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How To Eliminate Corporate Personhood; Part I (Updated)
By Mel Hathorn
Last edited: Thursday, June 07, 2012
Posted: Thursday, March 29, 2007



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• Stages in the development of Social Change
• But Who's Going To Clean The Toilets?
• George Will's Unanswered Questions
• Letter to World Leaders
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• Constitutional Amendment to end Corporate Personhood
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POSSIBLE SUPREME COURT BRIEF ENDING CORPORATE PERSONHOOD AS WELL AS CITIZENS UNITED.

Below is a revised Writ of Certiorari demonstrating that the Santa Clara v. Southern Pacific Railroad decision of 1886 that declared that corporations are persons entitled to the same rights as humans is a violation of the 5th, 13th and 14th amendments.
It could serve as a model should a town, state, or individual refuse to recognize corporate personhood or reverse Citizens United


Question Presented

 

Does the status of personhood granted to corporations solely on the basis of the Santa Clara v. Southern Pacific Railroad decision of 1886 violate the Anti-Slavery Clause under the Thirteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution? And does this status deprive human persons of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution?

Constitutional Provisions Involved

 

The Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

 

 

Facts of the Case

For years prior to 1886, Santa Clara County, California had been taxing land and the rights-of-way of the Southern Pacific Railroad. For the past six years the railroad had refused to pay, claiming the taxation was improper. Taxes owed were $30,000 on a $30 million mortgage. One of the railroad’s defenses was that the assessment by the State of California included the value of the fences along the right-of-way. The railroad claimed that the County should have assessed the value of the fences, not the state. The railroad withheld all its taxes. The Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the county’s claim and the case found its way to the Supreme Court.

 

 One of the defenses used by the railroad was the Fourteenth Amendment. The railroad said:
The provision of the laws of the Constitution and the laws of California…are in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution, in so far as they require the assessment of their property at its full money value, without making deduction as in the case of railroads that are operated in only one county, and of other corporations, and of natural persons, for the value of the mortgages…

The Court found for the railroad. The Supreme Court Reporter, J. C. Bancroft Davis, wrote in the headnotes the following:
"The defendant Corporations are persons within the intent of the clause in section I of the Fourteenth amendment to the Constitution of the United States which forbids a state to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the law.…the main – and almost only – questions discussed by counsel in the elaborate arguments related to the constitutionality of the taxes. This court, in its opinion passed by these questions, and decided the cases on the questions whether under the constitution and the laws of California, the fences on the line of the railroads should have been valued and assessed, if at all, by the local officers or by the State Board of Equalization….one of the points made and discussed at length in the brief of counsel for defendants in error was that ‘Corporations are persons within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States."


The actual decision delivered by Justice Harlan begins by stating explicitly that the Supreme Court is not, in this case, ruling on the Constitutional question of corporate personhood under the Fourteenth Amendment or any other amendment.


Before deliberations began, Chief Justice Waite said, "The court does not wish to hear argument on the question of whether the provision in the Fourteenth Amendment, 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."

 

Argument

 

A careful analysis of Corporate Personhood reveals multiple violations of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth amendments of the United States Constitution.

 

We first address the issues presented by the Thirteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

The Thirteenth amendment clearly states: Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude except as a punishment for crime … shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. What is slavery and involuntary servitude? Several sources have identified slavery as:

The practice of owning slaves; the state of one bound in servitude as the property of a slaveholder or household; holding one in involuntary servitude; the state of being under the control of another person(s).

 

It is a contradiction to say that a corporation is a person and yet is owned by other person(s) (the stockholders) who demand and control the actions of that corporation. If the corporation is a person with all the rights and due process of a person, others cannot own it. Either the corporation’s personhood must take precedence over the ownership rights of its stockholders or the custom and practice of stockholder ownership is unconstitutional. Either way, Corporate Personhood violates the Thirteenth Amendment of the United Sates Constitution.

 

What is involuntary servitude? According to The ‘Lectric Law Library Lexicon involuntary servitude is:

Involuntary servitude & peonage - a condition of compulsory service or labor performed by one person, against his will, for the benefit of another person due to force, threats, intimidation or other similar means of coercion and compulsion directed against him.


