Justice is blind. (Really.)

What with gasoline prices now topping $4.40 a gallon, thank God somebody is looking out for the interests of Exxon Mobil shareholders.

(And a heads up, tomorrow the Supreme Court reinterprets the 2nd Amendment, tossing aside a century and a half of legal precedent. Good thing we don’t have any of those damn “activist judges.”)

Comments

  1. 1

    Joseph P spews:

    As a person born and raised in Cordova Alaska before my folks moved us down to Washington I have to say this is a dark day for all of Alaska. Nearly everyone in my family had a claim in this Exxon case ( we are all commercial salmon fishermen for generations ). Many people have died while waiting nearly 20 years for this to be resolved and many more have lost their homes as the fishing industry has gone belly up. While my parents raised me not to be a fisherman, (I now work at Microsoft) I fear for my parents and so many other who have little or no retirement and who are now nearing their 60s and the hope that the Exxon settlement would give them some avenue to retire, with the money they would have made if the spill had never happened. I hope our brothers and sisters in great state of Alaska to the north go to the polls this fall and vote their interests turning the damn state blue!

  2. 3

    Gordon spews:

    This decision by the supreme court goes beyond the pale. Punitive damages are important because of deterrent effect. Otherwise the protracted legal process is simply an acceptable cost of doing business. Such a dark day.

    But this does provide some fodder to fight the drill Anwar crowd. Just say look, Exxon refuses to pay for their last fuck up why should we trust that they will do any better in Anwar?

    @1 I have no doubt that this will shift the Alaskan electorate bluer. Which while inconsequential to the president electoral vote is important if we can pick up another Senate seat. This is going to be an exciting election cycle.

  3. 4

    correctnotright spews:

    The Supreme court:
    Negligence and Environmental destruction are fine – it is just part ot the “maritime law”.

    Short Supreme court: Exxon deserves to get away with 20 years of appeals – but ordinary americans don’t deserve squat.

  4. 5

    rhp6033 spews:

    By my calculations:

    The oldest justice on the Supreme Court, John Paul Stevens, is age 82.

    Three other justices are in their early 70’s (Kennedy, Scalia, Ginsburg).

    Three other justices are within two years of being in their seventies (Souter, Thomas, Breyer).

    Only two justices are in their 50’s (Roberts, Alito).

    While a number of justices have served ably well into old age (Douglas comes to mind), it is not unreasonable to expect there to be several vacancies open up over the next four years, either by death, incapacitation, or simply retirement. My own guess is that Stevens and Ginsberg will be among the first to retire.

  5. 6

    Tlazolteotl spews:

    I have to agree with what CNR wrote, and just add: too depressing for words.

    Even if I didn’t suspect that this was an ‘activist’ decision (the Court decided to cap the punitive damages in this case supposedly at a 1:1 ratio with actual damages, when precedent has held that 3 times the actual damages is a reasonable amount), Exxon has said they have paid out 3.4 billion in damages and cleanup costs. The lower court’s reduction of punitive damages (from something like 9 billion? I don’t recall precisely what the original award was) to 2.5 billion seems more than reasonable in that light; while a cap of only 0.5 billion seems like a substantial reduction. Sorry, peeps and wildlife of Prince William Sound! 20 cents on the dollar for you!

  6. 7

    rhp6033 spews:

    I haven’t read the opinion, but news accounts say that the court is narrowly interpreting maritime law to limit damages to the 1:1 ratio. If so, it wouldn’t apply as precedent to spills on dry land. But of course, that is little consulation to the fishermen.

  7. 8

    The Real Mark spews:

    Would you all feel better if they’d decided the case based on the phantom “right” to privacy?

  8. 10

    Blue John spews:

    Big Ed had a good comment on this: Now that Oil Companies can spill with impunity, getting more off shore drilling leases is going to be even harder.

  9. 12

    spews:

    Goldy, you apparently do not know what “judicial activism” means. When legal precedent has the effect of denying fundamental rights, it is the PRECEDENT that is the result of judicial activism, and OVERTURNING that precedent that is not.

