Thursday, June 26, 2008

Those Judicial Activists on the Supreme Court

SCOTUS did the Bush Administration another solid by cutting the punitive damages a jury awared to victims of the Exxon Valdez disaster. One contributor at the SCOTUSblog described the down-is-up posture of the Supreme Court majority in this case:

[This] opinion, is, at its heart, judicial activism at its worst ....

While the Court agrees that most punitive damages award are assessed by a jury of presumed reasonable people and reviewed by a judge, the Court still somehow finds this process unreasonable ....

As Justice Stevens so aptly stated in his dissent, “in light of the many statutes governing liability under admiralty law, the absence of any limitation on an award of the sort at issue in this case suggests that Congress would not wish to create a new rule restricting the liability of a wrongdoer like Exxon.” Here the Court has inserted its judgment for the sound reasoning of juries, the informed review of judges and the intent of Congress.

Tort reformers require a high federal authority to impose their cause, because they cannot demonstrate reasonably that jury awards are not rationally calculated or deliberated and overseen by competent judges. I would call it denial--with SCOTUS collusion--that corporate malfeasance can visit so much destruction across a landscape and upon people's lives.

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