Wed Jun 13, 2012, 06:55 PM
geefloyd46 (1,813 posts)
One of the biggest judges you've never heard of Stephen J. Fields
The idea of corporate personhood was once viewed as nonsense. A corporation was formed to limit the financial liability of its owners in pursuing their business: If the corporation went broke, debtors couldn't come after its owners. That such a company might also have all the rights of citizens was a concept on the fringes. Yet by force of judicial will, Field pulled it right into the mainstream...
,,,Field was as much concerned with protecting business investments as he was with working the Lord's will. He was heavily invested in railroads and other industries that came before the Court, so much so that the chief justice at the time pressed him not to weigh in on certain cases. "There was no doubt of your intimate personal relations with the managers of the Central Pacific, and it would tend to discredit the opinion if it came from someone known as the personal friend of the parties representing these railroad interests," the chief justice warned Field, according to Jack Beatty's "Age of Betrayal: The Triumph of Money in America, 1865-1900."
Field didn't have the votes of his high court colleagues to directly insert corporate personhood into law, so he exploited another aspect of the Reconstruction-era legal system to work the railroads' will. Congress had forbidden the Court from reviewing certain cases, (presciently) concerned that the justices would undermine the work legislators was doing, even the new constitutional amendments. As a compromise, Congress allowed justices to continue to sit occasionally on the circuit courts. When sitting on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in California, Field repeatedly wrote into his decisions that corporations were persons. Those decisions became precedents in the 9th Circuit, but nowhere else.
In a dispute over taxation of the Southern Pacific Railroad Co., Field cited his own "Ninth Circuit law" to declare that the "defendant, being a corporation, a person within the meaning of the 14th Amendment," is "entitled, with respect to its property, to equal protection of the laws." San Mateo County appealed to the Supreme Court, but the case dragged on. (Following oral arguments in Washington, Field adjourned with the railroad's lawyers to a dinner party thrown by railroad tycoon Leland Stanford, a close friend of Field's who had previously appointed him to run the school Stanford set up in his son's name.) In desperate need of the taxes the railroad refused to pay -- citing its freedom to do business under the same protections granted any other citizen -- the county settled with the company.
The settlement ended the Supreme Court case and denied Field one chance to enshrine personhood into law, but he was soon given another. In 1886, Santa Clara County sued Southern Pacific Railroad in a similar case, and the company again asserted its personhood. In fact, whether Southern Pacific was a citizen was irrelevant to the particular dispute, which was decided on technical issues of tax law that applied equally to a business or a person. But the Court reporter, John Chandler Bancroft Davis, who was himself financially intertwined with the railroads, wrote the following in his summary of the decision: "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 equal protection of the laws."
The Original post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/12/corporate-citizenship-corporate-personhood-paris-commune_n_1005244.html
A world filled with economic royalists and serfs
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One of the biggest judges you've never heard of Stephen J. Fields (Original post)
Response to geefloyd46 (Original post)
Wed Jun 13, 2012, 07:46 PM
lastlib (4,988 posts)
1. A mean, corrupt sonofabitch--one of the worst...
...ever to sit on the court. I knew about him from my studies in judicial politics, and have many times compared him to Bork and Scalia.
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."