    What matters is what the Constitution actually says and means. The ulimate touchstone of constitutionality is the Constitution itself and not what the Court has said about it.

  10. 13

    rhp6033 spews:

    Pudge @ 12 said: “What matters is what the Constitution actually says and means. The ul(t)imate touchstone of constitutionality is the Constitution itself and not what the Court has said about it.”

    Aye, and there’s the rub! Who, pray tell, gets to decide what the Constitution says, and doesn’t say, other than the Court?

    That’s the issue which confronted Justice Marshall in Marburry vs. Madison, and it’s been pretty settled since then that it’s the court, not the legislature or the executive or the millions of individuals with differing opinions, which gets to say what the Constitution means, as it applies to a specific “Case & Controversey”.

    My own take is that the term “judicial activisim” is a charge leveled against a court or courts which issue a ruling which goes against a particular set cultural standard, rather than with respect to an argument over the literal wording of the Constitution. For example, the court for years accepted enforced segregation despite the plain wording of the 14th Amendment, and there were no charges of “judicial activisim” because it was consistent with the cultural norm at the time. It was wrong (morally and as a matter of legal interpretation), but it went along with the flow. It was only when the court reverted back to the plain language of the 14th Amendment that the Supreme Court was accused of “judicial activisim” – because it went against the existing culture in a large part of the land.

    Of course, for my own part, I’m happy to agree that the plain language of the Constitution indicates that McCain is not eligible to become President of the United States, the government has no right to suspend “the Great Writ” even in time of war, and that the FISA act is unconstitutional on it’s face. All such opinions are entirely consistent with a strict and literal interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. But I’m sure many would disagree (probably even you).

  11. 14

    spews:

    we really can’t stop the oil price high. It is also our main problem in Philippines. the price raises continuously. people here really suffered..

  12. 15

    proud leftist spews:

    The Exxon decision appears to be somewhat of a compromise decision among the Justices. Even Scalia and Thomas sign on to assessing some punitives against Exxon, though doing so pursuant to maritime law. Maritime law is, and always has been, a federal common law matter. So, federal judges do have some leeway in setting standards. That means that the decision does not provide clear guidance to state courts with regard to issues involving the interplay of the due process clause and punitive damages awards based on state law. The limitation on punitives identified, however, is unfounded.
    On the good side, the Court rejected Exxon’s argument that the Clean Water Act statutorily preempts common law remedies, such as punitive damages. The Court in its Republican years (meaning all of the past generation), has been very fond of preemption arguments that would deny remedies to ordinary folks for corporate or governmental wrongdoing. Still, the Court clearly stated that the point of punitive damages is to deter and punish wrongdoing. Then, contradicting itself, the Court stated that punitive damages should not exceed compensatory damages. So, the wrongdoer’s assets become irrelevant under that analysis. Exxon makes more profit per day than what the Court determined the punitive damages should be. How much deterrence, how much punishment does that represent? Curious decision. Why the hell couldn’t the Court have simply have upheld a very reasonable jury verdict–$5B in punitives? Exxon might actually have felt that. Why do Republican judges hate juries? Of course, as an Alaskan-born person, I hope to hell that my home state punishes Republicans for this decision–7 of 9 Supreme Court justices were appointed by Republican presidents.

  13. 16

    whizzer spews:

    Fuck yeah — we need punitive damages in Washington law. Now we can’t get them.

    Does Will from HA think punitive damages should be available under Washington State law? I’ll bet that little shit won’t even respond to this question . . .. He’s a puppet, and his masters would answer that question in the negative.

  14. 17

    Proud To Be An Ass spews:

    @12: So fill us all in on the deeply touching “originalist” position the Court took in Bush v. Gore.

  15. 18

    spews:

    rhp6033: Aye, and there’s the rub! Who, pray tell, gets to decide what the Constitution says, and doesn’t say, other than the Court?

    The person who wrote that was a Supreme Court justice, Felix Frankfurter, and he was making the obvious and simple point that the Constitution trumps precedent.

