RSSCategory: Law

July 9, 2014 | By | Reply More

How pervasive are binding pre-dispute arbitration clauses imposed by for-profit businesses upon consumers? Herman Scwartz of The Nation reports:

Two reports issued at the end of last year show how effective the Court’s arbitration rulings have been. Last December, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued a preliminary report, which found that contract clauses mandating pre-dispute arbitration are a “common feature of consumer financial contracts”; a final report is due by year’s end. The agency found such clauses in over 50 percent of credit card loans, 81 percent of prepaid charge cards and in checking accounts covering 44 percent of all insured deposits.

The CFPB found further that about 90 percent of such contracts, including almost all credit card loans, insured deposits and prepaid cards, also prohibit participation in current or future class or other joint actions in both judicial and arbitration proceedings. This usually forces consumers who have been injured in small amounts to drop the matter entirely, even though the defendant may have harmed many others the same way, for too little is at stake for each individual to justify the time, trouble and expense of individual arbitration. . . .

These two clauses are not just in consumer financial contracts, but are standard in cellphone and nursing home contracts, individual employment contracts, shipping agreements, passenger tickets and in many other areas. They have also been imported into the exploding commercial traffic on Internet websites. When consumers click their assent to the conditions imposed by a seller online, few if any realize they are often acceding to these limitations on their rights to a judicial resolution and a class action. Some merchants have gone so far as to claim that just opening a box for a computer, for example, is enough to constitute the necessary assent to such conditions in an “agreement” placed in the box.

What is the bottom line?

The Supreme Court has given financial institutions, businessmen, unscrupulous employers and others a license to do wrong. As the California Supreme Court put it, they have been given an “exemption from responsibility for [their] own fraud.”

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Bogus Fee Alert

July 6, 2014 | By | 2 Replies More

My daughters and I are in Las Vegas after a wonderful trip to 3 national parks. I bid for and prepaid for a hotel in Las Vegas, “New York, New York.” Priceline told me that my “Total Price,” including “Room Cost,” “Taxes” and “Fees” was $80.88. When I stepped up to to register for the room. the NY NY employee told me that I owed a “Daily Resort Fee” of $24. She pointed to a pamphlet on her desk (see the attached photo) and told me that the “fee” is for these items, including “unlimited local and 800 number calls.”

I told her that I already paid the “Total Price,” and I would not pay this “Fee.” She told me “Everyone pays this fee.” I told her that I wouldn’t pay this “Fee,” because I already paid all “fees.” She said I needed to take it up with Priceline. I told her I needed to speak with her manager. The manager (another woman) came to the front desk and told me “All of the resorts in Las Vegas charge the fee.” This was no consolation to me. She told me that I had to pay the fee. She told me that Priceline discloses that I would be responsible for paying this additional fee (this is false). I told her that I wouldn’t pay the fee, that it was fraud to charge the fee, and that I would pay it under protest, contesting it through my credit card company. I told her that I was a class action attorney and that they should be sued for a class action. The manager finally admitted to me that since Priceline told me that I had prepaid my “Room Cost,” “Taxes” and “Fees,” that it would be “unfair for me to pay an additional “fee.” She wagged her finger at me and stated that she would waive the fee this time only.

I am disturbed that this is going on. I assume that hundreds or thousands of people are being hit for this “Fee,” and that most of them are paying it rather than making a scene at the registration desk.

For any of my FB friends who are using Priceline to book rooms in Las Vegas (or elsewhere), beware that this is going on. In my experience as a consumer lawyer, merchants are increasingly tacking on these BS fees for illusory services, fraudulently making millions of dollars in the process.New York New York Resort Fee

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On recording the police

June 21, 2014 | By | Reply More

If you choose to record the police you can reduce the risk of terrible legal consequences and video loss by understanding your state’s laws and carefully adhering to the following rules. This advice is published by The Free Thought Project.

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Chris Hedges on the NDAA

May 29, 2014 | By | 1 Reply More

From Truthdig:

The U.S. Supreme Court decision to refuse to hear our case concerning Section 1021(b)(2) of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which permits the military to seize U.S. citizens and hold them indefinitely in military detention centers without due process, means that this provision will continue to be law. It means the nation has entered a post-constitutional era. It means that extraordinary rendition of U.S. citizens on U.S. soil by our government is legal. It means that the courts, like the legislative and executive branches of government, exclusively serve corporate power—one of the core definitions of fascism. It means that the internal mechanisms of state are so corrupted and subservient to corporate power that there is no hope of reform or protection for citizens under our most basic constitutional rights. It means that the consent of the governed—a poll by OpenCongress.com showed that this provision had a 98 percent disapproval rating—is a cruel joke. And it means that if we do not rapidly build militant mass movements to overthrow corporate tyranny, including breaking the back of the two-party duopoly that is the mask of corporate power, we will lose our liberty.

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How long is the iTunes terms and conditions?

May 24, 2014 | By | 1 Reply More

How long are the iTunes terms and conditions? 32 feet. The set of iTunes disclosures was printed out in 8 pt font and measured by Omri Ben-Shahar’s and Carl E. Schneider. They have written a new book on the failures of consumer disclosures titled: More Than You Wanted to Know. In the following video, Ben-Shahar characterizes mandated consumer disclosures as the “most common and possibly the least useful form of regulation.”

