January 20, 2003

tim the enchanter

An anonymous tipster named Tim pointed out this article to me. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in the past that corporations are considered ‘persons’ and should enjoy the same rights as individuals. Last month, Porter Township in Pennsylvania passed an ordinance to deny corporations individual rights stated under the U.S. Constitution. They are the first local government in the U.S. to do so.

Props to them for tossing down the gauntlet, but there’s only one problem that I see. State and local governments are permitted to offer more freedom than the U.S. Supreme Court decrees, but never less. This case is interesting, as it’s not about what rights can be enjoyed by whom, but who can enjoy those rights to begin with. The USSC has ruled that corporations are people, so its unlikely that this law claiming they’re not will stand without contest.

The author of this article buries the lead under a painfully long introduction, sounds like a blowhard, and is short on the actual facts. I’m also not finding any records of this story under LexisNexis. Nothing under U.S. news. Nothing under Pennsylvania news. Nothing under legal news. A corporate conspiracy?

I’ve found similar articles under ReclaimDemocracy.org and TheVoiceNews.com that have more information and are much easier to read.

i have an interesting tidbit to ponder (though i have to track the original article down again) in regards to this. here’s the gist:
a couple of lawyers recently found the original case files and court decision as related to the USSC’s determining of a corporate entity as a ‘person’. what they found was rather interesting. one hundred years of stated doctrine may be wrong. not one place in the original court decision was a statement considering a corporation a person. the only place the statement was found was in the abstract written at the beginning of the court decision. the abstract did state that the a corporation was considered a person, but the abstract was written by a man other than the judges presiding over the case and, in the opinion of the lawyers reexamining the decision, the abstract did not accurately reflect the judges opinions.
this information is recent and untested, but it stands to provide a possible legal framework for porter township to stand on when they are challenged. one hundred years of doctrine could be based on a misenterpretation.
and please excuse my horrible spelling this morning.

That sounds quite interesting. I’m trying to find the case, but since I don’t know the names of the parties involved (or the case number) I’m having a hell of a time finding it on LexisNexis. If you could track down that article and find the case, we could party.

case name and date:
Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Supreme Court case in 1886
as for the article? it’s been a month so chances are slim that i’ll find it. i have a printed copy buried somewhere in the basement of madchemmer’s house, though…