Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Persons of Interest 

Courtesy of our steadfast colleagues at Cursor: Morton Mintz of The Nation proposes ten questions for Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers, all having to do with the "rights" of corporations. The court summarily embraced the doctrine of corporate personhood in Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company (1886) when Chief Justice Waite announced, before oral arguments had taken place, that "the court does not wish to hear argument on the question whether the provision in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws, applies to these corporations. We are all of the opinion that it does":
1. In a 1978 ruling on a case titled First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, the Court decided, 5 to 4, that banks and business corporations--just as you and me--have a First Amendment right to spend their money to influence elections. But in a dissent widely neglected in the eulogies attending his death, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist wrote, "It might reasonably be concluded that those properties, so beneficial in the economic sphere, pose special dangers in the political sphere."

Do you believe that the influence of corporate money in our elections poses "special dangers in the political sphere"?

2. The late Chief Justice went on to write, "Furthermore, it might be argued that liberties of political expression are not at all necessary to effectuate the purposes for which States permit commercial corporations to exist."

Do you agree?

3. Finally, Justice Rehnquist said, "I would think that any particular form of organization upon which the State confers special privileges or immunities different from those of natural persons would be subject to like regulation, whether the organization is a labor union, a partnership, a trade association, or a corporation." In plain words, he was saying that the state, having created the corporation, can regulate the corporation.

Do you agree? . . . .

8. Again without regard as to whether Roe v. Wade was rightly or wrongly decided, how does it strike you that the Court declared a corporation--a paper entity--to be a person but declared a fetus not to be a person?

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