Marin's Jonathan Frieman set out driving in the carpool lane with his articles of incorporation in the passenger seat, and when he was ticketed, he offered this defense: Corporations are people, I had a corporation in the car with me, therefore I had two people in the car, and qualified for the HOV lane.
The concept of corporate personhood has been an ongoing controversy for years—but it hit the mainstream in 2010 following the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision, which held that restricting political expenditures by corporations was a violation of their First Amendment rights to free speech. Implicit in such a ruling, some argue, is that the Constitution grants protections to corporations as if they were people.
Representing Frieman is attorney Ford Greene—he, too, says the state vehicle code treats a person and a corporation as equivalent.
"When a corporation is present in one's car, it is sufficient to qualify as a two-person occupancy for commuter lane purposes," says Greene, who’s also a San Anselmo city councilmember. "When the corporate presence in our electoral process is financially dominant, by parity it appears appropriate to recognize such presence in an automobile."
It's a delicious bit of absurdity, but leaves lots of wiggle-room for the judge, such as:
* Corporations are people, but have intangible bodies that encompass more than their articles -- also their boards, employees, capital, physical plant, etc. You didn't have a corporation in the car with you, you had its paperwork -- like driving with your friend's birth-certificate and claiming that's the same as driving with your friend.
* Corporations are people, but just as they can't vote, hold public office, or drive a car, they also can't qualify as passengers.
But don't let's let this nit-picking interfere with a good wheeze.
Frieman contests carpool violation, corporate personhood... [Jason Walsh/Pacific Sun]