Thanks to Chair Jeanne Jackson Moeller and the Anastasia Mosquito Control District of St. Johns County (AMCD) for deleting the arbitration clause from its renewal of a Cintas uniform contract. The District joins other local government agencies that have graciously heeded my call to eliminate contract language proposed by corporations to erase our sacred Seventh Amendment right to civil jury trial.
I've objected to these provisions for years.
St. Johns County, the cities of St. Augustine and St. Augustine Beach, and even the St. Augustine Port Waterway and Beach District have quietly deleted these obnoxious clauses from contracts after I raised the issue.
No government should ever agree with corporations and their attorneys to erase your right to sue.
Justice William Rehnquist called the Seventh Amendment right to civil jury trial a "bulwark against oppression."
Naturally, oligopolists and other oppressors -- angry at courts doing equal justice -- want to strip American citizens of their rights to get in the courthouse door.
- Prospective employees applying for jobs are asked to sign modern-day "Yellow Dog" contracts divesting themselves of their right to sue for discrimination if they are hired.
- Some doctors ask patients to sign contracts promising to use arbitration if there are any "disputes."
- Stockbrokers demand it, too.
These cramdown provisions are unethical, but allowed by Supreme Court "conservatives" who conserve nothing so much as privilege for corporations and the wealthy and powerful.
Congress recently moved to curb these abuses in the context of sexual harassment cases. But it must go further, and end the authoritarians march toward secret courts and secret law.
As the 1676 Fundamental Laws of West New Jersey (Chapter XXIII) said it best, "Justice must not be done in a corner, nor in any covert manner."
The Alternative Dispute Resolution "movement" is a dagger aimed at the heart of our democracy and our right to "Equal Justice Under Law," a concept carved in marble in the Supreme Court building.
The late U.S. Department of Labor Associate Chief Judge James L. Guill and I warned about arbitration clauses in our 1989 American Bar Association Judges' Journal article, "A Rush to Unfairness -- the Downside to Alternative Dispute Resolution."