Monday, September 21, 2009

Somewhere, Howard Zinn is grinning.

In case you missed it? 'Cause, y'know, I did, And it's potentially huge:

Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama’s newly installed Supreme Court Justice, has a few words for corporations seeking protection under law.

You’re not people.

During arguments in a recent campaign-finance case — that may upend campaign finance law to allow more spending by corporations — Sotomayor suggested that the core underpinning of protecting corporations’ rights was flawed.

The Wall Street Journal has the details:

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."

The case she's referring to?

118 U.S. 394 (1886)

in which:

“Supreme Court Justice Morrison Remick Waite simply pronounced before the beginning of argument in the case of Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company 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 opinion that it does.”

Thus it was that a two-sentence assertion by a single judge elevated corporations to the status of persons under the law.”

Whether or not anything comes of it, it would be nice to see this "assertion" becoming a subject for debate in our current coporatocracy.

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