Last night’s HBO premier of Hot Coffee, The Movie provided a great summary of all the ways in which the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, large foreign corporations, and political operatives have banded together to end the right to trial by jury. Filmmaker Susan Saladoff did a masterful job of showing how deliberately falsified talking points, loaded memes, anti-consumer legislation, court packing, and forced mandatory arbitration have been used to deprive consumers of their rights to trial by jury.
Things have only gotten worse since production of Hot Coffee. As I have noted previously, the U.S. Supreme Court rendered two pro-business/anti-consumer opinions this term. This one makes consumer class actions even harder to maintain, and this one makes forced mandatory arbitration even harder to avoid. The picture painted by by Susan Saladoff’s brilliant film gets more finely defined by the Supreme Court’s recent term.
At home, I watched Hot Coffee with my beloved, who has been my biggest supporter for all of the years I have struggled to do what is right for consumers in our civil justice system. She also took me to task over language in my recent blog posts–she’s something of a message genius. She points out, correctly, that I must stop using the language and the memes of the corporate shills who seek to corrupt the civil justice system.
Okay my beloved. You win. I will listen to your wise counsel. So no more use of their memes, talking points and phrases.
Instead, let’s focus on what they have done. Through a deliberate campaign hatched by the cynical pro-corporate strategists, our precious right to trial by jury hangs on the edge.
They cannot accept a justice system that grants consumers and ordinary citizens the power to call corporate wrongdoers to account. They cannot allow the rest of us to have access to justice. By a cold and deliberate strategy, they have simply chosen to nullify the Seventh Amendment, in order to eliminate consumers’ rights to trial by jury. The question becomes whether we allow this to happen or fight back to protect our rights.
One of my heroes, Erin Brockovich, pointed out long ago that the problem with giving up constitutional rights is that they are gone forever. The right to trial by jury protects us from government abuse and from corporate misconduct. It looks to me like we are in fact tipping back, and consumers are beginning to to understand the importance of these issues. We can only hope.