JUSTICE: #MeToo and Gun Reform movements score twin court victories within minutes of each other
In an era with a majority of Federalist Society-approved justices controlling the Supreme Court, progressives may have been losing faith that our nation’s ills can be helped by the American judicial system.
Two developments announced today, however, offer hope that legal proceedings can offer a measure of real justice as two longstanding cases announced settlements had been reached that brings both lawsuits to a close and provide hefty financial settlements to the plaintiffs suing powerful interests.
In the first case, filings today in a Manhattan court reveal that Great Britain’s Prince Andrew has reached a settlement in the lawsuit filed by Virginia Giuffre, who has accused the now-disgraced second son of Queen Elizabeth II of raping her at the home of the late notorious sex offender Jeffrey Epstein when she was just 17 years old.
The amount of the monetary settlement remains confidential but given that the filing also states that Andrew “intends to make a substantial donation” to an organization “in support of victims’ rights,” one can assume that it is a significant number.
The revelation of the settlement arrives only a few weeks before Prince Andrew was scheduled to testify under oath for a deposition in the case, an event that would have potentially aired the royal family member’s dirty laundry in the most public of venues.
While the Prince was not forced to admit the truth of any of his alleged victim’s accusations against him, he did release a statement saying that it was “known that Jeffrey Epstein trafficked countless young girls over many years,” adding that he “regrets his association with Epstein and commends the bravery of Ms. Giuffre and other survivors in standing up for themselves and others.”
The financial settlement in the case is the latest consequence for Prince Andrew who was stripped of his military titles, forced to abandon the use of the honorific “His Royal Highness,” and exiled from public duties by his mother, the Queen, after the lawsuit was filed, presumably because of the shame he had brought upon the royal family.
While the settlement was seen as a victory for the #MeToo movement, its implications for society beyond the individuals involved pales in comparison to the other settlement that was announced today.
In this second case, the families of victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, announced that they had reached a $73 million settlement with Remington, the manufacturer of the AR-15-style assault weapon used by the killer in the vicious school shootings that killed 26 people, including 20 children.
The settlement — which is an unprecedented move by a gun manufacturer in an industry that has largely been able to escape accountability and liability for the effects of the use of its deadly products — allows Remington to avoid disclosing any of its confidential internal marketing documents as it may have been forced to do in front of a jury if the lawsuit by the bereaved families had gone forward.
Legal analysts have speculated that the novel legal strategy of targeting the gun manufacturer’s marketing practices may have been the impetus for Remington to agree to a settlement that is $50 million more than any previous settlement figures that had been publicly bandied about.
Arms manufacturers are one of the few sectors of companies that are legally protected from product liability claims associated with the use of their products.
With the announcement of the settlement in the Sandy Hook case, hope that other victims of mass gun violence may now be able to use the same strategy to seek accountability from other weapons makers has greatly risen.
All in all, today was a superb day for justice and accountability. Let’s keep it going and hope for some accountability for Donald Trump and those of his allies involved in trying to destroy our democracy.
Follow Vinnie Longobardo on Twitter.
Original reporting by Benjamin Weiser at The New York Times and by Karen Zraick and Rick Rojas at the New York Times.
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Vinnie Longobardo is the Managing Editor of Occupy Democrats. He's a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music, and art.