NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Business Wins Some At Supreme Court

June 23, 2000

With only one week left in the current U.S. Supreme Court term, the business community is pleased overall by the decisions justices have rendered lately. Businesses have won eight of 13 cases outright and a partial victory in one other.

  • The court ruled that Congress never intended the Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco products -- and, in another case, that federal sanctions against a foreign government pre-empt state efforts to do the same, a decision viewed as pro-business since companies would rather be governed by one federal law rather than 50 different state laws.
  • The justices ruled 5-4 that a federal safety law requiring auto makers to install air bags in some, but not all, vehicles preempted the right of a woman to sue one of the companies under state law.
  • In two cases this term, the court narrowed the use of a racketeering statute against business -- thereby providing companies greater protection from potentially huge judgments.
  • While marketing companies were dismayed by a decision upholding Congress' authority to pass the 1994 Drivers' Privacy Protection Act -- which makes it more difficult for them to buy information contained in drivers' licenses and registrations -- the court's privacy ruling protects businesses by blocking prosecutors from "fishing" for information during investigations.

To be sure, business suffered some setbacks. The court held that circumstantial evidence -- rather than concrete proof -- is sometimes enough for an employee to win an age-discrimination suit. In another case, the justices gave a boost to environmentalists by strengthening the legal standing of citizens' groups to sue possible polluters.

Source: Robert S. Greenberger, "Business Triumphs in Supreme Court," Wall Street Journal, June 23, 2000.


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