In considering whether service or labor was performed by someone against his will or involuntarily, it makes no difference that the person may have initially agreed, voluntarily, to render the service or perform the work. If a person willingly begins work but later desires to withdraw and is then forced to remain and perform work against his will, his service becomes involuntary. Also, whether a person is paid a salary or a wage is not determinative of the question as to whether that person has been held in involuntary servitude. In other words, if a person is forced to labor against his will, his service is involuntary even though he is paid for his work.


However, it is necessary to prove that the person knowingly and willfully took action, by way of force, threats, intimidation or other form of coercion, causing the victim to reasonably believe that he had no way to avoid continued service, that he was confronted by the existence of a superior and overpowering authority, constantly threatening to the extent that his will was completely subjugated.


Title 18, U.S.C., Sec. 1584, makes it a Federal crime or offense for anyone to willfully hold another person in involuntary servitude.


A person can be found guilty of that offense only if all of the following facts are proved beyond a reasonable doubt:


First: That the person held the victim in a condition of 'involuntary servitude';


Second: That such holding was for a 'term,'; and
Third: That the person acted knowingly and willfully.
It must be shown that a person held to involuntary servitude was so held for a 'term.' It is not necessary, however, that any specific period of time be proved so long as the 'term' of the involuntary service was not wholly insubstantial or insignificant.


Title 18, U.S.C., Sec. 1581(a) is the peonage law cited in the indictment.
The specific facts which must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt in order to establish the offense of peonage include each and all of the three specific factual elements constituting involuntary servitude as previously stated and explained in these instructions, plus a fourth specific fact; namely, that the involuntary servitude was compelled by the person in order to satisfy a real or imagined debt regardless of amount.

 

We believe that all these conditions have been met.

 

1. Corporations are held in a condition of involuntary servitude because not only are they persons owned by others, but corporations perform labors, services and duties for the benefit of others. As persons, they derive no benefit from their labors and indeed if they perform poorly could be bought and sold to and from others.

 

They are “confronted by the existence of a superior and overpowering authority, constantly threatening to the extent that his will was completely subjugated.” They have no choice but to perform the duties demanded of them.

 

It is the question of willfulness on which this point hinges. Do corporations have a “will?” To that extent it could be argued that corporations could buy back their stock and free themselves of the ownership of stockholders: that is they could become private persons, to that extent, they could exercise their freedom — that is they could chose to purchase their freedom — but so could the pre-Civil War slaves buy their freedom.

 

Just as most of the pre Civil war slaves did not have the practical means to purchase their freedom, the corporation in many cases may not have the ability or means to free themselves.

 

2. The holding is for a term. Stocks are bought and sold for shorter or longer periods of time. Corporate ownership changes daily or monthly or longer depending on the intricacies of the marketplace.

 

3. The person(s) (owners) act knowingly and willfully. Conscious  choices are made daily on the floor of the trading block.

 

4. The corporation is compelled by stockholders to satisfy real debts. No one buys stock without expecting to be repaid not only for the original amount but additional amounts as well.

Therefore, we believe that the status of Corporate Personhood violates the Thirteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.

 

We now address the issues presented by the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution. In light of the Fourteenth Amendment, we would like to raise the following questions:

 

1.      Is the practice of corporate personhood a variation of the “separate but equal doctrine?”

 

2.      Is the practice of corporate personhood a form of discrimination or segregation?

 

3.      Is the form of natural, i.e. human personhood, inferior in practice, i.e. de facto, to corporate personhood although it seems clear that it is not inferior, i.e. de jure, by law?

 

If these three questions can be answered in the affirmative it seems that there is a clear violation of the Fourteenth Amendment in regard to Corporate Personhood.

 

1.      Is the practice of corporate personhood a variation of the “separate but equal doctrine?”

 

The doctrine of “separate but equal” first appeared in the Courts with the Plessy v. Ferguson [163 U. S. 537] decision of 1896. That case first established the validity of the “separate but equal” doctrine. It involved a Louisiana statute that forbade blacks and whites from traveling in the same railway car. This doctrine was overturned by the Brown v. Board of Education [347 U.S. 483] of 1954.

 

Although the Brown v. Board of Education specifically mentioned that the above doctrine referred to the field of education, the manner of the Court’s ruling allows the decision to be extended to other areas. In overturning Plessy supra, the Court used a case referring to public transportation and extended that concept to the field of education.

