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In recent years, the Supreme Court has decided numerous highly controversial cases, often by 5-4 margins, which have served to roll back the clock on decades of progressive jurisprudence. This term could bring more of the same. The Supreme Court 2012-2013 term is already packed with cases with the potential to restrict corporate accountability and limit everyday Americans’ civil rights and access to justice. Moreover, the Court may also agree to consider challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act, California’s Proposition 8, and the Voting Rights Act. In short, the Court’s decisions this term could have disastrous consequences for the ability of consumers, victims of discrimination, human rights plaintiffs, and others to get a fair day in court. Specifically, in this term the Court could:

  • Provide a shield for corporations and other actors committing human rights abuses abroad (Kiobel)
  • Continue to give big businesses a free pass to force consumers into mandatory arbitration, providing a massive loophole for accountability (Italian Colors)
  • Eviscerate efforts to ensure diversity on college campuses (Fisher)
  • Close the courtroom doors to class actions seeking redress for corporate malfeasance (Symczyk, Behrend, and Amgen)
  • Immunize employers who create a hostile work environment for women and racial minorities (Vance)
  • Allow lower federal court judges to punish debtors who go to court to challenge debt collectors’ abusive practices (Marx)

As the Court’s record in cases ranging from Wal-Mart v. Dukes to Citizens United and AT&T v. Concepcion demonstrates, the Roberts Court has been far from apolitical, and has routinely sided with the most powerful interests in American society against those seeking a fair shot in the legal system. It remains to be seen how far the conservative wing of the Court will go in the 2012-2013 term to unwind long-standing precedent and advance a right-wing agenda from the bench.