Earlier this year, a unanimous Supreme Court rejected claims by AT&T that the corporation had “personal privacy” rights that should be protected. Chief Justice John Roberts capped his opinion for the Court with a flourish: “We trust that AT&T will not take it personally.” In the wake of this case and a few other losses suffered by business interests, some Court observers argued that the Roberts Court’s reputation as a champion of corporate interests is unearned.
But this week’s AT&T decision reminds us just how corporate friendly this court really is.
Wendesday’s ruling in AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion involved the practice of what’s called “binding arbitration.” Typically, if you have a legal dispute you go to court to get it resolved, but some contracts contain provisions that force you to give up your right to sue. Instead, you go through “arbitration,” in which disputes are resolved informally by a third party. Think of it as a sort of privatized judiciary. The advantages to companies are clear: disputes are resolved more quickly and arbitrators selected by corporations are likely to be favorable to corporate interests.