Video Interview

  • July 5, 2011
    Video Interview

    The Supreme Court’s decisions this term in Wal-Mart v. Dukes and AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion have not only “changed the balance of power” between individuals and companies, but are part of a trend of limiting individuals’ access to the courts through procedural rulings, University of Colorado law professor Melissa Hart said during a video interview with ACSblog.

    Hart, who spoke with ACSblog following testimony last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee, explained that both Wal-Mart and AT&T imposed procedural blocks on litigation that will make it harder for individuals to hold corporations accountable.

    “I think that this court is showing itself as extremely hostile to various forms of litigation … and is imposing rules on its own as a policy matter that really change the ability of people to get access to the courts,” said Hart. “That will have consequences across many kinds of litigation, not just in these particular contexts.”

    Hart noted that the court’s decision in Wal-Mart “really redefined” the class action rule at issue, imposing a higher standard for overcoming the “threshold inquiry” of whether to certify an employment discrimination class than would have been imposed on these plaintiffs in proving discrimination by Wal-Mart.

    “[The court] made it extremely difficult to imagine what an employment discrimination class might look like,” Hart said.

    She added during her Judiciary Committee testimony that the class action mechanism is “the only way to reach many kinds of systemic misconduct.”

    “[T]he erosion of this tool insulates companies from any serious risk of litigation from many kinds of potentially illegal behavior,” she said.

    Watch the video interview with Hart below, watch the Judiciary Committee hearing here, and learn more about how corporations are faring in the courts at the new ACS Web page, Corporations and the Courts.

  • July 5, 2011
    Video Interview

    Following a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week assessing the impact of recent Supreme Court decisions on corporate accountability, ACSblog spoke with Betty Dukes, the lead plaintiff in one of the most notable cases this term in which the court sided with corporations, Wal-Mart v. Dukes.

    Dukes lamented that the Supreme Court’s decision in Wal-Mart was a vote against the rights of her and her fellow plaintiffs “to have our voices heard.”

    “I feel that my rights have been violated,” she said, alluding to the claims of egregious gender discrimination in the case, “and I want to address [that] openly and honestly in a court of law.”  

    During the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Dukes expressed concern that women would be deterred from going forward with their employment discrimination claims against Wal-Mart, now that the court had blocked their ability to sue together as a class and halted a case that started ten years ago.

    "It is not easy to take on your own employer,” she said. “It is even more difficult when that employer is the biggest company in the world. In this country, there are many Betty Dukes who want their voices to be heard when they are denied equal pay and equal promotion. For many of these women, I am afraid that the court’s ruling will leave them without having their due day in court."

    Watch ACSblog’s video interview below, and watch the hearing here.

  • June 23, 2011
    Video Interview

    Controversy continues to surround President Obama’s defense of an ongoing military presence in Libya, with members of Congress and academics questioning whether Obama violated the War Powers Resolution by maintaining a military operation in Libya for more than 60 days without obtaining Congressional approval.

    President Obama argued in a report to Congress last week that he was not legally required to obtain military authorization, because the military intervention did not constitute “hostilities” as the word is used in the War Powers Resolution. But ten members of Congress announced they planned to sue Obama challenging that determination, and debate in Congress is heating up over whether to authorize continued American participation, or instead pass a resolution that would require an end to combat activity.

    In a video interview during the ACS 10th Anniversary National Convention this past weekend, Ohio State University law professor Peter Shane explained his understanding of President Obama’s legal argument, and how it’s likely to fare.

    “I guess my opinion based on just the one-paragraph view on that question, is that the administration has made an argument that you could probably make with a straight face. I don’t necessarily think it’s the stronger argument,” said Shane, who specializes in separation of powers issues and is the author of Madison's Nightmare: How Executive Power Threatens American Democracy.

    This week, Shane told ACSblog he would now take the stronger position that the administration's argument can "just barely" be made with a straight face, in light of a subsequent New York Times report that there have been some 60 U.S. airstrikes since April.

    He said during the interview:

    At this point they’re arguing that because we don’t have boots on the ground, and we’re not flying any or hardly any sorties ourselves against Libyan targets that this doesn’t amount to hostilities. But it’s still the protracted use of lethal force in which we’re implicated. It’s sustained, it’s continuous, and it’s against a country that had not attacked us previously, so it’s an aggressive use of military force. I think it’s an uphill climb to argue that that does not amount to hostilities under the statute.

    Shane also speculated that, in making this argument, the Obama administration is attempting to carve out a human rights exception in the War Powers Resolution, which would allow the president to “deploy military force for humanitarian purposes to protect civilians, at least where that can be done consistent with international law, and at least where that can be done without putting troops in harm’s way for an extended period of time.”

    “If that’s what they’d like to see created, I think that’s a good debate to have,” he said. “People obviously have memories of our inaction during Rwanda, and then what we did try to accomplish in Bosnia and Kosovo, and this may be another example of that.”

    But, he added, to reach that end, the administration should propose legislation.

    “I think trying to create the precedent by an easily challenged interpretation of the War Powers Resolution is just not the most helpful way to preserve checks and balances and show that what you’re doing is consistent with the rule of law, which is what it should be,” he said.

    Watch the video interview below and download the podcast here.

  • April 26, 2011
    Video Interview

    Social media scholar danah boyd, a senior researcher at Microsoft Research and a research associate at Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, recently spoke with ACSblog about young people, privacy, and the Internet.

    boyd explains why young people gravitate toward social media sites as a way of figuring out their place in the world, and why she believes the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), while well-intentioned, is not working the way it should.

    While COPPA was designed to require parent permission for children younger than 13 to participate in social media, the law has, in effect, created a ban for children younger than 13, with both parents and children systematically skirting that ban by lying about the child's age, she explains.

    “Parents are finding themselves written out of this and disempowered by the system, and they’re teaching their kids to lie,” boyd says.

    She suggests that education about use of social media is a better solution than age restrictions.

    Watch the full interview below.

  • March 31, 2011
    Video Interview

    Workers, consumers and many other individuals without the means to lodge lawsuits on their own against massive corporations may find an important avenue to courts cut off if the Supreme Court rules in favor of Wal-Mart in its effort to shut down a class action employment discrimination lawsuit, according to constitutional law experts following the case.

    Adam Klein, a partner at Outten & Golden, and chair of the law firm’s class action practice group, told ACSblog in an interview following a recent event examining the case, that a decision in favor of Wal-Mart may indeed limit class actions.  

    “What it comes down to is whether employees who don’t earn a lot of money, who don’t have access to lawyers to prosecute their cases on an individual basis can find a way back into the court system without the right to bring class actions,” Klein said. “That’s the core issue, I think, in the Wal-Mart case. The hope is that there are ways around whatever limitations the Supreme Court places on class action employment cases.”

    Klein noted that smaller class actions would likely still be an option even if Wal-Mart successfully defeats the large gender discrimination class action it faces. Watch his entire interview below or download a podcast of it here.