    Precedent is very important. But the Constitution is more important. And this is why sometimes precedent is overturned. So whining, as Goldy did, about “a century and a half of precedent” (which is total bullshit, as it is much less than that) is meaningless: if the Constitution says that precedent is wrong, then that precedent should be overturned.

    My own take is that the term “judicial activisim” is a charge leveled against a court or courts which issue a ruling which goes against a particular set cultural standard, rather than with respect to an argument over the literal wording of the Constitution.

    That is NOT how conservatives generally use the term. I ALWAYS — and I believe am in the majority among conservatives here — use the term solely to describe a decision that inserts opinion for law, or that fudges facts to arrive at a desired outcome.

    For the former, there are many examples, all the time, and we are well aware of many of them.

    An example of the latter would be the child rape / capital punishment case today. The majority ruled against capital punishment in part because only six states have laws providing for it, and using that as evidence that it is cruel and unusual punishment. The logical problems with that line of reasoning are completely obvious. It seems quite clear that the majority simply believe themselves that the punishment is inappropriate, so they grasped at any support they could for that view.

    For example, the court for years accepted enforced segregation despite the plain wording of the 14th Amendment, and there were no charges of “judicial activisim” because it was consistent with the cultural norm at the time.

    Maybe the phrase wasn’t used — I don’t know, I wasn’t there — but the sentiment that the decisions were absolutely wrong because they violated the Constitution obviously were expressed.

    It was only when the court reverted back to the plain language of the 14th Amendment that the Supreme Court was accused of “judicial activisim” – because it went against the existing culture in a large part of the land.

    There is a very obvious and legitimate argument to be made that the 14th Amendment does NOT prohibit segregation. If you believe that, then it is perfectly appropriate to call a decision outlawing it “judicial activism” in the sense previously described.

  16. 19

    spews:

    Proud To Be An Ass:

    So fill us all in on the deeply touching “originalist” position the Court took in Bush v. Gore.

    First, to clarify, I am not an originalist, and very few people are. The correct word is textualist: someone who looks at the text as written, using the meaning of that text as it would have meant at the time.

    Second, it’s extremely obvious, and also related to Section One of the 14th Amendment: “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall … deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

    When you treat one person’s ballot essentially different from another’s, you are violating their 14th Amendment rights. If your ballot gets extra scrutiny and opportunity to be counted and mine doesn’t, then where is my equal protection?

    And note that SEVEN of the nine justices agreed with this argument. It was not a 5-4 decision in the part of the decision relating to the Constitution, but a 7-2 decision. If you are looking for partisanship in the decision, look to the two by-far most liberal justices on the Court, who are the only two who voted in favor of Gore on the Constitutional issue.

  17. 21

    proud leftist spews:

    Pudgy, if I might indulge you,
    Please respond to my post at 15. No ideology, just precedent. And, by the way, the Court said the Constitution didn’t come into play in the Exxon decision. So, let’s have your well-reasoned jurisprudential spew.

  18. 22

    Gray Coyote spews:

    (And a heads up, tomorrow the Supreme Court reinterprets the 2nd Amendment, tossing aside a century and a half of legal precedent. Good thing we don’t have any of those damn “activist judges.”)

    What legal precedent do you mean? The only case which it can ever be inferred of tossing aside legal precedent is POSSIBLY United States v. Miller (1939). In that particular case, the US Supreme Court stated that no evidence was presented to them to state that a short-barreled shotgun would be be there for the preservation of a “well regulated militia”. The wording is also important because well regulated in the 1790’s means something different than well regulated today. That being said, neither the lawyer for Jack Miller and Frank Layton nor themselves were actually at the Supreme Court. The lawyer for that particular case committed a massive act of malpractice by not showing up to the Supreme Court. Only one said argued the case, and that was the US Government defending the National Firearms Act of 1934. They remanded the case down to the District Court in Arkansas, Jack Miller was killed, and Layton took a plea deal.

    Previous Supreme Court cases on the Second Amendment stated the individual right to keep and bear arms, but decided to basically write the 14th amendment out of existence and basically declare that the bill of rights did not apply against state actions (US v. Cruikshank 1875, Presser v. Illinois 1886, The Slaughterhouse Cases 1873). This was in direct contravention to the author of the 14th Amendment, Rep. John Bingham (R-OH) repeated statements and intentions that the 14th amendment would protect the civil liberties of persons against the state’s violation of federally protected constitutional rights, which Bingham stated this to include the right of the individual to keep and bear arms.

