Trump's Civil Justice Scorecard

Thursday, March 1, 2018

TRUMP’S CIVIL JUSTICE SCORECARD

Tracking everything the Trump Administration has said or done to diminish your rights (and legal accountability for corporate misconduct).

(March 1, 2018)

(DOWNLOAD PDF)

In little more than a year, the Trump Administration has already quietly destroyed many of your legal rights.  Who asked for that?   No one.  No one sent Mr. Trump to Washington to rig the civil courts against everyday Americans. (And needless to say, no one likes a hypocrite.[1]

Unfortunately, this Administration has been on a relentless push to do just that.  The examples below are among the many “under the radar” ways the Trump Administration has been harming the public’s health, safety and economic security.[2]

Here are the top civil justice attacks so far – both actions and statements.  They are listed chronologically (most recent first).  Those most targeted or endangered are highlighted.  Workers and injured patients lead (5 actions each), followed by consumers (4), investors (3), farmers, students and #MeToo survivors (1 each).  And two actions threaten just about everyone.

We’re sure this is only the beginning, so we promise to keep a running count.  Stay tuned.

 

2018

 

22. Patients (February 12)

Trump’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget recommends that the federal government strip injured patients of their legal rights, radically preempt state laws and restrict the power and authority of local courts to compensate victims in medical malpractice cases.[3]

 

21. Everyone (January 25)

The U.S. Justice Department issued a new policy limiting use of agency “guidance,” which will help insulate reckless corporations from government lawsuits over violations of health, safety, civil rights or environmental laws.[4]

 

20. Everyone (February 15)

The Associate Attorney General – who was former Chief Counsel for Regulatory Litigation at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (a major class action opponent) – announced that the U.S. Justice Department was “looking to get involved” in or undermine private class action settlements.[5]

 

2017

 

19. Workers (December 14)

After Trump appointed anti-worker members to the National Labor Relations Board, the Board severely narrowed workers’ abilities to sue companies for labor violations committed by those companies’ franchisees or contractors.[6]  Less than three months later, the ruling was vacated when it was discovered that one of Trump’s new members improperly participated in the case.[7]

 

18. Consumers (November 1)

Trump signed into law a repeal of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau rule that had allowed defrauded consumers to join with others to bring class action lawsuits against banks over financial products and services.[8]

 

17. Consumers (October 23)

The U.S. Treasury Department issued a report attacking the legal rights of consumers cheated by financial institutions to sue in court or join with other consumers in class action lawsuits against banks and financial companies.[9]

 

16. Farmers (October 19)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture made it more difficult for independent farmers, such as poultry growers, to file lawsuits against big agricultural companies over unfair, deceptive and retaliatory practices.[10]

 

15. Investors (October 7)

The U.S. Treasury Department recommended that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission consider preventing cheated investors who have been misled or deceived from going to court, forcing investors into private, rigged arbitration systems and barring them from joining with others in class action lawsuits.[11]

 

14. Retirement Investors(August 30)

The U.S. Department of Labor allowed negligent financial services advisors and companies to force retirement investors into secret, rigged arbitration systems to resolve disputes while preventing them from joining other ripped-off investors in class action lawsuits.[12]

 

13. Consumers (July 24)

The White House issued a “Statement of Administration Policy” supporting a bill to overturn a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau rule that allowed defrauded consumers to join with others in class action lawsuits against banks over financial products and services.[13]

 

12. Consumers (July 17)

Acting Comptroller of the Currency and Trump appointee Keith Noreika sent a letter pressuring the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to delay a rule allowing consumers cheated by financial institutions to join with other consumers in class action lawsuits against banks and financial companies.[14]

 

11. Investors (July 17)

U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission member Michael Piwowar, in a major policy reversal, encouraged companies to approach the SEC about allowing them to place forced arbitration clauses into company charters, preventing cheated investors from suing in court.[15]

 

10. Students(June 16)

The U.S. Department of Education moved to prevent students defrauded by for-profit colleges, like Trump University, from suing in court or joining with other defrauded students in class action lawsuits.[16]

 

9. Workers (June 16)

In a major policy change, the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of the Solicitor General switched sides before the U.S. Supreme Court.  The Solicitor General filed a newbrief arguing that employees, as a condition of employment, could be required to sign contracts waiving their legal rights to go to court or to join with other harmed workers in class action lawsuits.  (The prior Administration had sided with workers in the same case.)[17]

 

8. Patients (June 14)

The White House issueda “Statement of Administration Policy” supporting a bill to strip injured patients of their legal rights, radically preempt state laws and restrict the power and authority of local courts to compensate victims in medical malpractice, nursing home and drug injury cases.[18]

