The Republican Congress is moving fast to make corporations even more powerful than people if two bills are passed.
According to The Consumerist, the “Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act” (H.R. 985)– proposed by the same Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia) who tried to gut House ethics rules in January — would shut down any and all class action lawsuits if an attorney suing a corporation on behalf of multiple plaintiffs is in any way related to one of the plaintiffs, whether through family or work.
Goodlatte’s bill would also require all plaintiffs suffer “the same type and scope of injury as the named class representative or representatives,” which would, by default, bar many consumers from joining class action suits in the future if passed.
In addition to Rep. Goodlatte’s proposal, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) has proposed the “Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act” (H.R. 720) which orders judges to “sanction” lawyers who are estimated to have filed frivolous lawsuits. The legislation would effectively intimidate lawyers into backing away from plaintiffs who want to file a lawsuit against a powerful entity more likely to prevail in court, like a multinational corporation. Rep. Smith’s bill describes the sanction process as a combination of fees and other penalties lawyers must pay:
“[T]he sanction shall consist of an order to pay to the party or parties the amount of the reasonable expenses incurred as a direct result of the violation, including reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs,” the bill reads. “The court may also impose additional appropriate sanctions, such as striking the pleadings, dismissing the suit, or other directives of a non-monetary nature, or, if warranted for effective deterrence, an order directing payment of a penalty into the court.”
The Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act and the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act are currently awaiting action in the House Judiciary Committee. Given that Republicans have a comfortable majority in the House, the bills are likely to pass the chamber without much opposition.
Tom Cahill is a writer for the Resistance Report based in the Pacific Northwest. He specializes in coverage of political, economic, and environmental news. You can contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Facebook.