  19. 23

    rhp6033 spews:

    Gray Coyote: Nice to see that someone else here is citing the issue of whether the Bill of Rights applies to the states. I thought I was the only one here who was recounting that winding path of judicial interpretation. Every time someone argues that a decision is wrong because judges should stick to a “literal interpretation” of the Constitution, I’m reminded of that tortured history of legal analysis.

  20. 24

    Politically Incorrect spews:

    The court has ruled that the Washington, DC ban on handguns is unconstitutional. They made a good decision, for a change.

  21. 25

    spews:

    rhp6033: you’re just way off base here. Read the 14th Amendment. “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.” We have, as citizens of the U.S., a right to keep and bear arms; therefore, no state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge that right.

    Can’t get much more “literal” than that.

    proud leftist: I have no comment on the Exxon case. I haven’t read the decision or followed it. I have no idea on what basis the decision was made.

    And I do not care about law degrees: I care about arguments. Law degrees are only one of multiple possible means to an end: becoming a practicing lawyer. I have no such desire, and therefore no law degree.

    In a democracy, even a representative one, all law should be understandable by the people. You shouldn’t need a law degree. This goes for the Constitution and the rest of law. Otherwise, we can’t democratically judge what our courts and legislators and executives are doing.

  22. 26

    Tlazolteotl spews:

    Second, it’s extremely obvious, and also related to Section One of the 14th Amendment: “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall … deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

    So pudge, are you for marriage equality?

  23. 27

    spews:

    Tlazolteotl:

    No. I am for abolition of “civil marriage,” and replacing it with a universal system of “civil unions,” and for keeping marriage a social institution. This would, of course, make it equal for everyone, including gays.

    That said, I am unconvinced the 14th necessarily applies to the issue. There is no right to civil marriage — government could abolish all civil marriage, and not replace it with anything, tomorrow, without violating any rights, as long as the contractural obligations are still upheld — while there is, obviously, such a right to vote.

    And the argument is an obvious slippery slope: if we MUST allow gay marriage, then we also MUST allow marriage between siblings, and it is an open question to what extent we MUST allow marriage between more than two partners.

    I think the government should just get out of the business of marriage altogether. Recognize these unions as purely legal/business arrangements, and let society deal with the social implications of the arrangements.

  24. 29

    Steve spews:

    @27 “I think the government should just get out of the business of marriage altogether. Recognize these unions as purely legal/business arrangements, and let society deal with the social implications of the arrangements.”

    I would go for that.

  25. 30

    spews:

    Tlazolteotl:

    I am for “marriage equality” in the sense of moving “marriage” out of the government’s control, but I am not for legalizing civil marriage for gay couples.

    It’s almost purely symbolic, but the fact is that the government took the term “marriage” to mean “civil union” when it first started recognizing marriages, and it is far too disruptive to society to take that symbol (the word “marriage”) and assign new meaning to it.

    The obvious solution is to simply come up with another term that covers everyone. I do NOT accept that “separate but equal” is necessarily unconstitutional, if the same rights are applied to both groups, however, I know many people do think that, and there’s no real reason to have two different terms anyway.

    Nor do I think the state is required to recognize gay marriage for the sake of equality, but I see no good reason not to. Even though I personally believe homosexuality is a sin, I don’t think government has business enforcing that. If people want to enter into such contractural arrangements, society will likely be better off for it, than if those arrangements had no government recognition.

    I am, however, completely against anti-discrimination laws based on sexual preferences. I see no justification whatsoever for gays to have laws protecting them from discrimination, when Republicans with beards have no laws protecting me, I mean, them. Seriously, such laws should be reserved for longstanding significant institutionalized discrimination that has held back an entire class of people, and gays seem to be doing just fine in Washington without the help of any anti-discrimination laws.

    Frankly, if I were gay, it would be insulting.