 

7. Workers (June 7)

The U.S. Department of Labor withdrew an Obama-era guidance documentthat had allowed workers to hold big companies as well as their franchisees or subcontractors liable for wage and hour infractions.[19]

 

6. Workers (June 7)

The U.S. Department of Labor withdrew an Obama-era guidance document that had “made it easier for employees or federal and state governments to sue companies for misclassifying workers as contractors rather than employees.”[20]  

 

5. Nursing Home Patients (June 5)

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services moved tostrip legal rights from abused and neglected nursing home patients, forcing them into secret, rigged arbitration systems controlled by the negligent nursing home.[21]

 

4. #MeToo Survivors (March 27)

Trump moved totake away the legal rights of many sexual harassment, sexual assault and discrimination survivors, preventing them from suing federal contractors in court and forcing survivors into secretive, rigged arbitration systems to get justice.[22]

 

3. Patients (March 8)

The U.S. Justice Department’s Solicitor General filed a U.S. Supreme Court brief arguing that the court shouldslam the courthouse door on many victims of product injuries by dramatically changing the law of personal jurisdiction (which the court agreed to do).[23]

 

2. Workers (March 6)

The U.S. Justice Department’s Solicitor General filed a U.S. Supreme Court brief arguing against a Montana Supreme Court decision that had allowed railroad workers to sue out-of-state railroads for on-the-job injuries.[24]

 

1. Patients (February 28)

In his first State of the Union address, Trump calledfor laws that strip injured patients of their legal rights and restrict the power and authority of local courts to compensate victims in medical malpractice cases.[25]

 

NOTES

 


[1]“Mr. Trump will see you in court,” Bloomberg, April 25, 2016, https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2016-trump-lawsuits/

[2]This compilation is conservative, only representing the most direct attacks on civil justice system rights and legal corporate accountability. This includes laws, policies, reports, statements (except those made at press briefings that merely confirm actions taken), and notable court briefs. It does not include many other actions the Administration has undertaken to harm people’s access to justice, such as closing the U.S. Justice Department’s Office for Access to Justice, (Katie Benner, “Justice Dept. Office to Make Legal Aid More Accessible Is Quietly Closed,” New York Times, February, 1, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/01/us/politics/office-of-access-to-justice-department-closed.html); “gutting of anti-discrimination measures across the financial services, including mortgages, car loans, payday loans, and more” (Hannah Levintova, “Trump and Congress Are Making It Easier for Banks and Companies to Rip Off Black People,” Mother Jones, February 25, 2018, https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2018/02/trump-and-congress-are-making-it-easier-for-banks-and-companies-to-rip-off-black-people/); or remaking the federal courts in ways that will harm everyday Americans (Kate Harloe, “How Donald Trump Is Remaking the Federal Courts in His Own Image,” Mother Jones, November 9, 2017, https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/11/how-donald-trump-is-remaking-the-federal-courts-in-his-own-image/). 

[3]“The Budget proposal includes: a cap on non-economic damage awards of $250,000 (increasing with inflation over time); a three-year statute of limitations; allowing courts to modify attorney’s fee arrangements; allowing evidence of a claimant’s payments from other sources (e.g., workers’ compensation, auto insurance) to be introduced at trial; creating a safe harbor for clinicians following evidence-based clinical practice guidelines; and authorizing the Secretary to provide guidance to States to create expert panels and administrative health care tribunals to review medical liability cases.”  White House, An American Budget: Major Savings and Reforms (February 2018), https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/msar-fy2019.pdfSee also, Center for Justice & Democracy, “A ‘Retort’ To The White House Budget’s Medical Malpractice Proposals,” February 15, 2018, https://centerjd.org/content/retort-white-house-budgets-medical-malpractice-proposals

[4]Memorandum from U.S. Associate Attorney General Rachel L. Brand, “Limiting Use of Agency Guidance Documents In Affirmative Civil Enforcement Cases,” January 25, 2018, https://www.justice.gov/file/1028756/downloadSee also, Robert Pear, “Administration Imposes Sweeping Limits on Federal Actions Against Companies,” New York Times, February 10, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/10/us/politics/legal-violations-federal-rules.html

[5]Cogan Schneier, “Rachel Brand Says DOJ Looking to Get Involved in More Class Actions,” National Law Journal, February 15, 2018, https://www.law.com/nationallawjournal/sites/nationallawjournal/2018/02/15/doj-wants-more-regular-voice-in-reviewing-class-action-fairness-rachel-brand-says/.  For full remarks, see U.S. Department of Justice, “Associate Attorney General Brand Delivers Remarks to the Washington, D.C. Lawyers Chapter of the Federalist Society Washington, DC ~ Thursday, February 15, 2018,” https://www.justice.gov/opa/speech/associate-attorney-general-brand-delivers-remarks-washington-dc-lawyers-chapter

