Beyond the Role of Law



Every law student promptly learns the national ideal that our country is governed by the rule of law, not the rule of men. Today, the rule of law is under attack.

Such activities have become a big business and, not surprisingly, they have involved big business.

On October 25th, Secretary Condoleeza Rice officially recognized before a House Oversight Committee that, remarkably, there was no law covering the misbehavior of Blackwater Corporation and their private police in Iraq.

Any crimes of violence committed by Blackwater and other armed contractors commissioned by the Defense and State Departments to perform guard duty and other tasks, fell into a gap between Iraqi law, from which they have been exempted by the U.S. military occupation and the laws of the United States.

Since the United States government is ruled by lawless men in the White House who have violated countless laws and treaties, Bush and Cheney clearly had no interest in placing giant corporate contractors operating inside Iraqi jurisdiction under either the military justice system or the criminal laws of the United States.

Presidential power has accumulated over the years to levels that would have alarmed the founding fathers whose constitutional framework never envisioned such raw unilateral power at the top of the Executive branch. Accordingly, they only provided for the impeachment sanction. They neither gave citizens legal standing to go to court and hold the Presidency accountable, or to prevent the two other branches from surrendering their explicit constitutional authority-such as the war-making power-to the Executive branch. The federal courts over time have refused to adjudicate cases they deem “political conflicts” between the Legislative and Executive branches or, in general, most foreign policy questions.

Being above the law’s reach, Bush and Cheney can and do use the law in ways that inflict injustice on innocent people. Politicizing the offices of the U.S. Attorneys by the Justice Department, demonstrated by Congressional hearings, is one consequence of such Presidential license. Political law enforcement, using laws such as the so-called PATRIOT Act, is another widespread pattern that has drag netted thousands of innocent people into arrests and imprisonment without charges or adequate legal representation. Or the Bush regime’s use of coercive plea bargains against defendants who can’t afford leading, skilled attorneys.

Books and law journal articles have been written about times when government violates the laws. They are long on examples but short on practical remedies of what to do about it.

Corporations and their large corporate law firms have many ways to avoid the laws. First, they make sure that when Congress writes legislation, the bills advance corporate interests. For example, numerous consumer safety laws have no criminal penalties for the violations, or only the most nominal fines. The regulatory agencies often have very weak subpoena powers or authority to set urgent and mandatory safety standards without suffering years or even decades of corporate-induced delays.

If the laws prove troublesome, the corporations make sure that enforcement budgets are ridiculously tiny, with only a few federal cops on the beat. The total number of Justice Department attorneys prosecuting the corporate crime wave of the past decade, running investors, pensioners and workers into trillions of dollars of losses and damaging the health and safety of many patients and other consumers, is smaller than just one of the top five largest corporate law firms.

Out in the marketplace, environment and the workplace, the corporations have many tools forged out of their unbridled power to block aggrieved people from having their day in court or getting agencies or legislatures to stand up for the common folk.

Companies can wear down or deter plaintiffs from obtaining justice by costly motions and other delaying tactics. When people get into court and obtain some justice, the companies move toward the legislature to restrict access to the courts. This is grotesquely called “tort reform”– which takes away the rights of harmed individuals but not the corporations’ rights to have their day in court.

Lush amounts of campaign dollars grease the way for corporations in the legislatures in the fifty states and on Capitol Hill.

As if that power to pass their own laws is not enough, large corporations become their own private legislatures. You’ve been confronted with those fine-print standard form agreements asking you to sign on the dotted line if you wish to secure insurance, tenancy, credit, bank services, hospital treatment, or just a job.

Those pages of fine print are corporations regulating you! You can’t cross any of them out.

You can’t go across the street to a competitor- say from Geico to State Farm, or from Citibank to the Bank of America, because there is no competition over these fine-print contracts, with their dotted signature lines. Unless, that is, they compete over how fast they require you to give up your rights to go to court or to object to their unilaterally changing the terms of the agreement, such as in changing the terms of your frequent flier agreement on already accumulated miles

Oh, for the law schools that provide courses on the rule of men over the rule of law.

