One thing seems undeniably true about the health care bill’s demise: when the public has a right to something, it’s pretty hard for politicians to take that away. But things aren’t always so simple, especially when the public may be unaware of what officials are up to. Take the issue of access to the courts. Most American’s believe they have a fundamental right to go to court if they’ve been hurt by corporate or other misconduct. Voters certainly did not send politicians to Washington to block that access. But in three separate instances so far, the Trump administration (with Congress’ help) has begun doing just that, and the general public has no idea.
The problem actually started six years ago, when the U.S. Supreme Court began doing terrible damage to the right to access the courts. The Supreme Court decided that when it comes to remedying harm caused by corporate wrongdoing, companies themselves could keep Americans out of court. They could force customers or employees into private, secretive arbitration systems controlled by the very corporations that cheated or harmed them in the first place. And no class actions, where individuals can join with others in one case, would be allowed. When a company practices a pattern of discrimination or receives a windfall through small injuries to large numbers of people (think, a bank charging millions of customers illegal fees), a class action is the only realistic way for individuals to access the courts, and for a law-breaking company to be held accountable.
To fix misguided Supreme Court decisions like this, Congress or federal agencies must act. And indeed, the agencies got busy.