The Cost of Economic Injustice

May 20, 2016

Income inequality is one aspect of economic injustice that is getting some exposure this election cycle, primarily from Bernie Sanders. The fact that there is economic inequality is now widely accepted by economists, and felt by most Americans. This may be a good outcome, even if it did take widespread suffering to crush the usual stereotypes about poverty being a function of laziness or some other pejorative.

Horatio Alger’s “rags to riches” America no longer exists. Even with heroic effort and working two full-time jobs, most Americans will not realize economic security. Since the Great Recession, the wealth of 50 percent of Americans decreased an average of 40 percent, while the average hourly wages of the 400 wealthiest Americans increased to over $97,000 per hour. There are structural aspects of our economy, built by political policy, that not only created the recent “Great Recession,” but have also increased the rate of the transfer of wealth since then. This comes at great costs to many social aspects of American life.

A deterioration in health and life expectancy are other negative consequences of inequality. America in the last five years has begun to imitate the conditions of Russians after the Soviet Union fell. In the last five years, the average life expectancy for white women in America has decreased at the same rate as Russian men after the fall of the Iron Curtain. In fact, American women now have the lowest life expectancy of women in any advanced country in the world! One factor in this decline is that the American economy has decreased the wealth of the majority of its citizens, resulting in decreased access to health care. One of the objectives of ObamaCare was to remedy that lack of access to medical treatment, but that was sabotaged when the Supreme Court gave the right of states to opt out of Medicare.

So it is not just a lack of access to education, or any of the traditional vehicles for upward mobility, that have been destroyed by this economy. It is also causing a deterioration in health and other aspects of a quality life. Reagan championed the “trickle down” economic theory that set into motion the greatest transfer of wealth in the world’s history. Since then, the political system has only increased that trickle to a torrent. Our children may be the first generation of Americans to live in a Third World country.

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The Problem with Appellate Courts

December 8, 2014

At Fieger Law, I have preached holding the values of our democracy to a higher standard. We care for our clients and we win for them whether the case is in trial or on appeal.
We are not afraid to win.
In my America, people have the right to be judged by their peers, to have a trial lawyer fight for their rights in the court of law.
People are supposed to be given due process and are presumed innocent. But, that isn’t how it works, is it?
It’s also important to have an experienced attorney represent you in the appellate courts. At Fieger Law we have experienced trial lawyers and we also have an entire appellate department specializing in appeals.
The Fieger Law Appellate Department is considered our “think tank.” Our appellate attorneys provide the firm with research and expertise in the law. They spend all of their time focusing on every aspect of the law, constantly doing research to ensure that we win every case that comes through our doors.
In the appellate courts there are no juries and decisions are made by politically appointed judges.
The appellate courts don’t allow full hearing, only oral argument.
Once a decision has been made by the Court of Appeals, it is difficult to appeal the decision again. The only place to turn after an appellate decision is to the high courts: the State Supreme Court, or the U.S. Supreme Court. These courts hear few cases, and tend to turn down appeals unless there is some question regarding the law itself.
This often leaves ordinary folks with nowhere to turn.
You may have won a case at trial only to have an appeals court overrule the win, often for political reasons.


Supreme Ruling

August 9, 2014

Just months before members of the Michigan Supreme Court are up for re-election, the Supreme Court issued a ruling that provided corporations a billion dollar bonanza. The 4-3 ruling on the application of the Corporate Tax Rule will result in at least a $1 billion refund to corporations doing business in Michigan, at a critical cost to Michigan citizens.

Not that the ruling should be considered a quid-pro-quo bribe. That is almost always impossible to prove without one of the guilty parties admitting it. Rather it was more like a wink and timely gift to their major money contributors to re-election. Their record of rulings speaks for itself: Corporations win virtually every case that comes before them (90% rulings in favor of corporate interests).

The contributions also speak for themselves: the vast amounts of money contributed by corporate representatives such as the Michigan Chamber of Commerce to re-elect the same Republican activist judges.

Everyone in the legal profession knows this reality: there is a bias against individual plaintiffs in favor of corporate defendants in the Michigan courts. The cases we take are affected by this realization. Even jury verdicts against corporations are never considered sacrosanct, as they have in the past and in other States. It’s just that seldom has a ruling that so profoundly hurts the entire State of Michigan been timed so suspiciously as this. It’s seldom been so apparent that the bent of this Supreme Court is pro-corporation even if it means betraying their political base.

