Transcript: Thom Hartmann: The Big Picture: It's time to Occupy the Courts. 31 October '11

With Occupy Wall Street in full swing - it's time to begin a new occupation... of our nation's court system.

Today we learned that corporations are spending millions and millions of dollars meddling in judicial elections around the world and around the nation.

In fact - a new report by the Brennan Center for Justice, the NYU School of Law, and other independent judicial watchdogs - finds that just three corporate lobbyist groups - the Ohio Chamber of Commerce - the Business Council of Alabama - and the Illinois Civil Justice League - have outspent the ENTIRE labor movement in judicial elections around the nation.

Those groups alone spent over $3 million last year making sure that corporate-friendly justices found their way onto benches everywhere in the country.

There's long been a debate over what kind of judge is best - one elected by the people as most state judges are - or one appointed by the President as most federal judges are.

But the truth is - now that corporations are allowed to spend unlimited amounts in our elections - both types of judges have been corrupted - transformed from professional jurists into corporate shills.

Because either they are elected directly - in which case corporations dump huge amounts of money into the election to decide which judge will give them more favorable rulings and get that person elected, or they're appointed - and then approved - by politicians who are elected by - you guessed it - that very same corporate money.

That means - the branch of our government that was supposed to be the least politicized - supposed to be free from any influence - be it corporate or labor - is now quickly becoming one of the most politicized branches.

This is especially troubling considering that the judiciary branch - which was also supposed to be the least powerful branch in our government - has emerged as the most powerful branch.

Thanks to the 1803 Marbury versus Madison decision - the Supreme Court can now strike down laws passed by Congress and signed by the President at the whim of 5 justices who are unelected and serving for life.

We saw the effects of this sweeping power in last year's Citizens United decision.

And we've seen the effects of this unfortunate corporate takeover of the high court every single time corporate personhood has been upheld by the judiciary even though no Congress - nor any President - has signed off on ANY law giving corporations the same rights of people.

That's right - no Congress - nor any President - has ever passed a law saying that corporations are people - only the Supreme Court has.

So if Occupy Wall Street really wants to find the culprit in corporate personhood - it's time to start occupying courthouses around America.

And - it's time to start focusing on one organization in particular - the Federalist Society.

Created in 1982 - per the instructions of the Powell Memo a decade earlier - the Federalist Society is one of the most influential - yet least talked about - organizations in the nation - and is responsible for many of the far right-wing decisions handed down by courts across America.

The Federalist Society now has over 40,000 members and an operating budget of ten million dollars - thanks to massive contributions by billionaires like the Koch brothers.

And it has one goal - to infiltrate our nation's independent judiciary with conservative and libertarian ideology.

That means rolling back civil rights legislation - rolling back reproductive rights for women - rolling back pollution regulations - rolling back labor protections - and promoting corporate personhood - and corporate immunity from prosecution.

Four of the five Conservative Supreme Court justices sitting on the bench right now belong to the Federalist Society:

Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, and Chief Justice John Roberts.

Former Attorney General under George W. Bush - John Ashcroft - was a member of the Federalist Society.

Former White House independent council - Kenneth Starr - the guy who spearheaded the Clinton impeachment investigations - was a Federalist Society member.

As was Ted Olsen - the guy who ran Bush's legal team and argued before the Supreme Court to stop the recount in Florida back in the 2000 election - sealing - and stealing that presidential election for George W. Bush.

And Republican Senator Orrin Hatch - who used to be the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and now is the number two member on that committee and oversaw the confirmation of several Federalist Society judges - he himself is a member of the Federalist Society.

Just think of it as a massive right-wing network of judges - lawyers - politicians - and business leaders who fund them - who - unsatisfied with just using their monies to subvert Congress and the White House - have spent the last two decades gaining control of the judiciary as well.

Which is all the more reason why we have to get corporate money out of politics.

Because as long as corporations can spend unlimited amounts of money in our elections - then we can replace Lady Justice's blindfold with dollar bills - ruling in favor of the 1% over and over and over again.

Time to occupy the courts!

That's The Big Picture.

Thom's Blog Is On the Move

Hello All

Thom's blog in this space and moving to a new home.

Please follow us across to - this will be the only place going forward to read Thom's blog posts and articles.

From Screwed:
"The powers that be are running roughshod over the powers that OUGHT to be. Hartmann tells us what went wrong — and what you and I can do to help set American right again."
Jim Hightower, National Radio Commentator, Writer, Public Speaker, and author of the bestselling Thieves in High Places
From The Thom Hartmann Reader:
"Thom Hartmann channels the best of the American Founders with voice and pen. His deep attachment to a democratic civil society is just the medicine America needs."
Tom Hayden, author of The Long Sixties and director, Peace and Justice Resource Center.
From Screwed:
"Thom Hartmann’s book explains in simple language and with concrete research the details of the Neo-con’s war against the American middle class. It proves what many have intuited and serves to remind us that without a healthy, employed, and vital middle class, America is no more than the richest Third World country on the planet."
Peter Coyote, Actor and author of Sleeping Where I Fall