We’re trying to find some good (or at least better news) to focus on today. So there shall be no talk of the White House, Congress or the U.S. Supreme Court (unless you want to heave). Rather, let’s do a deep dive into some state civil justice issues and see if there’s any good news to report.
We’ll start with state judges. After all, the U.S. Supreme Court doesn’t rule on everything. Here’s something we found. According to the Associated Press,“Some of the same national groups that backed the nomination of federal judge Brett Kavanaugh are spending big hoping to reshape state courts that will decide cases on redistricting, voting rights, abortion restrictions and other issues.” Whoops, ok maybe not.
How about some civil justice news from a solidly blue state? Should be more positive. But then we found out that last Sunday,California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed bills, which “comfortably” passed the Democratic legislature, that would have made it easier to take sexual harassment complaints to court, including a bill prohibiting the use of forced arbitration and non-disclosure agreements that keep sexual harassment hidden. Sigh. (#TimesUp, Jerry. California will have a new governor soon enough.)
But then there’s this out of Missouri. It starts somewhat “bad-newsy,” but bear with me. Seems like a corporate front group in Missouri stole email accounts and used them to send fake letters urging lawmakers to strip Missourians of their legal rights. Ugh, I know. But here’s the good part: a savvy journalist by the name of Tony Messenger of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch uncovered this fraud. In other words, the press is doing its job and thanks to reporters like this, we are finding out important things that would have otherwise remained hidden.
After doing some digging, Messenger reported,
The letters appear to be copied verbatim from a petition posted by the Chamber of Commerce on a website called StandUnited.org, which pitches itself as a source of “grassroots” activism for conservative causes.…
When state Rep. Jay Barnes, a Republican lawyer from Jefferson City, started receiving the letters, he was surprised he didn’t recognize any of his constituents’ names, even though he has lived his entire life in Missouri’s capital city. So Barnes started driving around and looking at addresses and knocking on doors.
One letter came from an empty lot with a house under construction. Another came from an empty home. Others had different people living at the addresses listed than the names on the emails …
“These are fake emails driven by out-of-state defendants desperate to avoid responsibility for cancers and deaths that jurors in Missouri and elsewhere have found they caused — after weighing the actual evidence,” Barnes said. “I’m not surprised. There’s never going to be a groundswell of support for an out-of-state company that a jury found knowingly poisoned consumers, causing cancer and death. Desperate defendants do desperate things — including, apparently in this case, forging emails.”
These fraudsters might even be prosecuted:
State Rep. Mark Ellebracht, D-Liberty, believes the emails likely broke state or federal law. He’s alerted the U.S. attorney’s office about them.
“Somebody has engaged in some level of identity theft here by posing as my constituents,” says Ellebracht, who is a lawyer. When he called one of the people who allegedly sent him a letter, the constituent said, “‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’” Ellebracht said.
“This undermines the entire democratic process. They’re using other people’s email without their permission or knowledge and co-opting their opinion. It’s insidious.”
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch had a great editorial about all this yesterday, praising Messenger’s work, writing,
…Messenger, working from the addresses sent to a different lawmaker, went out to the letter-writers’ addresses himself. He found the same thing: empty houses, or empty lots, or residents who insisted they didn’t write the emails that were attributed to them.…
If one side is engaging in deliberate, calculated, out-and-out deception to bolster its case, there’s probably something wrong with its case. And we now have a good indication that those intent on scaling back the right to sue businesses are engaging in such lies in Missouri.
I’ll say. And so have others. (Check out the discussion in the video below.)