Sen. Patrick Leahy

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline)-Sen. Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, on Wednesday lashed out at the U.S. Supreme Court for affording "protections for big business rather than for ordinary citizens."

The hearing the Vermont Democrat called Wednesday was to "shine a light on how the Supreme Court's decisions affect Americans' everyday lives," he said.

Recently, the winners in the high court's decisions have been industry and corporate interests, at the expense of workers and consumers, he said.

"In this worsening economy, mothers and fathers are struggling with health care coverage, the uncertainty of retirement, credit card payments and mortgages," Leahy said.

"Congress has passed laws to protect Americans in these areas, but in many cases, the Supreme Court has ignored the intent of Congress in passing these measures, oftentimes turning these laws on their heads, and making them protections for big business rather than for ordinary citizens," he added.

U.C. Berkeley Law School Professor Jesse Choper said there is "some basis" for Leahy's remarks.

Choper, a constitutional law expert, told Legal Newsline that since U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor retired in 2005 and Samuel Alito was named to fill the vacancy on the high court, there has been a "tendency generally" on the part of the court to be more "conservative" in their decisions overall, and that includes rulings that affect business and commerce.

"They have to come out one way or another," Choper said from his office at Boalt Hall.

Whether it's good or bad that the high court has been coming out on the side of business is "in the eye of the beholder," he said.

From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo by e-mail at

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