Watch the demonstration of the physical length of the iTunes contract here.

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Short history of the NRA and the Second Amendment

May 24, 2014 | By | 1 Reply More

The Brennan Center for Justice recently published this history of the Second Amendment and the NRA. The Second Amendment was construed entirely differently in years past than it is now. The NRA was an entirely benign organization until a few decades ago. It’s amazing to see how something can evolve into its opposite, but that is par for the course for a symbolic species like human animals.

In the end, it was neither the NRA nor the Bush administration that pressed the Supreme Court to reverse its centuries-old approach, but a small group of libertarian lawyers who believed other gun advocates were too timid. They targeted a gun law passed by the local government in Washington, D.C., in 1976—perhaps the nation’s strictest—that barred individuals from keeping a loaded handgun at home without a trigger lock. They recruited an appealing plaintiff: Dick Heller, a security guard at the Thurgood Marshall Federal Judiciary Building, who wanted to bring his work revolver home to his high-crime neighborhood. The NRA worried it lacked the five votes necessary to win. The organization tried to sideswipe the effort, filing what Heller’s lawyers called “sham litigation” to give courts an excuse to avoid a constitutional ruling. But the momentum that the NRA itself had set in motion proved unstoppable, and the big case made its way to the Supreme Court.

The argument presented in District of Columbia v. Heller showed just how far the gun rights crusade had come. Nearly all the questions focused on arcane matters of colonial history. Few dealt with preventing gun violence, social science findings or the effectiveness of today’s gun laws—the kinds of things judges might once have considered. On June 26, 2008, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the Second Amendment guarantees a right to own a weapon “in common use” to protect “hearth and home.” Scalia wrote the opinion, which he later called the “vindication” of his judicial philosophy.

After the decision was announced, Heller stood on the steps of the court for a triumphant press conference. Held aloft behind him was a poster bearing that quote from Patrick Henry, unearthed by the scholars who had proven so important for the successful drive: “Let every man be armed.”

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The failure of mandated disclosures aimed at consumers

May 17, 2014 | By | Reply More

Who takes the time to read all of the disclosures that comes with software and products? Not most of us. A new book reviewed by Bloomberg says that this is not only ineffective, but harmful.

[I]s mandatory disclosure really that beneficial? During the housing bubble, having to sign 50 documents stuffed with financial disclosures didn’t stop people from taking out ill-advised subprime loans on overpriced houses. An alarming number of female college students are still attacked on campuses despite the federal Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, which imposes stiff crime reporting obligations on school administrators. And disclosure forms in routine transactions, from getting a car fixed to signing for a FedEx package, have become meaningless annoyances. A new book, More Than You Wanted to Know: The Failure of Mandated Disclosure, takes the critique one step further: It argues that mandatory disclosures aren’t just useless but outright harmful in many cases.

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The God the Law Protects, according the the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court

May 2, 2014 | By | 1 Reply More

This man and I do have some differences of opinion, it seems. It wouldn’t bother me much except that he is the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.

“Speaking at the Pastor for Life Luncheon, which was sponsored by Pro-Life Mississippi, Chief Justice Roy Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court declared that the First Amendment only applies to Christians because “Buddha didn’t create us, Mohammed didn’t create us, it was the God of the Holy Scriptures” who created us.

“They didn’t bring the Koran over on the pilgrim ship,” he continued. “Let’s get real, let’s go back and learn our history. Let’s stop playing games.””

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Antonin Scalia’s recent misstep

May 1, 2014 | By | 1 Reply More

The media is now hammering on U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s recent misreporting of the facts of a case involving the EPA. It was a glaring error, indeed. As reported by the Associated Press:

The mistake in Scalia’s opinion concerned one section of about a page and a half in which he contended that the EPA was again asking for the authority to weigh costs against benefits in determining how large a reduction in emissions it mandates… Scalia went on to say the case “is not the first time EPA has sought to convert the Clean Air Act into a mandate for cost-effective regulation.” He cited as authority the high court’s 2001 decision in Whitman v. American Trucking Associations, in which the court said that such an analysis was not allowed under a section of the landmark anti-pollution law. The author was Scalia. The problem is that it was the trucking group, not the EPA, that wanted the agency to use a cost-benefit analysis.

Scalia’s recent gaffe pales in comparison to Scalia’s repeated claim that he decides cases based on “textual originalism.” Scalia’s purported theory was was shown to be incoherent and self-serving in a comprehensive article by Judge Richard Posner of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. In that article, Posner makes an airtight case that Scalia has bungled the legal analysis of dozens of cases. According to Posner, “originalism” is essentially a reckless embodiment of the confirmation bias. Judge Posner’s critique goes even further, however, accusing Justice Scalia of repeated disingenuous interpretations of the cases in order to attempt to lend credence to his pet theory.

I appreciate that the news media has caught Justice Scalia on a slipshod piece of writing. If only the media would now take the time to look at Scalia’s much larger and much more dangerous claim that he is dutifully following the directives of the nation’s Founders when he is actually carrying water for the Chamber of Commerce.

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