This paper aims to identify the legality of the “corporate personhood” wherein corporations are given the same rights as human beings. It gives emphasis on the premise of Melvin Hathorn that the concept of corporate personhood violates the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. In line with this, it gives an analysis of the validity of Hathorn arguments and its efficacy in challenging or eliminating corporate personhood.
Reaction on How to Eliminate Corporate Personhood
The Constitution of a country is considered as the highest law of the state. It is a very important component in governing, protecting, and upholding the rights of the people. Being the case, it is essential that people are well aware of the constitution of their respective country because this has a huge influence in their everyday life. The provisions within these constitutions tend to change over time. This is most observable in the judicial branch interpretation and implementation of it. Some case decisions affects the rulings in other cases as well as the overall understating of a certain, which sometimes paved the way for amendments and other laws to be created. This idea is greatly exemplified in the case of Santa Clara County v. South Pacific Railroad Company.
The disagreement between the Santa Clara County and the South Pacific Railroad Company started when the state of California taxed the land and rights-of-way of this aforementioned railroad company. The South Pacific Railroad refused to pay the taxes. The company argued that the taxation was improper. Taxes owed amounted to $30,000 on a $30 million mortgage. South Pacific Railroad defense was centered on their argument that the State of California included the value of the fences along the right-of-way in their assessment when in fact that County should be the one responsible in doing it. The Circuit Court of Appeals did not give weigh to the county’s claim and the case was brought to the Supreme Court (Hathorn, 2007).
In 1886, the United States of America’s Supreme Court made a decision through Associate Justice Harlan about the case of Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad. The result of the case identified that corporations also have the same right as human beings. As such, this will give corporations the right to challenge local and state laws (Hathorn, 2007). However, the idea of “corporate personhood” is still very much debated. There are still some people who think that the outcome of the case violates the United States Constitution. Among those who criticized the decision of Justice Harlan is Melvin Hathorn, which he explicitly expressed when he made the Writ of Certiorari that is to be presented in the United States Supreme Court.
In Melvin Hathorn article entitled How To Eliminate Corporate Personhood; Part I, he included in it the Writ of Certiorari that presented his arguments against the decision that determined corporations with the same rights as humans. He asserted that the outcome of the Santa Clara County v. The Southern Pacific Railroad violated the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.
After carefully studying the case of Santa Clara County v. The Southern Pacific
Railroad as well as analyzing the arguments presented by Melvin Hathorn, I can say that I agree with his premise that “corporate personhood” is indeed a violation of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments. Hathorn emphasized in his article that pointing out this disregard for the provisions of the Constitution is an effective way in order to challenge or completely eliminate the concept of “corporate personhood.” He was able to make sound and convincing arguments that prove his premise. In court battles, a particular side has large chances of winning if they see to it that all requisite that are needed in order to prove their case are proven without any reasonable doubt. This is the exact method that Hathorn did to be able to proved his point.
Corporations are considered as legal persons or juridical person that means they are legal entities wherein the law allows a group of natural persons to act as a single composite individual. However, they could only act, as persons for limited purposes like for lawsuits, property ownership, and contracts. On the other hand, a natural person is a human being that is subject to physical laws. In this sense, the decision in the Santa Clara v. The Southern Pacific Railroad disregarded this distinction because in the idea of corporate personhood, corporations that are considered as legal persons have the same right as natural persons like human beings. Being the case, the decision of Associate Justice Harlan already made a conflict between the distinction of a legal person and a natural person.
Melvin Hathorn further questioned the legality of “corporate personhood” by pointing out its violation of the United States Constitution by looking at it through the lens of a natural person. By doing so, Hathorn was able to emphasize its disregard for the law that governs the citizens of the United States. He explicitly specified the violation of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments. The concept of “corporate personhood” violated the Thirteenth Amendment by the fact that a corporation is seen as slavery or involuntary servitude. Hathorn asserted that if a corporation possesses the same right as human beings then this particular provision in the law is applicable to its situation. He was able to satisfy the three requisites needed in order to prove this namely: the victim is held in the condition of involuntary servitude, the holding was for a term, and the person acted knowingly and willfully. Corporation as a condition of involuntary servitude because they are owned by other people and the perform services and duties for the benefit of others, which are the stockholders (Hathorn, 2007).
Moreover, “corporate personhood” also violated the Fourteenth Amendment because it failed to give equal protection of the law. Hathorn was able to proved this by proving that such kind of practice disregarded the idea of “separate but equal doctrine” that is used in the Brown v. Board of Education, it is also a form of discrimination or segregation, and the form of natural is superior. The practice of corporate personhood puts natural persons in a disadvantageous position because it is a form of discrimination as corporations have more means to access resources that are not available to ordinary persons. In this sense, Hathorn was able to clearly proved his premise. Indeed, “separate legal opportunities are inherently unequal” just like the concept of corporate personhood (Hathorn, 2007).
Hathorn, M. (2007). How to Eliminate Corporate Personhood; Part I. Retrieved January 16,
12008, from http://www.writers.ph/sys/index.php?rate=20&order=241221.