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Is America Still a Nation of Laws?

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Congress and the White House may have been co-opted by the big lobbyists and Wall Street insiders, but you may assume that at least the third branch of government - the courts - are still following the rule of law and protecting the little guy.

Unfortunately, the American system of justice is also under attack.

I'm not talking simply about judicial corruption. True, as I pointed out on February 17, 2009:

Senior judges in Pennsylvania have pleaded guilty to falsely convicting and imprisoning hundreds of youths (they got kickbacks from the prisons).


The Pennsylvania Supreme Court refused to hear a case regarding the corrupt judges. A month later, only after the judges confessed to criminal wrongdoing, did the Supreme Court change its mind and take any interest

In fact, I'm talking about something much more disturbing than simple corruption. I am talking about abandoning the very foundations of our judicial system.

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For example, as I noted on July 21, 2009:

The New York Times is providing important coverage of the U.S. Supreme Court's May 18, 2009 decision in the case known as Ashcroft v. Iqbal:

The lower courts have certainly understood the significance of the decision, Ashcroft v. Iqbal, which makes it much easier for judges to dismiss civil lawsuits right after they are filed. They have cited it more than 500 times in just the last two months.

"Iqbal is the most significant Supreme Court decision in a decade for day-to-day litigation in the federal courts," said Thomas C. Goldstein, an appellate lawyer with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld in Washington.

Why is Iqbal such an important case?

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As the Times notes:

For more than half a century, it has been clear that all a plaintiff had to do to start a lawsuit was to file what the rules call "a short and plain statement of the claim" in a document called a complaint. Having filed such a bare-bones complaint, plaintiffs were entitled to force defendants to open their files and submit to questioning under oath.

This approach, particularly when coupled with the American requirement that each side pay its own lawyers no matter who wins, gave plaintiffs settlement leverage. Just by filing a lawsuit, a plaintiff could subject a defendant to great cost and inconvenience in the pre-trial fact-finding process called discovery...

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George Washington

As a political activist for decades, I have rejoiced in victories for the people and mourned in defeats. I chose the pen name "George Washington" because - as Washington's biographies show - he wasn't a (more...)

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Very well written article. I hope the American peo... by Michelle Ravell on Monday, Dec 21, 2009 at 8:28:47 AM
Clearly, the system of checks and balances that we... by P. Orin Zack on Monday, Dec 21, 2009 at 11:35:55 AM
sooner than later. I spent seven years in Federal ... by Daniel Geery on Monday, Dec 21, 2009 at 12:01:18 PM
America has never been a nation of laws. An oligar... by Bill Samuel on Monday, Dec 21, 2009 at 4:06:59 PM