John Roberts on Corporations

Supreme Court Justice (nominated by Pres. George W. Bush 2005)


Citizens United: corporate political ads are free speech

Over the years, the privileges granted to these state-created private tyrannies have been extended, primarily by courts. Corporations are legally persons under the law, with rights far beyond those of human beings.

In the 2010 Supreme Court 5-4 decision on Citizens United, Chief Justice Roberts selected a case that could easily have been settled on narrow grounds, and maneuvered the Court into using it for a far-reaching decision that, in effect, permits corporate managers to buy elections directly, instead of using more indirect means.

Corporate campaign contributions are a major factor in determining the outcome of elections, and the same is sure to be true of the virtually unlimited advertising for candidates now permitted by the Court. This alone is a significant factor in policy decisions, reinforced by the enormous power of corporate lobbies and other conditions imposed by the very small sector of the population that dominates the economy.

Source: Hopes and Prospects, by Noam Chomsky, p. 31-32 , Jun 1, 2010

Corporate political spending is protected free speech

In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court ruled, 5-4, that the government cannot restrict the spending of corporations for political campaigns, maintaining that it's their First Amendment right to support candidates as they choose. This decision upsets two previous precedents on the free-speech rights of corporations. Pres. Obama expressed disapproval of the decision, calling it a "victory" for Wall Street and Big Business.

OnTheIssues explanation: Roberts, Scalia & Alito concurred; Stevens, Ginsburg, Breyer, & Sotomayor partly dissented (on grounds that electioneering spending is not protected free speech); Thomas partly dissented (on grounds that anonymous spending is protected free speech).

Source: InfoPlease.com on 2010 SCOTUS docket #08-205 , Jan 21, 2010

Whistleblowers can be fired for cause


A former employee sued the FDIC, alleging that the FDIC violated his rights by disciplining and firing him in retaliation for disclosures protected under the RTC Whistleblower Act. The district court found for FDIC on the ground that the FDIC would have taken the same employment actions regardless of any protected disclosures. The plaintiff appeals, but we affirm.

The FDIC hired Koszola in 1991. In Feb. 1993, Koszola was accused of leaking a story about waste & abuse. In Sept. 1993, Koszola testified with other FDIC employees before the Senate Banking Committee about waste & abuse within FDIC operations. In Dec. 1993, Koszola was fired based on charges that he had failed to follow instructions and proper investigative procedures.

The district court correctly reasoned that the FDIC had already adduced clear and convincing evidence that it would have terminated Koszola regardless of any protected activity,

Source: FindLaw case 03-5313, US Court of Appeals, DC Circuit , Nov 16, 2004

Represented the states against Microsoft

As a private lawyer, I have actually represented probably more plaintiffs and enforcement interests in antitrust actions than defendants. I represented the State Attorneys General in the Microsoft case and represented several private plaintiffs in antitrust appeals as well, handled some antitrust cases when I was in the Solicitor Generalís office. Iíve also represented corporations accused of antitrust violations, and I think that balanced perspective is something thatís valuable for a judge. I certainly think a lawyer coming into court, if I were to be confirmed, representing a plaintiff in an antitrust action should take some comfort in the fact that Iíve done that. And a lawyer representing a defendant should take some comfort in the fact that I have done that as well and I have the perspective of the issue from both sides. So, again, obviously as judge, Iíd follow the binding Supreme Court precedent and the precedent in my circuit.
Source: Hearing before the Judiciary Committee of the US Senate , Jan 29, 2003

Can only sue for direct results of corporate negligence.

Justice Roberts wrote the dissent on CSX TRANSPORTATION v. MCBRIDE on Jun 23, 2011:

A railroad employee complained that the configuration of locomotives he had been assigned was unsafe because it required excessive use of an independent handbrake. Told to run the configuration as it was, the engineer after 10 hours of work injured his hand while using the handbrake. He never recovered full use of his hand and sued the railroad under the Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA).

HELD: Proximate cause not needed in railroad employee injury suitDelivered by Ginsburg; joined by Breyer, Sotomayor, Kagan & Thomas

Recognizing the hazards of railroading, Congress enacted FELA in 1910. It allowed injured employees to recover "for injury resulting from negligence" of the railroad. By using this language, Congress intended to substitute for common law "proximate cause" a standard that any negligence by the railroad, however slight, that caused injury to an employee would lead to railroad liability for the injury. Congress dispensed with examination of whether the railroad's negligence was the "direct" or "probable" cause of the injury. If any injury is forseeable, and the railroad negligent in preventing it, FELA allowed damages even if the particular injury is not forseeable. FELA's wording, Supreme Court precedent, and 50 years of Court of Appeals decisions following this precedent lead to this conclusion.

DISSENT: Congress did not disavow proximate cause in worker RR suitsFiled by Roberts; joined by Scalia, Kennedy, and Alito

Proximate cause has long been a requirement in tort law. When enacting FELA, Congress expressly disavowed four other common law standards of tort law; The Court therefore has no basis to find that Congress intended to do away with proximate cause in FELA cases by implication. The Court misinterprets the Court's precedent and provides a standard for FELA cases lacking in guidance to courts and allowing unpredictable recoveries.
Source: Supreme Court case 11-MCBRIDE argued on Mar 28, 2011

Other Justices on Corporations: John Roberts on other issues:
Samuel Alito(since 2006)
Amy Coney Barrett(since 2020)
Stephen Breyer(since 1994)
Neil Gorsuch(since 2017)
Ketanji Brown Jackson(nominated 2022)
Elena Kagan(since 2010)
Brett Kavanaugh(since 2018)
John Roberts(since 2005)
Sonia Sotomayor(since 2009)
Clarence Thomas(since 1991)

Former Justices:
Merrick Garland(nominated 2016)
Ruth Bader Ginsburg(1993-2020)
Anthony Kennedy(1988-2018)
Antonin Scalia(1986-2016)
John Paul Stevens(1975-2010)
David Souter(1990-2009)
Sandra Day O'Connor(1981-2006)
William Rehnquist(1975-2005)

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Page last updated: Mar 21, 2022