Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s U.S. Supreme Court nomination represents a danger far greater than ideological differences. It could permanently tilt the balance of power in favor of this country’s most powerful “people” – corporations.
And it’s not pretty when corporations’ strength is unchecked in the courts.
The clearest example dates back to the 1980s when Bayer Corp. and other companies learned they were selling blood-based medicines contaminated with HIV that were infecting thousands of hemophiliacs.
The pharmaceutical companies halted production and developed a new product, heat-treated to kill the virus. But they also had excess stores of the old product.
They knew that three of four patients who receive the unheated product would get infected with the virus, but destroying the contaminated medicine meant a loss of profit.
So, they did the unthinkable: They sold it.
Not in the U.S., though. They shipped the old product to South America, to Asia. Wherever they knew the courts were too weak to hold them accountable.
Cutter Biological, now a division of Bayer, shipped over 100,000 vials. Other drug companies – Alpha Therapeutic, Armour Pharmaceutical and Baxter International – did the same. It took more than a year for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to learn of it and halt the sales.
To put a face on the thousands who were infected, I met a little boy in South America who got his first vial in 1985. The heat-treated medicine was being used in the United States, but he got the old medicine and was infected.
I filed a wrongful death lawsuit for his mother in the U.S., but a federal judge dismissed the suit and ordered us to litigate in South America. Some had tried, but it was pointless. The mother said the courts in her country were cold, dark places and powerless against massive corporations.
Now those massive corporate giants are gaining ground in the U.S. courts.
Conservative judges in the U.S. have become far more aligned with big business and against individuals, consumers, and smaller businesses – and they’ve even created new special corporate constitutional rights.
These judges, who aspire to be strict constructionists, continue to find special privileges for big businesses. The U.S. Constitution is clear and explicit: our citizens enjoy the right to trial by jury. And this constitutional right has protected Americans from the unchecked corporate power that allows companies in some parts of the world to get away with murder.
Judge Kavanaugh’s judicial opinions – on power plant pollution, the consumer financial protection bureau, net neutrality, food safety, and worker rights – fit right into this new pro-corporate judicial philosophy.
I have no doubt that Judge Kavanaugh is a decent man. But if he replaces Justice Anthony Kennedy, then the Supreme Court will lose an old-school conservative and gain a corporate power activist. I know where this leads, and I wish he could see it too.
I thought that Americans understood how lucky they were. I thought they’d never tear down what President Ronald Reagan called “a shining city on a hill.” I thought that these other countries would grow to be more like us, not that we would grow to be more like them.
I was wrong.