[6]Jessica Corbett, “Fast Food-Loving Trump’s Labor Board ‘Pulls Rug Out’ From Under Fast Food Workers,” Common Dreams, December 15, 2017, https://www.commondreams.org/news/2017/12/15/fast-food-loving-trumps-labor-board-pulls-rug-out-under-fast-food-workers; Daniel Wiessner, “U.S. labor board overturns Obama-era ‘joint employment’ ruling,” Reuters, December 4, 2017, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-labor-jointemployers/u-s-labor-board-overturns-obama-era-joint-employment-ruling-idUSKBN1E838B

[7]Josh Eidelson, “NLRB Throws Out Ruling in Conflict-of-Interest Controversy,” Bloomberg, February 26, 2018, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-02-26/nlrb-throws-out-ruling-in-conflict-of-interest-controversy; Noam Scheiber, “Labor Board’s Do-Over Leaves an Obama-Era Rule Intact,”New York Times,

February 26, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/26/business/economy/labor-board.html

[8]“37 Ways Donald Trump Has Remade the Rules for Business,” Wall Street Journal, January 17, 2018, https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-donald-trump-has-remade-the-rules-for-business-1516190400; Lisa Lambert, “Trump kills class-action rule against banks, lightening Wall Street regulation,” Reuters, November 1, 2017, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-consumers-trump/trump-kills-class-action-rule-against-banks-lightening-wall-street-regulation-idUSKBN1D15WX; Sylvan Lane, “Trump repeals consumer arbitration rule, wins banker praise,” The Hill, November 1, 2017, http://thehill.com/policy/finance/358297-trump-repeals-consumer-bureau-arbitration-rule-joined-by-heads-of-banking; Bob Bryan, “Congress just killed a rule that would have made it easier for consumers to sue banks – here’s why people are so upset,” Business Insider, October 25, 2017, http://www.businessinsider.com/gop-trump-bill-kill-obama-cfpb-arbitration-lawsuit-rule-2017-10

[9]U.S. Department of the Treasury, Limiting Consumer Choice, Expanding Costly Litigation; An Analysis of the CFPB Arbitration Rule, October 23, 2017, https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Documents/10-23-17%20Analysis%20of%20CFPB%20arbitration%20rule.pdf; James Rufus Koren, “Treasury report slams consumer bureau in latest salvo over arbitration rule,” Los Angeles Times, October 23, 2017, http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-treasury-arbitration-20171023-story.html

[10]Federal Register, “Unfair Practices and Undue Preferences in Violation of the Packers and Stockyards Act,” October 18, 2017, https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/10/18/2017-22588/unfair-practices-and-undue-preferences-in-violation-of-the-packers-and-stockyards-act.  Reports Bloomberg, “The American chicken farmer largely exists at the whim of mass producers that, under a contract, give them feed and chicks to raise in exchange for pay.  Under current law, if one of those farmers has a gripe because, for example, he or she believes unhealthy chicks were sent as retaliation for a complaint about the contract, courts require a showing that the whole market – and not just the lone farmer – was hurt by the company’s actions.  Under the Obama-era rule, which had yet to take effect, that standard would have changed to require only a showing of harm to the farmer claiming it.” Deena Shanker, “Farmers Sue to Reinstate Obama Lawsuit Rule Trump Killed,” Bloomberg, December 19, 2017, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-12-19/farmers-sue-to-reinstate-obama-lawsuit-rule-trump-killed; See also, Deena Shanker, “Trump Chooses Big Meat Over Little Farmers,” Bloomberg, October 25, 2017,https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-25/the-trump-administration-chooses-big-meat-withdraws-gipsa-rule; Lydia Wheeler, “Trump officials quash litigation rule for farms,” The Hill, October 24, 2017, http://thehill.com/regulation/356802-trump-officials-quash-litigation-rule-for-farms; North American Meat Institute, “Meat Institute Welcomes USDA Rescission of GIPSA Rule,” October 17, 2017, https://www.meatinstitute.org/index.php?ht=display/ReleaseDetails/i/139766; Deena Shanker, “Trump Must Choose Between Farmers and ‘Big Meat,’” Bloomberg, January 31, 2017, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-01-31/trump-must-choose-between-farmers-and-big-meat