 

In the Brown decision the Court recognized that while tangible factors, i.e. buildings, curricula, qualifications of teachers, and salaries, were or are being equalized, it must consider “intangible” factors as well. In discussing the role of intangible factors, the Court said:

 

Our decision cannot turn on merely a comparison of these tangible factors in the Negro and white schools involved in each of the cases. We must look instead to the effect of segregation itself on public education.…

We must consider public education in the light of its full development and its present place in American life throughout [p493] the Nation. Only in this way can it be determined if segregation in public schools deprives these plaintiffs of the equal protection of the laws.

 

The decision then went on to discuss the importance of education to our democratic society.

It (education) is required in the performance of our most basic public responsibilities, even service in the armed forces. It is the very foundation of good citizenship.…

 

 The Court concluded: In the field of education the doctrine of “separate but equal” has no place.

 

In Plessy, it was stated by the Court that even if the reputation of belonging to the same race is property the Louisiana statute does not deprive him (Plessy) of his rights to property:

 

If he be a white man and assigned to a colored coach, he may have action for damages against the company for being deprived of his so called property. Upon the other hand, if he be a colored man and be so assigned, he has been deprived of no property, since he is not lawfully entitled to the reputation of being a white man…. We cannot say that a law which authorizes or even requires the separation of the two races in public conveyances is unreasonable.

 

Following the Court’s practice of extending the prohibition of the “separate but equal doctrine” from transportation to education, it is reasonable to ask that this prohibition be extended to other areas of life as well. For example, we would argue that the excessive resources, i.e. money, access to government legislators and officials, etc. available to the corporate person creates a separate class from the ordinary citizen. Although just as in Plessy, the black person had the same equal access to the resources i.e. railroad cars etc. that the white person did, there was a separation of facilities available to each.

 

We argue that corporate personhood is a violation of the “separate but equal prohibition” expressed in Brown v. Board of Education.

 

2.      Is the practice of corporate personhood a form of discrimination or segregation?

 

Segregation is defined by Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of Law as: treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit: racial and religious intolerance and discrimination.

 

Discrimination is defined as treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit: racial and religious intolerance and discrimination.

 

We argue that the immense resources of the corporate person allow rights not available to the ordinary person. Corporate accessibility to the courts, government officials, and the media serve to segregate and separate the human person from equal access to power. This unequal access to power is discrimination.

 

3.      Is the form of natural, i.e. human personhood, inferior in practice, i.e. de facto, to corporate personhood although it seems clear that it is not inferior, i.e. de jure, by law?

 

It is clear that although natural persons have the same legal rights as corporate persons by law, they do not have the same ability to access those rights. There is an inherent inferiority of humans to corporate persons due to unequal resources available to each.

Just as the Brown decision claimed that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal,” it can also be claimed that “separate legal opportunities are inherently unequal” and just as the Fourteenth Amendment forbids the “separate but equal” doctrine in education, it also forbids the separate but equal doctrine” regarding corporate versus human personhood.

 

We now address the issues presented by the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

This court found in the Bollings v. Sharpe decision of 1954 that the concepts of the Equal Protection Clause found in the Fourteenth Amendment and Due Process Clause found in the Fifth Amendment both stem from our American ideal of fairness. The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment is a narrower interpretation of unfairness than the Due Process Clause found in the Fifth Amendment.”

 

Bollings v. Sharpe was another segregation case. This Court decided since the Equal Protection Clause in Brown did not apply to the public schools in Washington, DC, the Due Process Clause in the Fifth Amendment did. In that case the Court ruled that racial segregation in the DC public schools was a denial of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution.

 

We believe that discrimination against certain classes (economic or otherwise) of persons may be so prevalent as to violate due process. 

 

As long ago as 1896, this Court declared the principle “that the Constitution of the United States, in its present form, forbids, so far as civil and political rights are concerned, discrimination by the General Government, or by the States, against any citizen because of his race.” This 1896 case, known as Plessy v. Ferguson, was about a transportation case. In 1954 in the Brown case, the concept of discrimination was extended from transportation to include education. It seems logical then to extend that discrimination from race to include legal access to the law.

“Unequal access to the law imposes on natural citizens a burden that constitutes an arbitrary deprivation of their liberty in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.

In view of the Court’s previous decision that the Constitution prohibits the states from maintaining racially segregated public schools, it would be unthinkable that the same Constitution would impose a duty on the states to deny equal access to the law.

 

 Conclusion

 

We therefore conclude that Corporate Personhood is a violation of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and should be reversed.

 

 

 

 

 

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