Monday, January 25, 2010

SCROTUS, Court Screams & Debt Collectors Ruining Your Right to Privacy and a Job (The Plot Thickens)

Don't you wish we had someone the caliber of Smiley (Alec Guinness) working for our side? I'm not sure that character and integrity like this exist anywhere anymore (and, yes, I know this is theatre, but ain't it all?). From Think Progress we learn the most interesting news since the ruling that exposed the corruption of the Supreme Court:

. . . “all five of the [Supreme] Court’s conservatives joined together … to invalidate a sixty-three year-old ban on corporate money in federal elections,” a move that Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) said “opens the floodgates for the purchases and sale of the law” by big corporations.

Today, in response to the Supreme Court’s catastrophic decision, “dozens of current and former corporate executives” from corporations including Delta, Ben & Jerry’s, and Crate & Barrel sent a letter to Congress asking it to immediately pass the Fair Elections Now Act, which would publicly finance all congressional campaigns out of a special fund created by a fee levied on TV broadcasters:

Roughly 40 executives from companies including Playboy Enterprises, ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s, the Seagram’s liquor company, toymaker Hasbro, Delta Airlines and Men’s Wearhouse sent a letter to congressional leaders Friday urging them to approve public financing for House and Senate campaigns. They say they are tired of getting fundraising calls from lawmakers — and fear it will only get worse after Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling. [...]

“Members of Congress already spend too much time raising money from large contributors,” the business executives’ letter says. “And often, many of us individually are on the receiving end of solicitation phone calls from members of Congress. With additional money flowing into the system due to the court’s decision, the fundraising pressure on members of Congress will only increase.”

Even before the Supreme Court’s recent ruling, corporate special interest money was making a huge impact on the legislative process. From 1998 to 2009, the financial, insurance, and real estate lobbies spent nearly $3.8 billion in Washington, successfully deregulating Wall Street, passing huge tax cuts for the wealthy, barring Medicare from negotiating for lower drug prices, killing mortgage cramdown legislation, and weakening financial and health reforms.

According to polling done in November 2008, 69 percent of the American people support publicly financing all campaigns, including the majority of self-identified Democrats, Republicans, and independents. The bipartisan Fair Elections Now Act currently has six Senate co-sponsors and 125 co-sponsors in the House (President Obama was a co-sponsor when he was a senator). Click here to sign the Fair Elections Now Act petition.

The Existentialist Cowboy brings us Jim Hightower's measured opinion of these august justices.

Jim Hightower: 'A Black-Robed' Coup d'Etat'

Last September, I wrote The Hightower Lowdown about how the Roberts' Court could throw out over 100 years of campaign finance law.

Remember their names: Alito, Kennedy, Roberts, Scalia, and Thomas.

Yesterday, from within the dark isolation of the Supreme Court, these five men pulled off a black-robed coup against the American people's democratic authority. In an unprecedented perversion of judicial power, this court cabal has decreed that corporations have a free-speech "right" to dip into their corporate coffers and spend unlimited sums of money to elect or defeat candidates of their choosing.

Corporate interests already had too much money power over our political system. No other group in America comes anywhere near the spending clout that this relatively small clutch of wealthy special interests wields over our elections and government. So it's ludicrous for anyone – much less Supreme Court judges – to argue that the corporate voice is a victim of political "censorship." This is not merely judicial activism, it is judicial radicalism.

Thomas Jefferson warned about the dangerous rise of corporate power, declaring that (we) must "crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations." Today, I'm sure that founding patriots like Jefferson are not simply spinning in their graves at the Supreme Court's surrender to this aristocracy – they're trying to claw their way out of their graves to throttle all five of the traitors.

We MUST fight back. Many good groups are working on this issue, and we all have to get involved to fight against this corporate take over of our political system. Public Citizen has a petition we can sign. Common Cause is asking us to contact your congressperson and make sure they have signed on to the Fair Elections Now Act. I mentioned other good groups that are working on this issue. Get in touch with them. Let's fight the good fight... and win! Onward!

