Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sotomayor v. corporate personhood?


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."

Not that it's particularly relevant to this case -- the owners of a corporation, its stockholders, severally have the right to free speech and exercising that right in cahoots with one another doesn't diminish it -- but if she's consistent on the matter and can persuade four other justices some time down the road, perhaps the longstanding, pernicious, market-distorting doctrine of "corporate personhood" can be overturned. That would be a mini-revolution in itself!

Who'd have thought that one of Sotomayor's first significant statements as a Supreme Court justice would be a tacit rejection of the court's past judicial activism? And who thinks that "conservatives" won't howl like stuck pigs over it if it gets much play?

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