The Senate Judiciary Committee has begun its hearing, "Courting Big Business: The Supreme Court's Recent Decisions on Corporate Misconduct and Laws Regulating Corporations." So far, only Chairman Leahy's statement is online, and it embraces the expected criticisms on cases such as Ledbetter, Stoneridge and especially Exxon Valdez. He also lays into the court for "blind devotion to corporation arbitration schemes." Leahy's statement also includes a political narrative:
The Supreme Court has demonstrated its increasing willingness to overturn juries who received the factual evidence and weighed the arguments. Nothing is more fundamental to the American justice system than our trust in the wisdom and judgment of ordinary Americans who serve on juries.
UPDATE: The prepared testimony is now available. Osa M. Schultz provides the perspective of a very angry Alaskan harmed by the Exxon Valdez spills, and she wants high punitive damages. Patricia Ann Millett, a former attorney in the Office of Solicitor General, gives a dispassionate assessment of the Court's opinions and judicial alliances on preemption, arbitration, employment cases and punitive damages.
The target to come under the heaviest fire today was mandatory pre-dispute arbitration, as Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Bartholet condemned its transformation into a mechanism biased toward corporate interests. In her lengthy prepared testimony, Bartholet cites her experience as an arbitrator dealing with consumer credit card cases for the National Arbitration Forum.
Judging by the witnesses, testimony and his opening remarks, Chairman Leahy regarded today's hearing as especially useful in building the Congressional case against arbitration. The legislation with the most prospects is S. 2838, attacking arbitration in nursing home contracts; the House version, H.R. 6126, is moving quicker, though, having been reported out of the subcommittee last week.
MORE: RTTNews carries a straightforward account of the hearing here. Mayer Brown had a legislative update last week on the anti-arbitration bills moving through Congress, focusing on the effects on international arbitration.