I don't know exactly what the bona fides are of the following item but the Legal Schnauzer has another even more disturbing tale that illuminates exactly where we are as far as having no privacy (or job safety) whatsoever if someone above decides we are expendable. (I have no dog in this fight, only an interest in making sure that if things like this go on, the word will get out.) (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)

Debt Collectors Leave Fingerprints at the Scene of the Crime

My wife and I filed a lawsuit in July 2008 alleging multiple violations of the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) associated with a debt we allegedly owed to American Express.

Strange events started happening on my wife's job at Infinity Property & Casualty Corporation in June 2009, just as discovery issues began to heat up in our lawsuit. The strangeness reached a head on September 25 when my wife - we call her Mrs. Schnauzer (MS) here - was fired under mysterious circumstances. Could someone connected to the defendants in our case - NCO and Ingram & Associates - have caused my wife to be cheated out of her job? Have things gotten so bad in our "justice system" that someone can lose her job simply for trying to seek redress in court? Did someone knowingly violate my wife's civil rights under 42 U.S. Code 1985 (2), which specifically prohibits such actions? We've been studying fingerprints left at the scene of the crime, and the answers to those questions appear to be yes. Actually, the circumstances surrounding MS's termination are not all that mysterious. Lawyers for NCO and Ingram & Associates had tried all kinds of threats in an effort to get us to drop the lawsuit. But it became clear in mid September that those threats weren't going to work, and defendants were going to have to turn over information in discovery. That's when my wife's supervisor at Infinity gave her a written warning for being "tardy," even though he had asked her some three months earlier to move her start time from 9 to 9:30 a.m. in order to help better serve California customers. She had always arrived well in advance of the 9:30 start time, and her supervisor had never given her oral notice of a tardiness problem, as required by the company handbook.

My wife disputed the written warning, indicating that she was going to take the matter to (H)uman (R)esources. Her supervisor then said he was "fine," stating that he had left the document in his drawer. In other words, he indicated that there was no official warning after all, and everything was fine. A few days later, MS was fired. Infinity's failure to follow its own policies regarding alleged tardiness indicate the grounds for my wife's termination were bogus. In fact, the company's incompetence in the whole matter is almost laughable.The written warning also charged that MS had taken several unscheduled absences on Mondays, hinting that she was abusing sick leave. In fact, all of those days were scheduled and approved vacation days, and the company eventually admitted in writing that the charge was baseless. But it upheld my wife's termination anyway! What fingerprints point to debt collectors in the cheat job my wife experienced at work? Let's consider just a few:* We had long been concerned that someone connected to our various legal issues might try to cheat MS out of her job. For that reason, we had been unusually secretive about her place of employment; her own sister did not know where she worked. But one of the first questions we had to answer in discovery for the lawsuit was a simple one: Where do you work? We were reluctant at first to answer the question, but we figured the court would frown on delay over such a basic question. So we answered it. That meant the defendants, and their lawyers, were pretty much the only people outside our household who knew where my wife worked.* NCO is represented in our case by Lloyd Gray & Whitehead, a Birmingham law firm with strong connections to Infinity Property & Casualty. How strong are the connections? Here is just one example: Erin E. May, an attorney in corporate litigation at Infinity Property & Casualty, used to work at Lloyd Gray & Whitehead. (See document below.)* Erin May apparently is sensitive about her ties to Lloyd Gray & Whitehead - at least when it comes to our case. MS raised the issue in a deposition a few weeks back. Consider this exchange, taken from the transcript, with Wayne Morse, attorney for Ingram & Associates: Q: Okay. But you think there was pressure on you in Infinity because Erin May is a former associate at Lloyd Gray & Whitehead. Is that . . .A: I think . . . well, according to her Facebook page, she's still close friends with omeone that works there, I don't recall the name, somebody. We had checked Erin May's Facebook page several times, and it appeared to be quite active, with several hundred friends. When we went back to check it after the deposition, it was gone. It's still gone, as I write this post. Does that mean Erin May caused my wife to be fired at Infinity? Nope. But it does mean there are ties between the defendants in our lawsuit and my wife's former employer. And it means someone isn't real anxious to have those ties known.We have more information about connections between the defendants and Infinity Property & Casualty. But for now, let's close with this document - Erin May's profile from LinkedIn. I found it originally by doing a simple Google search, and it was available to the public. It now appears to be available only to LinkedIn members. Again, someone appears to be sensitive about public documents that show connections between Infinity and Lloyd Gray & Whitehead . . .

