I find myself returning to common themes in these Blogs over the years. One of those themes is definitely the erosion of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, an erosion sponsored by, engineered by and supported by corporate vested interests and corporate money. The effort has been ongoing ever since the late 1970’s, when the Reagan administration first made unholy alliance to beef up the Federal Chamber of Commerce and change it into a propaganda arm whose power has waxed considerably since then. Supported by billions in corporate sponsorship (that money solely directed to eroding individual rights to hold corporations accountable for wrongdoing), the effort to kill the jury system and prevent individuals from having redress against corporations has been largely successful.
What’s most insidious about the effort is that each time they score a victory, they back away and then wait before they attack again. Why the wait? Why not press the advantage? They wait so that their victory can become part of the “landscape” that Americans have gotten “used to.” They count on “average” Americans to not really understand whatever erosion of rights they accomplished, and even when an American does get it, they count on short memory and short attention span to the erosion. In other words, they wait until the harm they’ve done is “the new normal,” and then they intend to climb from that new “norm,” as if they’re just starting out redressing a harm which has never been redressed.
The thinking on their part is very much “the long view.” If you wait long enough, even the most outrageous hits against Civil Rights and the jury system can become part of the “normal baseline” most Americans think has always been the case. Then, when the dust settles and enough time has passed, the corporations move from that “new center” even further right.
It’s literally like secretly taking a little bit of something you value away, in so small a “dose” you don’t notice it, until you wake up one day and it’s all gone.
It’s insidious and it’s disgusting, but the most pathetic piece of this is the fact that Americans have been entirely complicit in it. Voters who like candidates that push this agenda for other reasons, and who thus continue to support that candidate for those other reasons instead of holding the candidate accountable, share the blame for eroding Civil Rights, Civil Liberties and slowly killing the jury system. They don’t pay attention when the Supreme Court of the United States, which has become a propaganda arm of corporate America, creates decisions that constitute an abandonment of the oath that each Justice swore to uphold and defend the Constitution.
The jury is more than just a means to dispute resolution. It’s different then an arbitrator. The jury was a passionate cause for the Englishmen who, centuries ago, created it and nursemaided it to its birth in a new land, the first country to install the jury system as a cornerstone of its method of administering justice. Early American settlers established the jury system in Virginia, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. They were a means of self-government and efforts to deny access to a jury was one of the causes of the American Revolution.
Alexander Hamilton called the jury “security against corruption.” It should be immune from exercises of political influence and the power of the jury should never be eroded. De Tocqueville said that the jury system is an “institution of government” and a “form of a sovereignty of the people.” According to William Blackstone, the jury “preserves in the hands of the people that share [of government] which they ought to have in the administration of public justice, and prevents the encroachments of the more powerful and wealthy citizens.”
That’s a very important line, by the by, that bit about “encroachment of the more powerful and wealthy.”
Can anyone imagine people nowadays, with all their petty little concerns, getting exorcised enough about the obvious attempt to kill our jury system? To foment a new American Revolution? It’s sad. The distraction campaign along with the erosion campaign has worked. Americans are so much more consumed with their newest device, their newest download of music, their twitty little tweets, and other nonsense, that they don’t pay attention to what happens in Washington and in their State governments. They don’t pay attention when corporations encourage decisions from the Supreme Court like Citizens United, which give corporations the status of citizens (in other words, the ability to cause political change and give massive amounts of money to their candidates) without any of the accountability that goes along with being a citizen.
Unfortunately, as I said, the disinformation campaign has largely worked. The current Supreme Court doesn’t value this important tradition, precisely because it is “nettlesome” to large corporations, which form the constituency of the legislators who are political friends of the majority of Justices on the Court. Obviously, the jury is supposed to be “nettlesome” to the powerful and the wealthy, because the jury exists to curb abuses by the powerful and wealthy.
The founders of this country intended citizens sitting as a jury to decide disputes among fellow citizens. Today, more and more disputes are being sent to “arbitration,” where one person, whose bread is clearly buttered by corporate money, decides the dispute. The process is not fair and it wasn’t what was intended. It isn’t American.
People seem very forgiving of the erosion of the jury system. They believe the bullshit from the right wing, from corporations, from Chambers of Commerce, and from nonsensical “organizations” pretending to be reformers of the Courts when those organizations are entirely peopled by medical, corporate and insurance interests. In short, people are advocating their responsibility to hold the Supreme Court and Congress accountable for the erosion of the jury system.
One day, in the not too distant future, juries will be a historical footnote in America. Hopefully, I won’t live to see it, but many of you reading this probably will, and your children and grandchildren certainly will. If you want to have, and if you want those descendants to have, the “America” that was intended, that you grew up in, that you moved to, then you need to start being accountable. You need to start voting for gubernatorial, state legislative and national candidates on the basis of what their stance is on the Court System and on Civil Justice and Civil Rights and the accountability of corporations. You can’t forgive them improper stances on these issues just because you agree with their religious views, their moral views, their military views or their budget views. You can’t be a “one issue” voter. If you must, then make your one issue the only institution that preserves everyone’s rights and holds no one’s rights above any others. Make your one issue the Court System and the preservation of the right and power of a jury to redress wrongs.
I don’t want my Journey to Justice to end at a brick wall around what used to be America. Kill the jury and you kill our country.