Alliance for Justice has stood with consumer, labor, environmental, and other groups in fighting to maintain access to justice in the federal courts and to protect victims of corporate malfeasance, medical malpractice, unsafe products, illegal working conditions, civil rights violations, and environmental pollution. AFJ tracks Supreme Court and lower court decisions affecting the legal rights of everyday Americans, educates the public on efforts to narrow those rights, and works with our allies to advocate for progressive legislation and courts that will respect the access to justice that is so fundamental to American values.
Forced arbitration clauses have become increasingly common in consumer and employment contracts. Originally, arbitration was designed to be a voluntary alternative to litigation among corporate equals, but now, it is hidden in the fine print of “take it or leave it” agreements. Individual consumers and employees often have no idea that these clauses are in the contracts they must sign for employment, in order to open a bank account, buy a cell phone, or even admit a loved one to a nursing home. Corporations that use forced arbitration clauses can often shield themselves from accountability for illegal practices and other wrongdoing. Many individuals are unaware that they have surrendered their rights to take a company to court or the imbalanced nature of the processes until it is too late.
AFJ supports ending forced arbitration. Watch our film on forced arbitration, Lost in the Fine Print.
Every day, federal judges decide whether consumers harmed by corporations can bring lawsuits in court, or whether they are limited to unfair systems of forced arbitration. Unfortunately, working people are far more likely to sit before a judge with experience union-busting or blocking consumer protections than someone with experience representing people like them.
Trump’s Supreme Court is widening that divide. From threatening working families’ access to health care to shielding the asbestos industry, the conservative majority has consistently sided with corporate interests over protecting the rights of consumers. It even agreed to challenge the very existence of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the entity created to protect consumers from unscrupulous banks after the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression.
AFJ will continue monitoring the courts and holding them accountable for protecting consumer rights. We also call on the President to prioritize nominating more federal judges with backgrounds in organized labor and economic justice legal fields in order to minimize future harm to workers and consumers.
When corporations cheat millions of people out of relatively small amounts per person, it’s difficult for those individuals to go through a cumbersome legal process to get their money back. Similarly, when thousands of resource-constrained people face racial or sex discrimination by a deep-pocketed corporation, it’s extremely difficult for them to fight the company one-by-one. The only hope for justice –and the only real deterrent to fraud or systemic discrimination– is a class action, which allows individuals to band together to bring their common claims against big corporations. But corporate special interests have been waging war against class actions.
Class action lawsuits are a fundamental anti-corruption tool in our legal system. AFJ will continue to support the ability of everyday Americans to band together to stand up for their rights in court.
Our healthcare system is not perfect—far from it. Medical professionals can blatantly or inadvertently provide an incorrect diagnosis, surgical errors can inhibit a patient’s ability to live comfortably, pharmacists can fill prescriptions incorrectly. But preventing deserving patients from seeing the inside of a courtroom and denying those who win their case the right to a full recovery is no way to fix our healthcare system. Further, medical malpractice is not rare but many victims do not have the support to rectify harms. In his book, The Medical Malpractice Myth, Penn Law Professor Tom Baker shows that most victims of medical malpractice actually do not use the civil justice system to recover damages.
AFJ supports efforts to ensure that justice is served for the victims of those harmed by medical negligence.