Occupy protesters in Indianapolis are gearing up to use the media spotlight on Sunday’s Super Bowl XLVI to rally for union rights outside the statehouse. Earlier this week, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels signed a so-called “right to work” measure into law that critics say will result in lower wages and diminished collective bargaining rights.
I had considered this but everything stacks against it. Disclaimer: I am not a class action, corporate law expert, but the following is my informed (for what it is worth, I have a J.D.) opinion:
Most corporations will use any means available to limit liability (they can afford an entire floor dedicated to in-house legal). Furthermore, the laws where incorporated are usually what apply in state suits (with various exceptions). Most corporations incorporate in Delaware, where they have carved out for themselves a pro-business shelter. More than half a million business entities have their legal home in Delaware including more than 50% of all U.S. publicly-traded companies and 60% of the Fortune 500. It is a small state, with a small populace and much of its money comes from those very corporations, so it maintains very business-friendly legislation.
Of course, state class action cases are few and far between because the Class Action Fairness Act prevents certification of many classes and makes it easy for corporations to bring the suit to Federal Court, where corporations are heavily favored. In the 1990s, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a number of decisions which strengthened the “federal policy favoring arbitration”. In response, lawyers have added provisions to consumer contracts of adhesion called “collective action waivers”. In 1999 the National Arbitration Forum began advocating that such contracts should be drafted so as to force consumers to waive the right to a class action completely, and such provisions have become very popular among businesses. In the 2011 court case AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that the Federal Arbitration Act of 1925 preempts state laws that prohibit contracts from disallowing class action lawsuits, which will make it more difficult for consumers to file class action lawsuits.
First and foremost, in order to bring any legal claim, you have to have standing. So for securities claims, you have to be part of the class of shareholders. As a consumer, you have to prove causal injury. To have standing as a class, you have to have commonality of issue (similar injury, similar redress sought). It is hard to find an attorney willing to take on the risk and time associated with bringing a class action suit of this caliber.
If you can prove standing, you next have to link a corporation’s involvement/actions to an actionable offense under the law. Good luck. The most affective strike would be against the head/heart, i.e. the holding companies. However, it is rarely the holding company with dirty hands. Corporate limited liability allows stockholders to create a protective veil, limiting personal liability. Furthermore, many corporations create subsidiaries that are legally separate, though controlled by, the holding company. That means that a corporation can, in practice, create “shell” subsidiaries to do their dirty work and then limit liability to those subsidiaries. Technically, activities like this should pierce the corporate veil, but corporations get away with this all the time. Stockholders are insolated from claims, subsidiaries are often created and sacrificed, and then on with business as usual. Unless we can prove a direct link to insidious actions from on high (i.e. a memo from the CEO or CFO or some other evidence linking the parent to some actionable offense or exposing the subsidiary as a shell (undercapitalized)) this is a difficult task to accomplish, especially when you are up against a powerful entity with money, lawyers and politicians lining their pockets.
Congress and conservative judges have made it really hard for consumers to bring class action suits against corporations. Even if, as an individual, you have standing to sue, getting a class certification is tough.
There are citizen suits permitted under many environmental laws. However, even then, we have to prove we have suffered an “injury in fact” - a violation of a legally protected interest which is (a) concrete and particularized and (b) “actual or imminent, not ‘conjectural’ or ‘hypothetical.’” We also have the burden to prove there is a causal connection between the injury and the conduct complained of - the injury has to be fairly traceable to the challenged action of the defendant, and not the result of the independent action of some third party. Lastly, we must show that it’s likely, as opposed to merely “speculative,” that the injury will be “redressed by a favorable decision.” This isn’t money into the hands of people, but usually the discontinuance of some harmful activity (i.e. an injunction rather than an award of damages). Furthermore, their lobbying efforts have chipped away at the laws that protect us from many of these egregious actions. Regulations have been lifted or now contain loopholes.
This is why people want Citizens United overturned. We need new legislation that will limit monopoly power, increase corporate liability/responsibility to allow people to continue to sue corporations for murder, human rights violations, fraud, etc., but to remove personhood status in terms of campaign donations, etc. Because corporations enjoy this status, they can buy politicians, thus enabling them to further influence beneficial legislation and appointments.
The system allows for this corruption. THAT is the problem. Until we make that illegal, corporations can continue to buy out our government. How do we make that illegal? Petition our government. Yes, that’s right, the same government that has been bought by corporations. The same government that ignores petitions, letters, and voter promises. So we petition in public spaces using our voices and our bodies. As we have already witnessed, we are silenced, beaten, and arrested.
So then…what next?
1. We must amend the Constitution - get Citizens United overturned. End corporate lobbying power. Get money out of congress. This is no small task. (http://www.usconstitution.net/constam.html#process) This has ALWAYS been done through Congress (the very group we are trying to limit money flow to…do you think they will be eager to promote this move)? Thus, we must either support Bernie Sanders’s amendment or the never before used option of convention of states.
2. Petition so long and so visibly on congress’ front lawn that the People’s will cannot continue to be ignored without also dropping the facade of serving the People. Congress will either bow to the People’s will, or they will cause a revolution.