[11]U.S. Department of the Treasury, A Financial System That Creates Economic Opportunities: Capital Markets (October 2017), https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Documents/A-Financial-System-Capital-Markets-FINAL-FINAL.pdfSee also, Benjamin Bain, “SEC Weighs a Big Gift to Companies: Blocking Investor Lawsuits,” Bloomberg, January 26, 2018, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-01-26/trump-s-sec-mulls-big-gift-to-companies-blocking-investor-suits

[12]U.S. Department of Labor, “Enforcement Policy on Arbitration Limitation in the Best Interest Contract Exemption and Principal Transactions Exemption,” August 30, 2017, https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ebsa/employers-and-advisers/guidance/field-assistance-bulletins/2017-03See also,Allison Bell, “OL Suspends Class-Action Rule Enforcement,” ThinkAdvisor, August 31, 2017, http://www.thinkadvisor.com/2017/08/31/dol-suspends-class-action-rule-enforcement; Melanie Waddell, “DOL Set for 15-Day Comment Period on Fiduciary Rule Delay,” ThinkAdvisor, August 30, 2017, http://www.thinkadvisor.com/2017/08/30/dol-set-for-15-day-comment-period-on-fiduciary-rul; Jacklyn Wille, “DOL Again Signals Death of Fiduciary Rule’s Arbitration Ban” Bloomberg BNA, August 24, 2017, https://www.bna.com/dol-again-signals-n73014463627/; Mark Schoeff, Jr., “DOL defends fiduciary rule in brief to appeals court in industry lawsuit,” Investment News, July 5, 2017, http://www.investmentnews.com/article/20170705/FREE/170709993/dol-defends-fiduciary-rule-in-brief-to-appeals-court-in-industry

[13]White House, “H.J. Res. 111 – Disapproving the Rule, Submitted by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Known as the Arbitration Agreements Rule,” July 24, 2017, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/h-j-res-111-disapproving-rule-submitted-consumer-financial-protection-bureau-known-arbitration-agreements-rule/

[14]Letter from Acting Comptroller of the Currency Keith A. Noreika to Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray, dated July 17, 2017, https://www.consumerfinancemonitor.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2017/07/Noreika-letter-July-17.pdfSee also, Jim Puzzanghera, “Trump appointee wants to delay rule that lets consumers bring class-action suits against banks,” Los Angeles Times, July 18, 2017, http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-arbitration-regulators-20170718-story.html

[15]Sarah N. Lynch, “U.S. SEC's Piwowar urges companies to pursue mandatory arbitration clauses,” July 17, 2017, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-sec-arbitration/u-s-secs-piwowar-urges-companies-to-pursue-mandatory-arbitration-clauses-idUSKBN1A221Y

[16]U.S. Department of Education, 82 Fed. Reg. 27621, June 16, 2017, https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2017-06-16/pdf/2017-12562.pdf.  The Department announced a negotiated rulemaking process, or a “regulatory reset,” leaving student loan borrowers vulnerable to the “misleading, deceitful, and predatory practices of, and failures to fulfill contractual promises by, institutions participating in the Department’s student aid programs.”  See Andrew Kreighbaum, “Few Solutions for Defrauded Borrowers,” Inside Higher Ed, June 26, 2017, https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2017/06/26/advocates-say-department-inaction-forced-arbitration-leave-defrauded-borrowers-bind; U.S. Department of Education, 82 Fed. Reg. 27621, June 16, 2017, https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2017-06-16/pdf/2017-12562.pdf

[17]See Amy Howe, “Murphy Oil’s law: Solicitor General’s office reverses course in arbitration cases, supports employers,” SCOTUSblog, June 19, 2017, http://www.scotusblog.com/2017/06/murphy-oils-law-solicitor-generals-office-reverses-course-arbitration-cases-supports-employers/; Melissa Daniels, “DOJ Reverses Obama-Era Stance In Class Waiver Suit,” Law360, June 16, 2017, https://www.law360.com/articles/935889/doj-reverses-obama-era-stance-in-class-waiver-suit; Amicus brief supporting Epic Systems Corporation, Ernst & Young LLPand Murphy Oil USA (June 2017), https://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/briefs/2017/06/20/revised_16-285_16-300_16-307_tsac_bsac_unitedstates.pdf

[18]White House, “H.R. 1215 – Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017,” June 14, 2017, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/h-r-1215-protecting-access-care-act-2017/

