Thursday, January 24, 2008

Justice is Blinded.

During the height of the cold war, Braxton Berkley -- now Rev. Braxton Berkley -- worked on military planes for Lockheed Martin, one of the biggest defense companies in the country. Berkley, and a few dozen other of his former colleagues have been involved in a law suit claiming toxic waste handled during that job was an extreme health detriment. Yesterday the case was thrown out of the California Supreme Court -- not because of the merits of the case, but

because too many justices had holdings in the oil companies named in the case.

Read an article from the Washington Post and an editorial in the Times if you don't believe me.
ExxonMobil Corp. and Unocal Corp. were the companies named.

"It's not as if they didn't have their day in court," George said. That would be CA Chief Justice Ron George. Ummm...

In October, the US Supreme Court agreed to hear a case against Exxon for the 1989 Valdez oil spill -- that case has to do with the punitive damages awarded against the oil giant.

A federal jury in Alaska awarded $5 billion in punitive damages in 1994. A federal judge later reduced it to $4.5 billion. A U.S. appeals court in December further cut the amount to $2.5 billion.

Exxon Mobil, the largest U.S. company by market capitalization, appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing the $2.5 billion award still was too high. -- Reuters

Exxon is arguing they shouldn't be held responsible for damages because they have already spent billions on clean up.

Backtracking for just a minute, when all the election confusion of 2000 hit, the hardest thing for me was the dawning understanding that the Supreme Court was in fact not the pillar of justice I had always believed it to be. The golf games, the political ties -- I had no idea. Now that same court is going to hear a case with the potential to change the future of judgment against oil companies. Even if there is (and I sure hope there is) a better standard of blind investment for that court, I for one have no faith that they are in any position to be unbiased on such a matter so close to the wallets of the people running this country.

I want to bring in one more story that caught my eye this morning. The AP reports this morning that profits at another major oil company increased 37% in the fourth quarter thanks to the rising price of oil.

All this stuff is swirling around today -- the way it does sometimes when it all feels too big to even want to look at.


How things are governed -- and how things are going to go -- is something we should be talking about more. For the record, reporters who report on these matters, are not allowed to own stocks, or are required to have them in blind trusts.

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