Why men like Judge Jed S. Rakoff should matter to us

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Justin Maxon / The New York Times

“We’re a nation of laws, not men.” Thus sayeth John Adams, verily coining America’s lofty definition of “the rule of law.” I hate to tell John but we’re a flawed nation, founded on poetic promises of fairness and objectivity we’re wholly incapable of delivering. If we were truly “a nation of laws, and not men,” who would care what judge got assigned to hear your case? The judge is just a law vendor right, a person who matches facts that the jury decided, with the right mix of law. Why should it matter then which judge you got? And what about those instances where judge A rules for plaintiff, and with nothing more than a new judge, the outcome flips. Is the law so loosey goosey that it’s like jello, it can apply both ways, merely because a different set of eyes applied it?

If we’re truly “a nation of laws, and not men” then why would corporations go the trouble of “purchasing” our judges, governors, legislators, members of congress, senators and so on? State Farm “purchased” a judge and put him on the Illinois Supreme Court to reverse Avery v. State Farm, a billion dollar consumer fraud case. Massey Coal “purchased” a pimp judge in West Virginia and installed him on their Supreme Court to reverse a $50 million dollar verdict against it. Right now, Senator Max Baucus holds our health care fate in his hands yet big insurance “purchased” him with $3 million in campaign cash. If we’re really “a nation of laws, and not men,” all these corporate predators are they’re wasting their money, and all the lobbyists can park their cash wheelbarrows for good.

Take the situation in our own Supreme Court. One of the judges elected to the Court received the unheard of sum of $2.2 million in campaign funds. He was elected as a tort reformer, pledging allegiance to big insurance, big medical, big pharma, etc. After the election, he showed up as a guest of the notorious insurance shill, Robert Hartwig, at a big insurance confab.

Let’s examine what happened next at Mississippi Supreme Court. Alex Alston, an esteemed senior member of the Mississippi bar who’s practiced on both sides had this to say:

During the past 4 1/2 years, according to my research, an astonishing 88 percent of all jury verdicts in favor of the wronged victims have been reversed by the state Supreme Court. Continue reading “Why men like Judge Jed S. Rakoff should matter to us”