The So-Called “Pro-Business” Court
A Corporate Counsel article titled, “Is the Pro-Business Court a Bum Rap?” author Tony Mauro explains how tightening up pleading standards to discourage meritless suits against corporations has led to the current Supreme Court garnering a “pro-business” reputation. The decisions in Bell Atlantic v. Twombly and Ashcroft v. Iqbal confirmed such suspicion. However, a pair of recent court decisions ruling against businesses, Kasten v. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corp. and Matrixx Initiatives v. Siracusano, is beginning to have individuals questioning whether the current Supreme Court is really “pro-business” after all.
In Kasten, the Supreme Court furthered the protection afforded to employees by deciding the Fair Labor Standards Act applied to both oral and written complaints. Moreover, in Matrixx, the Roberts Court unanimously rejected Matrixx’s claim that the class action plaintiffs had made insufficient pleadings to move the case forward. Both cases were decided against corporations. The string of decisions that followed, including a workplace discrimination, seat belt safety, and corporate privacy claim, echoed this same anti-corporate sentiment. Each case was decided in contradiction to perceived business interests, leaving observers to question why the Court is suddenly reversing its “pro business” stance.
Richard Samp, chief counsel of the Washington Legal Foundation, explains “perhaps it is because the Roberts Court is not quite as pro-business as critics make it out to be.” Samp believes statutory interpretation may be to blame for the Court’s “pro-business” reputation. Many of the statutes the Supreme Court is asked to decipher are specifically written to protect employees and Samp believes the Justices are doing no more than interpreting what is in front of them. As it turns out, observers may have been too quick to label the Roberts Court pro-business after all. From Samp’s account only four out of eleven business-related decisions the Court has issued this term have favored pro-business.
But, as the Huffington Post points out, business interests won slightly more often at the court than they lost in the past year, and high-profile decisions that have been decided favorably toward the business, such as Citizens United, or more recently, Wal-Mart v. Dukes have continued to fuel the accusations that the present Supreme Court continues to favor free enterprise over consumers, employees and investors. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy echoed this sentiment on Tuesday, June 28th when he opened a committee hearing by criticizing what he called “the most business friendly Supreme Court in the last 75 years.” Meanwhile, Senate Democrats continue to vehemently assert the Supreme Court’s conservative majority is wrongly favoring business interests and activists and media outlets alike continue to cling to their accusations that the current Court favors a free market.
However, in a country where the judiciary is supposed to be the neutral decision maker, it is hard to believe the Supreme Court is “pro” anything. After all, the legislature makes the law, while the Supreme Court merely interprets it. Nonetheless, the debate about whether or not the Robert’s Court is actually “pro-business” is destined to carry forward and the present Court will continue to be scrutinized from both sides of the fence as it continues to hand down controversial “business” decisions.