Most Missed News, Corporate Personhood and Sotomayor

Discussion in 'Law and Justice System' started by pal_of_poor, Sep 18, 2009.

  1. pal_of_poor
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    pal_of_poor VIP Member

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    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125314088285517643.ht...

    By JESS BRAVIN
    WASHINGTON -- In her maiden Supreme Court appearance last week, Justice Sonia Sotomayor made a provocative comment that probed the foundations of corporate law.


    During arguments in a campaign-finance case, the court's majority conservatives seemed persuaded that corporations have broad First Amendment rights and that recent precedents upholding limits on corporate political spending should be overruled.



    But Justice Sotomayor suggested the majority might have it all wrong -- and that instead the court should reconsider the 19th century rulings that first afforded corporations the same rights flesh-and-blood people have.


    Judges "created corporations as persons, gave birth to corporations as persons," she said. "There could be an argument made that that was the court's error to start with...[imbuing] a creature of state law with human characteristics."


    After a confirmation process that revealed little of her legal philosophy, the remark offered an early hint of the direction Justice Sotomayor might want to take the court.


    "Progressives who think that corporations already have an unduly large influence on policy in the United States have to feel reassured that this was one of [her] first questions," said Douglas Kendall, president of the liberal Constitutional Accountability Center.


    "I don't want to draw too much from one comment," says Todd Gaziano, director of the Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at the conservative Heritage Foundation. But it "doesn't give me a lot of confidence that she respects the corporate form and the type of rights that it should be afforded."


    For centuries, corporations have been considered beings apart from their human owners, yet sharing with them some attributes, such as the right to make contracts and own property. Originally, corporations were a relatively rare form of organization. The government granted charters to corporations, delineating their specific functions. Their powers were presumed limited to those their charter spelled out.


    "A corporation is an artificial being, invisible, intangible," Chief Justice John Marshall wrote in an 1819 case. "It possesses only those properties which the charter of its creation confers upon it."


    But as the Industrial Revolution took hold, corporations proliferated and views of their functions began to evolve.


    In an 1886 tax dispute between the Southern Pacific Railroad and the state of California, the court reporter quoted Chief Justice Morrison Waite telling attorneys to skip arguments over whether the 14th Amendment's equal-protection clause applied to corporations, because "we are all of opinion that it does."

    That seemingly off-hand comment reflected an "impulse to shield business activity from certain government regulation," says David Millon, a law professor at Washington and Lee University.

    "A positive way to put it is that the economy is booming, American production is leading the world and the courts want to promote that," Mr. Millon says. Less charitably, "it's all about protecting corporate wealth" from taxes, regulations or other legislative initiatives.


    Subsequent opinions expanded corporate rights. In 1928, the court struck down a Pennsylvania tax on transportation corporations because individual taxicab drivers were exempt. Corporations get "the same protection of equal laws that natural persons" have, Justice Pierce Butler wrote.


    From the mid-20th century, though, the court has vacillated on how far corporate rights extend. In a 1973 case before a more liberal court, Justice William O. Douglas rejected the Butler opinion as "a relic" that overstepped "the narrow confines of judicial review" by second-guessing the legislature's decision to tax corporations differently than individuals.


    Today, it's "just complete confusion" over which rights corporations can claim, says Prof. William Simon of Columbia Law School.


    Even conservatives sometimes have been skeptical of corporate rights. Then-Associate Justice William Rehnquist dissented in 1979 from a decision voiding Massachusetts's restriction of corporate political spending on referendums. Since corporations receive special legal and tax benefits, "it might reasonably be concluded that those properties, so beneficial in the economic sphere, pose special dangers in the political sphere," he wrote.


    On today's court, the direction Justice Sotomayor suggested is unlikely to prevail. During arguments, the court's conservative justices seem to view corporate political spending as beneficial to the democratic process. "Corporations have lots of knowledge about environment, transportation issues, and you are silencing them during the election," Justice Anthony Kennedy said during arguments last week.


    But Justice Sotomayor may have found a like mind in Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. "A corporation, after all, is not endowed by its creator with inalienable rights," Justice Ginsburg said, evoking the Declaration of Independence.


    How far Justice Sotomayor pursues the theme could become clearer when the campaign-finance decision is delivered, probably by year's end.


    __________________


    I understand the SC of 1888 never really ruled they were human, or never gave them personhood, but decided to not rule on it, and the CLERK recorded the event as if they had.


    Nothing would be better to repair our political system than to eliminate much of their influence. Sure, CEOs should have the right to speak, and human rights. But no company should have the power to take money and pump it into campaign ads, or politicians. It is the major corruption of our system.


    ________________


    This is huge news. We need three or four more of these judges. Corporations never were meant to be made human.http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125314088285517643.ht...
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2009
  2. RodISHI
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    RodISHI Gold Member

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    I can agree with that.

    Many of these mega corporations seem to think that they are above the law or exempt from the law.
     
  3. Oddball
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    Oddball BANNED Supporting Member

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    Worthless opinion, unless there's a case upcoming that could overturn the decision in Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company.

    While we're at it, let's repeal the 14th Amendment for good measure.
     
  4. pal_of_poor
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    pal_of_poor VIP Member

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    They don't think that, they are above the law. The order is corporations on top, the government, then the people. We get the staff, while being over the barrel. Sadly, outside of jobs, almost in every other way, people suffer when we do things advantageous corporations, lately globalization being the main example. They love it, but we hate it, and lose jobs.

    You alway have to bear in mind that these are stockholder owned, and the top ten percent own 90 percent of the stock in these companies. The next 40 percent own the other ten percent, the the lower fifty percent have no stock at all, give or take a few exceptions.

    That should tell you why they were given "personhood," an absurd word to start off with. Sadly, they've got the advantages, with very little of the responsibility. Interestingly, I find that this is a point that a lot of my right-wing leaning friends even agree with.
     
  5. CrusaderFrank
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    CrusaderFrank Diamond Member

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    "Corporations are people too" -- The First SCOTUS Pronouncement from Sonia Sotomayor's wise Latina Vagina.

    Terrific.

    PS I know I got it wrong, but it's just not funny any other way. In fact, it may not even be funny this way but how can you pass up a change to discuss Sonia's wise Latina vagina?
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2009
  6. pal_of_poor
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    pal_of_poor VIP Member

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    So, you are coming down on the side of keeping corporations all-powerful?

    Jeez, just reading it, I don't know how it could be interpreted to give corporations citizenship.
     
  7. Liability
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    As legal fictions go, the standard premise that corporations are treated as people is old and really pretty fundamental to almost all ensuing legal analysis.

    I have a right to freedom of speech unrestricted by the tastes of the gubmint (especially if we agree that free speech was originally conceived to protect political expression).

    If a new judicial view -- of which Justice Sotomayor's little bit of spin might be the seeds -- takes root, then corporations might end up with LESS freedom to speak.

    The implications? I have a hunch it MIGHT have sumpin' to do with the case involving the movie about Shrillary.

    And if that hunch is close to the mark, it is a new (being blazed?) way to tell American businesses that they must not speak about politics. Long live McCain Feingold?

    I wonder what the root of the word "corporation" might be?
     
  8. Oddball
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    Oddball BANNED Supporting Member

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    Anyone can make an observation. With no opportunity to make an change to that observation, it is impotent.

    Also, the biggest and the mothership of all multinational corporations is the one known as "District of Columbia". Yet, I see little evidence of you wanting to reign in their excesses.....Indeed, you're in favor of expanding them.

    Just like republicans; lots of words and little to no action.
     

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