Executive Director Message – June 2014

I am exhilarated and thrilled at the honor and opportunity to be the new Executive Director of Public Justice. I am enormously lucky to inherit the role from Arthur Bryant, our new Chairman, who has built and nurtured this organization in his 30 years of service, leading its growth from just one lawyer and an assistant to the nation’s premier public interest law firm. Nonetheless, I am very mindful that the challenges we face as a country are enormous, and that an incredible amount of work needs to be done to confront them.

We do vitally important work in a number of areas: fighting against major pollution of the environment and protecting children against school environments which tolerate severe bullying, among other initiatives. But in this column, I’d like to focus on one key area: our ongoing Access to Justice Campaign. The stakes could hardly be greater.

Many of our most thoughtful political leaders, scholars and economist have noted how America has suffered from greater extremes of income inequality. For a number of years now, a vastly growing percent of the nation’s wealth has been concentrated in a very small number of hands. While more than half of Americans live from paycheck to paycheck (a percentage that has grown steadily in the last few decades), the vast majority of the economic growth since the great recession that began in the fall of 2008 has gone to people in the 0.1 percent top economic bracket. Robert Reich and others have commented upon the harm that this extreme disparity brings to the country into our society. Our experience is that one key factor leading to the shrinking middle class in America is the disappearance of Access to Justice for a great many important bodies of law.

It is no secret that one of the drivers of the recent expansion in economic inequality is corporate cheating, plain and simple. Aided by a series of five-to-four decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court, it has become increasingly difficult, for private individuals to enforce their rights under the laws that were designed to protect us from securities fraud, antitrust violations, predatory lending, and wage theft. Economic inequality is advanced, for example, when many millions of Americans have been induced to take out loans or get other consumer financial services where they do not understand the actual terms of those products, because they were presented in such deception and misleading ways.

At Public Justice, we have long been leaders in the fight against corporate cheating. In order to avoid and gut consumer protection, securities, and employment protection laws, corporations have erected a series of barriers to close the courthouse doors to the American people. We at Public Justice have recognized this disastrous trend, and fought against it in a wide number of fronts.

This year marks the 10-year anniversary of our campaign to fight for access to justice, and we will begin the next ten years of the campaign with renewed energy and commitment to combat the artificial roadblocks corporations set up to strip people of their rights. So, as just one example, Public Justice has more expertise than any other law firm in the nation in how to fight the forced arbitration clauses that banks, nursing homes, and tons of employers use to strip people of their Access to Justice. We have litigated dozens of successful challenges to forced arbitration clauses, and each year we help dozens of plaintiffs’ lawyers to defeat such clauses.

At Public Justice, we have developed a lot of knowledge about strategies for fighting against not just arbitration clauses, but excessive court secrecy, overly broad federal preemption of important state tort and consumer protection laws, and a variety of other corporate strategies for closing the court house doors on Americans.

It’s a good match. At the same time when more and more corporations are trying to immunize themselves from what President Obama calls “the Rules of the Road,” the basic legal protections that all Americans should enjoy, Public Justice has a lot of expertise and energy to help fight this corporate campaign.

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