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The Corporate Court's 2010-11 Docket
The Supreme Court’s docket for 2010-11 covered dozens of cases that will have profound impacts on millions of Americans. Many of these cases pit individual rights against corporate interests. Under the leadership of Chief Justice John Roberts, the Court has consistently favored those powerful corporate interests over average citizens, and has worked to bend the law to favor corporations.
AFJ highlighted cases with important implications for consumers, employees, the environment, and the vitality of our country’s democracy. Click here for AFJ's 2010-11 end-of-term report and here for other AFJ special reports. AFJ is also tracking cases that the Court will hear during the 2011-12 term. Click here for more information about the 2011-12 term.
- American Electric Power Co., Inc. v. Connecticut: States may not bring federal common law claims to stop corporate polluters from emitting harmful greenhouse gases, but can bring actions under the Clean Air Act and may be able to under state nuisance law.
- Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett: States now have greater difficulty in passing laws to combat the influence of wealthy special interests in elections.
- Ashcroft v. al-Kidd: Americans can be detained under false pretenses, and prosecutors will be immune from suit even where the American is subjected to extremely harsh detention.
- Astra USA, Inc. v. Santa Clara County, CA: Americans who are forced to pay higher than contractual caps for drugs must depend on HHS to fight for their rights; safety-net health providers are barred from suing drug companies.
- AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion: American consumers and employees will be less able to join together to sue corporations that cheat or discriminate against them when contracts they are forced to sign bar class actions and group arbitration.
- Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association: The First Amendment rights of minors to access expressive works will be protected from government restriction without proof that the content is seriously harmful and the restriction is narrowly drawn, and violent content is no exception.
- Brown v. Plata: Prisoners in California suffering severe health conditions because of serious overcrowding receive some relief as the Court orders reduction of prison populations within two years.
- Bruesewitz v. Wyeth: Children injured by negligently designed vaccines cannot sue manufacturers in state court, even where baby suffered permanent injuries.
- Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting: Americans who face discrimination on the assumption they are illegal immigrants will face more difficulty after the Court grants states the right to threaten the business license of any company that knowingly hires undocumented workers.
- Chase Bank USA v. McCoy: Credit card holders who suffered sudden and large increases in their interest rates were left without recourse against banks who retroactively applied them; fortunately, new statute provides some protections.
- CIGNA Corp. v. Amara: Employees were disallowed retirement benefits as described in a deceptive summary of a company plan, though six justices suggested a lawsuit might be maintained under a different section of ERISA.
- Connick v. Thompson: Innocent criminal defendant who was wrongfully accused and spent years on death row was unable to receive jury award against prosecutor despite his department’s systematic failure to turn over exculpatory evidence.
- Costco Wholesale Corp. v. Omega: Consumers will be less able to buy discounted goods because corporations controlling the copyright can limit domestic discounting on products it has sold outside the U.S.
- CSX Transportation v. McBride: Railroad workers will still be able to hold railroad companies responsible when they harm employees.
- Erica P. John Fund, Inc. v. Halliburton Co., et al.: Investors can still hold corporations accountable in class actions when they deceive investors to inflate stock prices.
- FCC v. AT&T Inc.: Consumers can access information about corporate wrongdoing in government’s possession through Freedom of Information Act; corporation cannot claim right to “personal privacy” to conceal disclosure.
- Fox v. Vice: Civil rights victims who bring lawsuits combining meritorious and frivolous claims can only be forced to pay attorneys’ fees to defendant for work on frivolous claims.
- General Dynamics Corp. v. United States: The state-secrets privilege is expanded to prevent government contractors from raising a defense to a breach of contract claim.
- Goodyear Luxembourg Tires v. Brown: Foreign corporations that export tens of thousands of products into a state through a highly organized distribution process cannot be sued in state court in a products liability case.
- J. McIntyre Machinery v. Nicastro:A person injured by a negligently-made product may not sue a foreign manufacturer in state court even if the manufacturer targets the U.S. market and a consumer in that state purchases the product.
- Janus Capital Group v. First Derivative Traders: Investors cannot sue holding companies that disseminate misstatements made in violation of securities laws.
- Kasten v. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corp.: Employees who make verbal, or written, complaints to their employers about possible violations of labor laws are protected from retaliation.
- Matrixx Initiatives, Inc. v. Siracusano: Investors are not blocked from suing companies that artificially inflate the price of their stock by covering up known risks of a drug, even if the risks are not statistically significant.
- PLIVA, Inc. v. Mensing: Manufacturers of generic drugs cannot be sued in state court for failing to adequately describe the health risks that their products cause.
- Schindler Elevator Corp. v. U.S.: Whistleblowers who uncover corporate fraud against the government cannot bring suit where they learned of the fraud through a Freedom of Information Act request, which the majority defines as a “report."
- Smith v. Bayer Corp.: Consumers unaware of pending class action lawsuits are permitted to raise additional issues in their own class action suits against corporate wrongdoers.
- Snyder v. Phelps: Even vile and offensive speech enjoys First Amendment protection.
- Sorrell v. IMS Health: Corporations will have unrestrained ability to use private consumer information to increase their profits.
- Staub v. Proctor Hospital: Employees whose supervisors illegally discriminate against them may bring suit if that discrimination is the cause of their firing, even if the ultimate decision maker was not motivated by discrimination.
- Thompson v. North American Stainless: Employees who suffer retaliation because their fiancé asserts her own workplace rights are protected under Title VII.
- Wal-Mart v. Dukes: Women facing systematic pay and promotion discrimination in the workplace will have a much harder time banding together to bring suit after narrow majority dramatically increases the threshold for proving the commonality of their claims.
- Williamson v. Mazda: Americans injured in a car with lap-only and not lap-and-shoulder seatbelts may bring suit in state court for failure to install the safer design; federal standards did not preempt state law actions in this case.