February 8, 2010

"Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker: Why the Supreme Court Missed the Boat on Punitive Damages"

Not many law students would feel comfortable publishing an article accusing the Supreme Court of biased, results-oriented judging. But University of Akron School of Law student Maria C. Klutinoty has no such qualms. She has written an article blasting the Supreme Court for its decision last year two years ago in Exxon Shipping, which adopted a maximum 1-to1 ratio for punitive damages to compensatory damages in federal maritime cases. The article suggests that the Justice Souter's majority opinion resulted from a bias in favor of major corporations:

In light of the fact that the defendant here was Exxon Shipping, a major corporation, some have concluded that this decision was the product of a conservative Court that placed the interests of business above the need to punish and deter wrongful conduct. This possible bias certainly may have played a role in the Court's decision, which appears to be much more concerned with protecting Exxon than with deterring other corporations from acting similarly.

The article concludes that lower courts should not apply Exxon Shipping outside the maritime context because the standard adopted in that opinion "eviscerated and rendered completely meaningless and void" the deterrence objective of punitive damages. The article, entitled "Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker: Why the Supreme Court Missed the Boat on Punitive Damages," is available on Westlaw: at 43 AKRONLR 203.

1 comment:

  1. I think your commentary is a little inaccurate. Especially in the excerpt you quoted, Ms. Klutinoty says that "SOME have concluded" the decision was biased and that "this POSSIBLE bias certainly MAY HAVE played a role" in the decision. Ms. Klutinoty's words present a POSSIBLE bias that MAY HAVE existed. If anything, she is "playing it safe." Is it her opinion that you take issue with or is it that she is a law student? What difference would it have made if she wrote this article in eight months when she is a licensed attorney? Law students, especially those of such high caliber as Ms. Klutinoty (ranked first in her class), are taught to have an opinion and to speak these opinions - which she did, very articulately and with a great deal of conviction. Most disturbing is that a partner in a law firm could so inaccurately quote Ms. Klutinoty with such condemning language and attempt to destroy any sense of pride she should have in getting such a well written article published as a mere law student. Your language, ACCUSING the Supreme Court," "Maria C. Klutinoty has NO SUCH QUALMS," "BLASTING the Supreme Court" is not only offensive and derogatory, but most of all, entirely inaccurate. If only you chose your words as carefully as the same law student you belittle.

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