Friday, August 5, 2011

Corporate Personhood Amendment

A lot has been written about corporations and their treatment in the courts since the 1880's as persons, primarily because of the 14th Amendment, under the Constitution.

When I speak about corporations, I'm talking about any of the fictitious legal entities that are chartered under Federal or State statutes. The last half of the twentieth century saw a rise in alternative legal forms that People can create, so I don't intend to exclude any organization that relies on a statute for its existence.

The Bill of Rights was written specifically to protect the natural, common law rights of the People from infringement by the government. The judicial branch has granted corporations many of these unalienable rights by substituting its judgment for the judgment of the legislative branch. These court-approved rights have steadily moved in an inexorably more expansive direction.

So here, I'm not going to rehash what has already been written about the absurd and intricate logic that got us here. I'm going to focus on a solution.

Unfortunately, because the United States Supreme Court has put its collective foot on the scales of justice to favor corporations, the only sure way to destroy over one hundred years of precedent is to amend the Constitution.

I start off by declaring a simple, straightforward purpose for this proposed amendment. This will give you the gist of what this amendment is trying to accomplish. And it gives you a basis to criticize it if it fails in that purpose.

Purpose: Corporations have no rights. Individuals are responsible for crimes. Judges may not eviscerate this article.

First, I want to disabuse everyone of the idea that corporations, by some stretch of the legal imagination have rights. Corporations are, in fact, creatures of statute. Therefore, in the hierarchy of things, they are subject to the government that created them. Corporations are granted the privilege of limited liability. If that's not enough of an incentive, then incorporators can create a partnership which is simply a contractual arrangement among People.

Second, I want to eliminate the absurd idea that a legal fiction that cannot speak, see, hear, taste, or feel can commit a crime. The primary historical purpose for a corporation is to shield the individual officers and shareholders from personal liability for damages. Over time, by artful application of legal arguments, this has been stretched to include criminal liability. Today corporations can commit all manner of crimes and no individual will serve a day in jail. So, let's get rid of this. I suspect corporate morality will be born again as the criminals will now find no refuge behind a corporate veil.

Third, I want to prevent the courts from somehow finding ways to get around the clear intent of the article. In modern times, courts ignore the clear language of the Constitution with impunity, primarily because all three branches of government support each other against the People. Relying on elected or appointed officials to police themselves is insanity. So, I want the People to be able to directly remove any judge who violates the clear intent of the article. The People's surrogate is, and always has been, the grand jury.

Lastly, although perhaps not necessary, I don't want Congress to interfere with this article either. Many modern amendments have specifically granted Congress a new power to enforce the article. One might expect that by leaving that grant of power out of the article, that no new power is granted. But since we don't expect that the Congress honors its oath, I'm leaning toward including a specific negation of any grant of power that may be implied. I'm guessing that judges won't be too eager to find congressional power, when finding it might be the end of their careers.

I'm of the opinion that brevity has its own intrinsic virtue, so I've tried to be brief. A lot of other related issues crossed my mind during the drafting process. Those that I eliminated were those that got too much into the specifics. Basically, what I've tried to do is overturn the Supreme Court decisions. This leaves it to the States, which charter almost all the corporations in the United States. I'm pretty confident that the States can figure out how best to deal with the details. With fifty different State legislatures plus Congress all working on revising their statutes at the same time, I'm sure the good ideas will surface.

Section 1: A corporation or other organization chartered under a statute of the United States, the several States, or a foreign power is a legal fiction and does not have unalienable rights. A chartered organization is wholly subject to the laws of the government that chartered it.

Section 2: A chartered organization is incapable of acting, except by the acts of its actors who may be directors, officers, employees, agents, members, or shareholders. Liability for criminal acts may not attach to the chartered organization, but only to the individual actors.

Section 3: An officer of any court of the United States or of the several States may not grant a chartered organization any privilege not explicitly granted by statute. An officer of any court who violates this prohibition is subject to presentment or indictment by a grand jury, impeachment and trial by jury under common law, and removal from office upon conviction.

Section 4: Congress is not granted any new power to enforce this article.

Today we live in a corporate oligarchy of huge corporations with unimagined influence on our lives through their ability to influence government officials for their own benefit. In the hierarchy of importance, this amendment has a rather profound effect, when you stop to consider it, on almost every aspect of our lives.

For example, without rights, state legislatures can decide to cut corporations entirely out of the political process by outright banning use of the corporate treasury to influence politics whether it be lobbying or campaign contributions. And don't overlook the fact that almost all levels of government operate as municipal corporations.

While it will be up to the States to enact the laws, the States will no longer be subject to the judge-given rights that corporations now employ and abuse.

So there you have it. Let me hear your comments and suggestions.