Maybe it will be enough for Republican Gov. Snyder to begin to appoint judges that can restore balance and integrity to the courts.

 


Supreme What?

April 1, 2014

The U.S. Supreme Court is taking up the case of a company owned by “religious” people who claim that being forced to provide birth control as part of standard medical coverage is violating their company’s “religious rights.” There is a lot at stake in the outcome, not just for “Obamacare.” At the root of the issue is whether or not corporations have the right to practice religion and therefore be exempt from, well, from virtually any employment law. It is the same insane line of rationalization that was the basis for the disastrous “Citizen’s United” ruling. Based on reports of the oral arguments, the predictable has prevailed: women justices have had to not only examine the litigants, but also had to school the male justices on what contraception is and how they work. Also predictable was Justice Scalia, who never fails to hide his biases or hypocrisy. 

Even though Justice Scalia formerly wrote a key decision on a case not allowing American Indians to practice ritual use of peyote saying their religious rights did not trump the law, he now indicates that he is willing to ignore his own precedent and allow corporations to practice religion — meaning forcing employees to accept their religious beliefs. The women justices, having educated their male counterparts on the medical uses and mechanism of contraceptives, went on to point out that various religions ban many essential medical procedures, such as transfusions, and questioned the obvious absurdity of how a non-living thing such as a corporation can “practice religion.” Some religious beliefs prohibit integration of races. In fact, there have been volumes written about absurd and unhealthy religious beliefs. 

Even with precedents and common sense on the side of ruling against a corporation’s right to impose religion on employees, it appears to be a close call. After all, Alito, Thomas, Scalia and Roberts have never hesitated to ignore precedent or common sense to meet their ideological agenda. Do we have a Supreme Court or a Supreme Fraud? We shall see soon enough.  

 


Obama’s Supreme Court Pick

June 3, 2009

There was an article in The New York Times Sunday (“The Waves Minority Judges Always Make.”) about the effect of a minority judge sitting on the Courts of Appeal and the Supreme Court. It is an excellent argument for the need for diversity on the Bench. All judges form opinions based on their life experiences, just as all jurors do. It’s as unavoidable as it is undeniable. Justices Scalia and Thomas have previously acknowledged this. Having a woman like Judge Sotomayor on the Supreme Court will help the Court avoid miscarriages of justice such as their recent decision to eviscerate the protection of women in wage discriminations cases. Even Sandra Day-O’Conner tried to educate her fellow Justices on women’s issues.

Some people apparently lose sight of the fact that the law is as much a means of establishing justice as it is a way of maintaining order. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina put his finger on the real issue regarding the hypocritical, if not overtly sexist/racist GOP attacks on Judge Sotomayor: the Republicans have a base to “entertain”. What an indictment of the GOP! They care more about entertaining their “base” than what is good for the Country. Small wonder that the GOP appeals to its only remaining base: white, Southern, males.


Chipping Away at Our Constitutional Rights

January 15, 2009

This week the United States Supreme Court issued a decision in an important case, Herring v. United States, involving our rights under the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment protects us from unreasonable searches and seizures. As a general rule, the police cannot use evidence against us if the evidence was obtained illegally. This is known as the exclusionary rule. Basically, if the cops obtain evidence illegally, the evidence is thrown out and can’t be used in court.

In recent years, the Supreme Court has signaled its intent to chip away at the Fourth Amendment and so this week’s decision comes as no surprise, at least to me. In Herring, the Supremes held that if the police mistakenly arrest you and find evidence of anything, the evidence can be used against you even though the arrest was illegal. In other words, even thought the evidence was obtained illegally, no exclusionary rule applies. Of course some people may think this sounds like a good idea. I mean the cops found something bad, so who cares how they found it, right? Sounds like the Court is closing the gap on “technicalities” used by dirty defense lawyers to get criminals off. I couldn’t disagree more.

I, for one, refuse to consider our constitutional rights as mere “technicalities” or “conveniences.” As an attorney, I am sworn to uphold and defend our constitution. I will continue to do so, albeit I will have to become more innovative in fighting the abuses of the government. The Fourth Amendment is supposed to stand as a wall against tyranny and government abuse. By throwing away these protections, we move one step closer to a police state where the government can do whatever it wants and we can do nothing.

In short, the Supreme Court’s decision in Herring gives more power to the executive branch (i.e., police, prosecutors, district attorneys, etc.) at the expense of ordinary citizens. Remember, if one group becomes more powerful, another becomes less. So who do you think lost out here?