3. Short of a revolution, on a long term basis, we must get incumbents out of house and senate. We must clean house. All House Reps are up for re-election every two years and 1/3 of senate every two years. If we cannot impeach, we must vote out. We need to pick outside candidates who do not have a history of getting into bed with moneybags.
4. Make it possible to have a legit multi-party race. Given the developing format of information dissemination, runners should not need to spend millions on campaigns. We should plan for televised debates, where the money goes equally to all nominees and each have the same amount of time to win us over. . We already do this with presidents. Now we just need more direct control over who gets nominated. It shouldn’t be whoever can afford the most ads.
Know Your Rights during an Arrest (United States)
No. Police are not required to tell you what you’re being arrested for. Within 72 hours you have right to be brought before a judge or released. When brought before a judge, that’s when the charges against you will be read.
Nevertheless, at the time of arrest, police will typically give you a basic explanation for why you’re being taken into custody. Remember to keep your mouth shut and ask for a lawyer.
Resisting arrest is just like it sounds. If police have probable cause to arrest you and you delay or resist them in any way, you can be charged with a misdemeanor of resisting arrest. Examples of resisting arrest include running away from police or providing an officer with a false ID.
Be aware that just touching an officer could get you tasered or beaten and stuck with a felony charge for assaulting a police officer.
Probable cause is the legal standard by which a police officer has the right to make an arrest, conduct a personal or property search, or to obtain a warrant for arrest. While many factors contribute to a police officer’s level of authority in a given situation, the probable cause standard requires facts or evidence that would lead a reasonable person to believe that a suspect has committed a crime.
Common examples of probable cause include the sight or smell of contraband in plain view or plain smell, or an admission of guilt for a specific crime. The presentation of any of these facts would allow an officer to perform a search and make an arrest.
Be aware that minor traffic violations (e.g. speeding, broken tail-light, or expired registration) are notconsidered probable cause.
Videotaping or photographing police in public places is usually legal, so long as you don’t interfere their ability to do their job. Nonetheless, police generally don’t like being watched or documented and will often respond aggressively.
Citizens are frequently arrested for videotaping police, and the charges are later dropped. Regardless, video is uniquely effective in revealing guilt and exonerating the innocent — for both police and citizens. See examples of this here, here, here, and here.
If you’re videotaping or photographing police, make sure you don’t interfere. If you’re arrested, “obstruction” is the most likely charge, and you’ll want to be able to defend against it.
If you acquire video or photographic evidence of police misconduct, create and secure copies of the evidence. Then forward copies to local police monitoring groups such as civilian review boards, and local ACLU, NLG, and NAACP chapters. You should also obtain legal representation for yourself in case the police department retaliates against you.
For an excellent defense of why it should never be illegal to videotape police, click here.
If you’re arrested you have the right to remain silent. You have the right to an attorney. You have the right to be brought before a judge within 72 hours and charged. And you have the right to be treated fairly under the law.
If you’re arrested, don’t rely on police to inform you of your right to remain silent and see a lawyer. Use the magic words "I’m going to remain silent. I would like to see a lawyer." If police persist in questioning you, repeat the magic words. The magic words are like a legal condom. They’re your best protection if you’re under arrest.
Remember that anything you say can and will be used against you in court. So don’t try to talk yourself out of the situation, and don’t make small talk with police either.
With more and more ways to take pictures or images, police departments are lobbying state legislatures to pass laws which in effect allow them to operate without public oversight.
"It’s not right," said Colorado Attorney General, John Suthers. “We think that allows police agencies, who are public employees, working for tax payers, to operate outside the First Amendment.”
The First Circuit Court of Appeals, highest court in New England region, reached a crucial decision in August (2011) allowing the public to videotape police officers while they’re on the clock.
"The filming of government officials engaged in their duties in a public place, including police officers performing their responsibilities, fits comfortably within these principles [of protected First Amendment activity]. Gathering information about government officials in a form that can readily be disseminated to others serves a cardinal First Amendment interest in protecting and promoting the free discussion of governmental affairs. Basic First Amendment principles, along with case law from this and other circuits, answer that question unambiguously in the affirmative."
The Court further stated that such protections should have been clear to the police all along, noting that the right to videotape police carrying out their duties in a public forum is “fundamental and virtually self-evident”, particularly on the Boston Common—the “apotheosis of a public forum.”
"Moreover, changes in technology and society have made the lines between private citizen and journalist exceedingly difficult to draw," the Court continued. "The proliferation of electronic devices with video-recording capability means that many of our images of current events come from bystanders with a ready cell phone or digital camera rather than a traditional film crew, and news stories are now just as likely to be broken by a blogger at her computer as a reporter at a major newspaper. Such developments make clear why the news-gathering protections of the First Amendment cannot turn on professional credentials or status."
The court concluded, “In our society, police officers are expected to endure significant burdens caused by citizens’ exercise of their First Amendment right.”
"[T]hough not unqualified, a citizen’s right to film government officials, including law enforcement officers, in the discharge of their duties in a public space is a basic, vital, and well-established liberty safeguarded by the First Amendment."