[19]U.S. Department of Labor, “U.S. Secretary of Labor Withdraws Joint Employment, Independent Contractor Informal Guidance,” June 7, 2017, https://www.dol.gov/newsroom/releases/opa/opa20170607See also, Samantha Bomkamp, “Trump administration’s rollback of ‘joint-employer’ rule eases liability for McDonald’s, others,” Chicago Tribune, June 8, 2017,http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-joint-employer-mcdonalds-0609-biz-20170608-story.html; Danielle Paquette, “Trump officials quietly scrap Obama-era plan to protect fast food workers,” Washington Post, June 8, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/06/08/the-latest-sign-trumps-labor-department-will-be-nothing-like-obamas/; Paul Davidson, “Worker-friendly rules scrapped by Labor Dept.,” USA Today,June 7, 2017, https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2017/06/07/worker-friendly-rules-scrapped-labor-dept/102604962/

[20]U.S. Department of Labor, “U.S. Secretary of Labor Withdraws Joint Employment, Independent Contractor Informal Guidance,” June 7, 2017, https://www.dol.gov/newsroom/releases/opa/opa20170607; Paul Davidson, “Worker-friendly rules scrapped by Labor Dept.,” USA Today,June 7, 2017, https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2017/06/07/worker-friendly-rules-scrapped-labor-dept/102604962/

[21]Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, “CMS Issues Proposed Revision Requirements for Long-Term Care Facilities’ Arbitration Agreements,” June 5, 2017, https://www.cms.gov/Newsroom/MediaReleaseDatabase/Fact-sheets/2017-Fact-Sheet-items/2017-06-05.html.  See also, Mark Miller, “Shopping for nursing homes more tricky in Trump era,” Reuters,January 11, 2018, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-column-miller-nursinghomes/shopping-for-nursing-homes-more-tricky-in-trump-era-idUSKBN1F01H4; Robert Pear, “Trump Moves to Impede Consumer Lawsuits Against Nursing Homes,” New York Times, August 18,2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/18/us/politics/trump-impedes-consumer-lawsuits-against-nursing-homes-deregulation.html; Stephanie Francis Ward, “ABA, senators ask CMS to rethink mandatory arbitration in nursing home admissions contracts,” ABA Journal, August 8, 2017, http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/aba_and_senators_ask_cms_to_ rethink_mand_arb_in_nursing_home_admissions_con/; Megan Leonhardt, “The Trump Administration Wants to Kill a Rule Protecting Elderly From Nursing Home Abuses,” Money, June 6, 2017, http://time.com/money/4808214/trump-administration-ban-nursing-home-arbitration/

[22]Hannah Levintova, “In One Executive Order, Trump Revoked Years of Workplace Protections for Women,”Mother Jones,April 5, 2017, http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/04/trump-just-revoked-protections-women-workplace/; Mary Emily O’Hara, “Trump Pulls Back Obama-Era Protections For Women Workers,” NBC News, April 3, 2017, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/trump-pulls-back-obama-era-protections-women-workers-n741041

[23]See Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of California, San Francisco County, http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/bristol-myers-squibb-co-v-superior-court-of-california-san-francisco-county/; Amicus brief supporting petitioners (March 2017), https://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/briefs/2017/03/14/16-466tsacunitedstates.pdfSee also, Erwin Chemerinsky, “Chemerinsky: Two end-of-term decisions close the courthouse doors to those who have been injured,” ABA Journal, July 6, 2017, http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/chemerinsky_again_closing_the_cou... Steven Trader, “GSK, Others Back Bristol-Myers In Plavix Jurisdiction Row,” Law360, November 18, 2016, https://www.law360.com/articles/864366

[24]See BNSF Railway Co. v. Tyrrell, http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/bnsf-railway-co-v-tyrrell/; Amicus brief supporting petitioners (March 2017), https://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/briefs/2017/03/10/16-405tsacunited_states.pdf.  (Robert Nelson and Brent Tyrrell’s widow had pursued lawsuits against BNSF in Montana courts after Nelson suffered a serious knee injury and Tyrrell contracted cancer and died from chemical exposure – harms sustained while working for BNSF in states other than Montana.  The Montana Supreme Court held that the victims’ cases could go forward in its state courts since the railroad company did business in Montana and “maintained substantial, continuous, and systematic contacts with Montana,” including operating over 2,000 miles of railroad track and employing more than 2,000 employees in the state.)

[25]White House, “Remarksby President Trump in Joint Address to Congress,” February 28, 2017, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-president-trump-joint-address-congress/

Join Our Fight!

The Center for Justice & Democracy is the only national consumer organization in the country exclusively dedicated to protecting our civil justice system. If you'd like more information, please contact us.

Connect with us

CIVIL JUSTICE ISSUES IN YOUR STATE