How anti-slavery law created American corporate personhood


Jeff Reifman sez, "In light of this week's ruling that for-profit corporations should have protection for their religious beliefs, I thought I'd summarize the timeline of Supreme Court decisions that established corporate constitutional rights US law." tl;dr: most of it comes from the anti-slavery 14th Amendment.

While the word corporation doesn't appear in the Constitution, the Supreme Court has now granted corporations commerce and contracts clause protections, personhood, due process, protection from double jeopardy and unreasonable search and seizure and free speech rights.

Almost all of these rights originate from the twisting of the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection clause which was meant to provide rights for freed slaves.

While not called out in my summary specifically, the formal right of corporations to screw Americans was established with 2003's Lawrence v. Texas, in which the Court struck down laws against sodomy.

The History of Corporate Constitutional Rights (Thanks, Jeff!)

Notable Replies

  1. A corporation is not a person legal or otherwise. I don't care what this court has to say. Perhaps we should write out the supreme court out of the constitution. I don't think anyone would care if this court was written out and new judges appointed. The Supreme Court have divorced themselves from the country and reality.

    Everything needs to change yesterday.

  2. Surprised to see that posted as, after reading it, it appears to be of "abominably" (to use the author's favorite adjective) low quality. As someone else noted, the author doesn't seem to be aware of the Dictionary Act, which was passed in 1871 and formally defined corporations as "persons" as far as Acts of Congress are concerned.

  3. Corporate personhood is the reason it's possible to sue a corporation. Previously, if, I dunno, a train derailed and wiped out your house, you could sue the driver and maybe his boss and come away with a pittance, even if the accident was provably caused by institutional training and maintenance failures. Large corporations were basically 100% insulated from the consequences of bad behavior, because the flunkies on the bottom soaked up all the hurt. With corporate personhood, you can attack the corporation as an entity, hit them where it hurts and force them to change. IIRC, that's the reason the idea came about in the first place: increasing public outrage in Britain over the abuses of rail and mining corporations, among others.

    Since then, it's obviously been perverted to provide major undeserved advantages to corporations. Those need to be rolled back. But you don't want to abolish corporate personhood entirely.

  4. I'm a lawyer who is a bit of a civil procedure geek and who tries to do a certain amount of public education. I run into this disconnect between what the law means by corporate personhood and what the public thinks it means all the time.

    Is anyone who wants to abolish corporate personhood willing say here what they think the implications of that would be? I'm not trying to expose anyone's ignorance here. I'd just like to get a feeling for what people are trying to say so that I don't end up talking past people who don't have any legal background.

  5. Do you even internet? save some bandwidth:
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