During his confirmation hearings, Chief Justice John Roberts assured the Senate Judiciary Committee and the American people that he would safeguard women's equality, testifying under oath, "Of course gender discrimination is a serious problem. It's a particular concern of mine."
Just one year later, the chief justice changed his tune and joined the Supreme Court's conservative majority to rule against Lilly Ledbetter in a landmark pay discrimination case. For nearly two decades, Lilly worked as a supervisor at the Goodyear Tire and Rubber plant in Gadsden, Ala. Late in her career, she discovered that throughout her tenure at the plant, she had been paid a fraction of what her male colleagues were making. As soon as she learned of the discrepancy, she sued the employer and a federal jury ruled in her favor, awarding Lilly back pay and punitive damages. On appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court, that ruling was overturned. Though the Justices conceded that Lilly had been the victim of discrimination, they ruled that she was not entitled to any compensation because she should have filed her discrimination claim within 180 days of the time her supervisors first set her pay on a discriminatory basis. "Those justices had no idea what it was like in the real world, working in a factory, trying to scrounge out a living and to be a female at that," observed Lilly after the ruling. Unfortunately, she's not the only one whose life has been changed by the new Court.
My latest movie collaboration with Alliance for Justice, Supreme Injustices details Lilly's story and tells the stories of other ordinary Americans who have already been harmed by the Supreme Court's rightward tilt since Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito took the bench.
Whether you are a woman trying to get a fair wage or a child trying to get a quality education, the Supreme Court makes decisions that will dramatically affect your life, and the lives of your loved ones. Nothing demonstrated this more clearly than the decisions the conservative majority started handing down during its last term, decisions that tossed aside precedent and turned back the clock on important civil rights, worker, consumer, health and safety protections.
But that is not the end of the story. As the election season heats up, it's more important than ever to examine the role the Supreme Court plays in all of our lives. Alliance for Justice will do just that through First Mondays, a series of internet films and online chats that will be released on the first Monday of each month throughout the coming year. The true stories documented in these powerful films remind us that the decisions the Supreme Court makes have an impact on our lives not just at the start and end of the term, but every day and for years to come.
The Court is too important not to be a major priority for progressives. This term, under the guidance of Chief Justice Roberts, the Supreme Court will rule on a new host of issues that could affect you and the people you care about: Can the government retaliate against federal employees who complain about bias in the workplace? Can states create obstacles for people of color and low-income voters by forcing them to show identification at the polls? Will our government continue to deny basic human and legal rights to detainees in Guantanamo Bay? The answer to these questions and many more will depend on the Court's small but powerful conservative majority, and if last term's decisions are any indication, you will not like what the Justices will have to say.
It's not too late to take back the Court. Supreme Court Justices may keep their jobs for life, but the person with the power to appoint them does not. Conservatives know where their candidates stand on judges. Do you? Have you asked yourself what kind of president you want nominating the next Supreme Court justice, or which senators you want voting on that nomination? These are important questions that affect us all and deserve our careful consideration in the months ahead.
Tell your friends, your family, and your neighbors about the importance of the Supreme Court. Better yet, show them Supreme Injustices and let them hear it directly from Lilly. Then check back with www.AllianceForJustice.org to see the latest short film and to find out more about how the courts are shaping all of our lives.
To join me in the fight to protect our rights and to make our courts fair and just, please order your free copy of Supreme Injustices today.