Photo by Vitor Dutra Kaosnoff from Pixabay
Over the last year and a half, we have watched the slow legal grind against Monsanto’s weed killer Roundup make tremendous progress (see my previous reporting for Mother Earth News). Perhaps most shocking, Bayer has now offered to settle the class action lawsuits with a lump sum of $10 billion. These trials are a major victory for the health and rights of people, and great news amid an ever chaotic world.
Today, however, I don’t want to talk too much about the Roundup trials themselves. Instead, let's take a deeper look at what the Roundup trials show us about justice in America. And what these trials can teach us moving forward.
You Have a Right to Be HeardThe first lesson that the Roundup trials teach us, is that you legally have a right to be heard. And in this instance, I am not talking about protesting in the streets. Anyone who has been wronged can raise charges against another in court, whether the wrongdoer is a corporation like Monsanto or Bayer, or the government itself.
If you have a valid complaint against someone else, and file your lawsuit properly, your legal rights as a citizen can bring them to court to answer your complaint. (And if they fail or refuse to do so, you could win by default.)
What the Roundup Trials SayOne of the most important lessons the Roundup Trials teach is that your right to be heard may best be exercised in the courts. How many protests against Monsanto over GMOs and pesticides have there been around the world? Certainly a lot. I have taken part in a few of them myself. And the net result of those protests? Sadly, not very much.
However, in August of 2018, a Dewayne (The Groundskeeper) Johnson, took a stand against Roundup — and won! Now, 2 years later, as a result of his stand, tens of thousands of lawsuits have been filed against Bayer over their Roundup product. This flurry of lawsuits has forced them to come into court and hear the complaints against them. Furthermore, these trials eventually forced them to pay what is now billions in damages, not to mention the legal fees.
In my opinion, the Roundup Trials have served as one of the greatest expressions of the People’s right to be heard. But, unfortunately, this excellent system of expression and action is still too often overlooked.
Why Don’t More People Use the Courts?Many people overlook the courts for 3 major reasons:
- Reason 1: People think legal action is too expensive. One of the biggest obstacles most people see is the cost. And truly, if it’s one thing lawyers are known for, it’s racking up legal fees. It often costs more to hire an attorney than the damages you will receive. As a result, most people simply write off the courts.
- If you are seeking reimbursement for damages caused by someone else, and you learn how to use the courts without a lawyer, it truly doesn’t cost much at all. In fact, it may not cost anything if you get the court fees waived.
- Reason 2: People think the courts are too complex. The reason people think court is complex is actually a result of people thinking that court has to be expensive. Unfortunately, school doesn’t teach us much about how courts actually function. As a result, we grow up thinking that the court system is simply too complex to understand. However, that is certainly not the case. Nearly all of the answers to questions we may have are right at our fingertips.
- There are tons of great resources to help you navigate in court, even without an attorney. Take the time to learn.
- Reason 3: People don’t organize. People often overlook the courts, because they fail to organize with others to use the courts. Truly not everyone has the time to learn the legal system. That is exactly why working together is important. Sharing legal expenses with others, or working together for a cause, significantly limits everyone's burden.
Photo by S. Hermann & F. Richter from Pixabay
The Truth: The Court System is Not That ComplexReally, one of the biggest reasons that more people don’t use the courts is because they simply don’t understand them. I felt the same way for years. But then I finally sat down at the computer and looked into the matter, finding that the court system was actually much simpler than I thought.
One of the first resources I came across when I began my research was a self-help legal course called Jurisdictionary, started by Dr. Frederick Graves, an attorney who went to law school for the sole purpose of helping bring information about how to use the court system to the public at large. Dr. Graves makes it so anyone can learn to use the courts without an attorney.
I reached out to him for this article, and this is what he had to say:
All that’s needed is for people to know the power is available to them and for them to make up their minds that complaining doesn’t get much done. Action is always the only long-term solution.You and everyone you know have the right to sue for money damages and, if you’ve been paying attention, that is how change is effected by the people directly without political cooperation! Lawsuits change the law every day of the week … much more often than by legislatures or executive officers acting.
Most of the myths we heard about courts are simply untrue. Anyone that can read and write can represent themselves in court. With or without an attorney.
Together, We Can Find JusticeUnfortunately, we have been deceived into ignoring one of the greatest resources we have to seek justice. Sure, voting and marching are important, but there are other, often more direct method for forcing corporations, or the government, to pay for their wrongdoings.
The Roundup Trials, along with a long list of less publicized cases, prove this to be true. The courts are the People’s best form of direct representation in the government. The law is shaped everyday by the courts. More importantly, the more we, the People, learn how to operate in the courts without lawyers. The better we can work to protect our rights, our land, and our future.
The Bottom Line on Justice in AmericaAlthough it may not appear to be true. Justice is alive and well in America! It simply wears a different face than most of us expect. And with the courts, that face of justice may be your own. For example, the Roundup trials, kicked off by one man in 2018 who didn’t back down, served to dust off the scales of justice, and proved it!
It’s true, we live in a fast-paced world and the courts may feel like a slower resolution than we desire. However, if we can put our feet in the streets, we should also take time to put pen to paper. Whether a local corporation is polluting your water or the government is acting toward you in an unconstitutional manner, you have the right to take the matter to court and force the government and corporations to take proper action.
Standing Rock and the DAPLThe day before finalizing this article, production of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) was cancelled. This was in large part due to a rapidly changing legal landscape, which, according to Dominion Energy, “created an unacceptable layer of uncertainty and anticipated delays for ACP”.
Meanwhile, the People of Standing Rock, and their battle against the Dakota Access Pipeline that drew the attention of the world four years ago, is still ongoing. Although the protests ultimately came to an end, the battle for their rights to clean water still continues in court to this day, and is worth our attention.
Douglas Dedrick is landscaper, documentarian and environmental law writer. When he’s not looking for things to investigate, he is usually writing articles about lawn care. Connect with him at Healing Law, and read all of Douglas’ Mother Earth News posts here.
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