In the United States, our legal system and courts are public.  The people who run the court system are public employees, the judges, the buildings, are for all the people, rich and poor.  Now, its true that most people who go to court need an attorney to be more effective and that costs money.  But the access to the court system is open to all.  Just as important, the rules or laws that control the process and determine the substantive outcomes, are public and available to all.  The decisions of the judges are public.  This is so that we can understand and trust that our disputes are being handled in a mostly honest, good faith and fair manner.

There is a troubling trend going on where corporations are slipping fine print into contracts we all sign or mouse click on in which we give up our right to go to a real court of law.  We “agree” to have any future dispute with the corporation decided by an private arbitrator, guess what, picked by the corporation!  These mandatory arbitration clauses have been upheld by the real courts in many instances.  

In addition, some corporations, when they have a dispute between themselves, are not going to regular court, but instead are hiring private judges to decide cases behind closed doors.  It may be less expensive for them, but its not good for society.  Renting Judges for Secret Rulings.  A government of self-determination, democracy, needs law to be a growing, vibrant institution; something that all the people can look to for stability and guidance in their own conduct.  An entrepenuer starting a business needs to know how the public law will treat his business so he can make decisions.  If the competitors he is up against all have some private justice system, they can effectively exclude and crush the start-up.

As the mid-term elections approach, take time to see where candidates might stand on the questions of mandatory arbitration clauses and private judges.