Oh, for the time when there when there will be many public interest law firms working just on these portentous dominations of concentrated power to deny open and impartial uses of the laws to achieve justice and accountability.

RALPH NADER is the author of The Seventeen Traditions



Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! 

Weekend Edition
October 9-11, 2015
David Price – Roberto J. González
The Use and Abuse of Culture (and Children): The Human Terrain System’s Rationalization of Pedophilia in Afghanistan
Gary Leupp
The Six Most Disastrous Interventions of the 21st  Century
Mike Whitney
Putin’s “Endgame” in Syria
Jason Hribal
The Tilikum Effect and the Downfall of SeaWorld
Paul Street
Hope in Abandonment: Cuba, Detroit, and Earth-Scientific Socialism
Andrew Levine
In Syria, Obama is Playing a Losing Game
Louis Proyect
The End of Academic Freedom in America: the Case of Steven Salaita
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
The Bully Recalibrates: U.S. Signals Policy Shift in Syria
Brian Cloughley
Hospital Slaughter and the US/NATO Propaganda Machine
John Walsh
For Vietnam: Artemisinin From China, Agent Orange From America
Robert Fantina
Canadian Universities vs. Israeli Apartheid
Conn Hallinan
Portugal: Europe’s Left Batting 1000
John Feffer
Mouths Wide Shut: Obama’s War on Whistleblowers
Paul Craig Roberts
The Impulsiveness of US Power
Ron Jacobs
The Murderer as American Hero
Philippe Marlière
Class Struggle at Air France
Binoy Kampmark
Waiting in Vain for Moderation: Syria, Russia and Washington’s Problem
Paul Edwards
Empire of Disaster
Margaret Knapke
These Salvadoran Women Went to Prison for Suffering Miscarriages
Uri Avnery
Abbas: the Leader Without Glory
Halima Hatimy
#BlackLivesMatter: Black Liberation or Black Liberal Distraction?
Michael Brenner
Kissinger Revisited
Cesar Chelala
The Perverse Rise of Killer Robots
Halyna Mokrushyna
On Ukraine’s ‘Incorrect’ Past
Jason Cone
Even Wars Have Rules: a Fact Sheet on the Bombing of Kunduz Hospital
Walter Brasch
Mass Murders are Good for Business
William Hadfield
Sophistry Rising: the Refugee Debate in Germany
Christopher Brauchli
Why the NRA Profits From Mass Shootings
Pete Dolack
There is Still Time to Defeat the Trans-Pacific Partnership
Andre Vltchek
Stop Millions of Western Immigrants!
Dave Lindorff
America’s Latest War Crime
Ann Garrison
Sankarist Spirit Resurges in Burkina Faso
Franklin Lamb
Official Investigation Needed After Afghan Hospital Bombing
Linn Washington Jr.
Wrongs In Wine-Land
Ronald Bleier
Am I Drinking Enough Water? Sneezing’s A Clue
Charles R. Larson
Prelude to the Spanish Civil War: Eduard Mendoza’s “An Englishman in Madrid”
October 08, 2015
Michael Horton
Why is the US Aiding and Enabling Saudi Arabia’s Genocidal War in Yemen?
Ben Debney
Guns, Trump and Mental Illness
Pepe Escobar
The NATO-Russia Face Off in Syria
Yoav Litvin
Israeli Occupation for Dummies
Lawrence Davidson
Deep Poverty in America: the On-Going Tradition of Not Caring
Thomas Knapp
War Party’s New Line: Vladimir Putin is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things
Brandon Jordan
Sowing the Seeds of War in Uruguay
Binoy Kampmark
Imperilled by Unfree Trade: the TPP on Environment and Labor
John McMurtry
The Canadian Elections: Cover-Up and Steal (Again)