Ever since Donald Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court, liberals everywhere have clutched their pearls and rushed to decry Justice Barrett’s record. Many Democrats are worried about Barrett’s influence on election cases, abortion rights and Trump’s taxes. Barrett’s danger, however, lies in her record regarding workers’ rights. Over 70 percent of Americans identify as middle or working class. Regardless of political affiliation, we should all be concerned about Barrett’s future votes.
Barrett has historically sided against workers as a judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. In Webb v. Financial Industry Regulation Authority(FINRA), the plaintiffs sought FINRA’s arbitration for being wrongfully fired. However, the plaintiffs contended FINRA didn’t “properly train arbiters,” were guilty of “interfering with the arbiters’ discretion” and failed to allow arbiters to collect evidence.
Because the parties resided in different states, both the plaintiffs and FINRA agreed to take the case to federal court. However, Barrett sided with the majority and claimed the court had no jurisdiction, even with the parties originating from different states. Justice Ripple dissented, ripping the majority for ignoring “established law of the circuit and tells future district courts to ignore” the same precedents.
Essentially, Barrett ignored legal precedent that said the court had to hear the parties’ arguments. Such blatant disregard for precedent should concern all working class citizens. The Supreme Court is built on following prior rulings’ precedents, and Barrett seems unlikely to care about injustice facing workers.
Moreover, Barrett has undermined federal protections for defrauded consumers. In Federal Trade Commission v. Credit Bureau Center, the CBC offered “free” credit evaluations to consumers, but also enrolled them in a monthly monitoring service. The CBC did so without the consumers’ consent and notified them after they were registered for the $29 per month service. The FTC noticed and took legal action to prevent the CBC from scamming consumers in the future and required them to pay $5 million in restitution.
Americans are no strangers to big corporations scamming them (I’m looking at you, Wells Fargo). The FTC exists to prevent companies from harming the American people. Yet Barrett still sided with the CBC and the majority of the Seventh Circuit panel. They argued the FTC could not seek restitution for the defrauded Americans because doing so “doesn’t sit comfortably with the text” of the FTC Act.
Again, Barrett outright ignored the court’s prior precedent. In the dissent, Judge Wood outlined how the Seventh Circuit had upheld the FTC’s ability to provide restitution in prior cases. He further pointed to how eight other circuits recognized the FTC’s right to seek restitution. Barrett ignored these prior rulings and instead decided to prevent the FTC from returning $5 million of defrauded money to Americans’ pockets.
Barrett’s record on protecting average Americans somehow gets worse. Her ruling in Casillas v. Madison Avenue Associates subverted protections for average Americans from debt collectors. Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, or FDCPA, debt collectors are required to notify consumers when they need to communicate with the company in writing to use their FDCPA rights. Madison did not notify Casillas of this policy, indicating a clear FDCPA violation.
As one might assume, Barrett sided with the company breaking the law — again. She specifically stated Casillas did not show any injury and that Madison made “a bare procedural violation.” The same circumstances occurred prior in the Sixth Court, and they reached the opposite conclusion.
To put Barrett’s decision into perspective, I can make a “bare speeding violation” by driving 50 in a 40, but the cop is still going to give me a ticket. That’s like a judge acknowledging I broke the law yet letting me off since the cop couldn’t show my illegal actions hurt anyone.
Republicans may love Barrett for her stances on social issues like abortion, but her record on worker and consumer protections affects conservatives, too. Barrett has time and again shown disregard for how other circuits have ruled and how her own court’s precedent. If she continues this trend as a Supreme Court Justice, previous rulings are all but null and void. Unfortunately, there’s nothing we can do now but hope other justices side with middle and working class Americans.
Caleb Powell is a biomedical engineering sophomore and columnist for The Battalion. His column is typically published online every other Wednesday when not in the Thursday newspaper.