide counsel for people who cannot afford it any important case;
•Ban forced arbitration in consumer contracts;
•Stop federal preemption of state consumer protection laws;
•Reduce secret settlements that keep health and safety information from the public;
•Ensure injured patients’ right to justice; and
•Effectively regulate the insurance industry to curb unfair practices.
These issues have been conspicuously absent from the candidates’ stump speeches. We are not sure why, but we are going to find out.
Back in January, the Drum Major Institute released a report outlining six policy proposals. They are ripe for any (or all) of the presidential candidates to include in their platform, but so far there have been no takers. Taken together, you have a strong, winning agenda for ensuring access to the civil justice system for all Americans.
One important proposal from the platform is banning binding mandatory arbitration (BMA) in consumer and employment contracts. Most consumers aren’t aware of this problem. But when you get a credit card, cable TV, cell phone, auto loan, or several other types of services, there is a good chance that the fine-print documents you receive state that you can never sue the provider over anything related to your service – not even if the provider intentionally overcharges you or defrauds you.
Your only option is to go through a biased arbitration process chosen by the company itself. These arbitrations are usually secretive, expensive, and don’t include an appeal to a real court, and the business you are disputing gets to choose the arbitrator!
Both the media and Congress are paying attention to this issue. Jamie Leigh Jones made headlines with her experience of being raped by her co-workers at a Halliburton subsidiary in Iraq. Her attackers put her in a cargo container and threatened that she would lose her job if she told anyone. Now she’s suing the company, but it’s fighting her right to be in court, saying her employment contract requires arbitration instead!
In Congress, legislation to ban these clauses has been introduced in both the House and Senate by Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) and Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.). Ask your members of Congress to offer their support so we can get it passed.
And while you’re at it, contact the presidential candidate(s) you are rooting for and ask what their position is. Feel free to let us know the responses you get.