Posted by Legalschnauzer at 10:40 AM Robby Scott Hill said... As a former debt collector, I can tell you that one of the nasty little secrets of the industry is the sharing of attorney fees and payment of bounties to legal assistants & investigators. Let's suppose I am a debtor working at a company like Infinity. The law firm representing the creditor calls over to Infinity's corporate law office and Infinity's General Counsel tells them that I own a big home in Vestavia Hills and have 10 grand in a savings account because my supervisor just gave me a bonus. So, the General Counsel at Infinity cuts a deal with the attorneys at the collection firm. The General Counsel at my own employer has me fired so the debt collectors can get my savings account and my home to satisfy the debt. The General Counsel who had me fired gets a kickback in the form of $2000 cash and he is invited to make an offer on my home when it goes up for auction. My home may be worth $300k, but the bastards will sell it to him for much less as a thank you for setting me up. Then, he can go out and flip it at full market price and make a nice profit for himself if he doesn't want to live in it. That's how debt collectors purchase loyalty and buy friends. January 20, 2010 12:16 PM Legalschnauzer said... Wow, Rob, very interesting. Thanks for the insight. Something ugly happened with Carol's job, and I'm going to find out what it is. I'm also starting to think my termination at UAB might have been tied to debt collectors. More on that in a future post. January 20, 2010 12:24 PM

Something ugly has happened to too many jobs in the US already. Still wondering about those bona fides? Suzan ______________


mark hoback said...

Keep on this issue, Suzan. Good work.

Cirze said...

Thanks, Mark,

Think I will. And I'm guessing you will too.

Party on, Garth.


Beekeepers Apprentice said...

Excellent post. Black robed coup? You're darned tootin'. Firing shenanigans? Well, over here in Virginia, and other states, it's known as "at will employment." We don't even need a conspiracy to lose our jobs.

Cirze said...

North Carolina, too, BA.

If I could get a job.


Greendayman said...

This wound is deep. Could be a killer. Jefferson would be appalled. I think he would slap John Cornyn in the face with a dueling glove after 2 minutes of listening to his excuses justifying this decision. How would he like to get slapped in the face by Thomas Jefferson? Heh, I just wish that for a few hours those funky time machine gadjets worked and we could bring the 'baggers/conservatives and the founders together. They'll both be armed. My money is on the founders.

I just did a little research myself into the history of our nascent government's relationship with corporations, thanks to Thom Hartmann and others, over at Salmonalley. GMTA?

Thanks Suzan, Great Work.

Jim Hightower is a very astute man. Love the depth.

And I am so glad that I have my own business. I don't think I could ever go back to the Soul Sucking Cubicle of Hell.

I may be broke, but I am free.

Thanks Suzan, -g

Cirze said...

Thank you, G.

You must be a very lucky, free man; the rest of us are trying to emulate you. I've had my own business for years and can't even make it to the level of being broke. Sounds like an upgrade to me.

I think every one of the founders would be ashamed to hear how their names were tossed around by scoundrels and scalawags who have no idea of who they were in history, let alone their personal values and beliefs (and how they might avenge their diminution by fools).

And Thomas Jefferson would have taken them all on at one time and humiliated them without a second thought with his withering judgment about their actions and injustices, not to mention his sporting pistols.

I've loved Jim Hightower's spirit for years. He's carrying on alone now since Molly Ivins has passed. I like to think I can help him out from time to time as I also have a special "love" for the "Texas" Bushes.

I love your poetic light touch too. Never change.


Soul Sucking Cubicle of Hell.