As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Saturday, September 19, 2009

"Respects The Corporate Form"

I missed this the other day.

In her maiden Supreme Court appearance last week, Justice Sonia Sotomayor made a provocative comment that probed the foundations of corporate law.

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."

After a confirmation process that revealed little of her legal philosophy, the remark offered an early hint of the direction Justice Sotomayor might want to take the court.

"Progressives who think that corporations already have an unduly large influence on policy in the United States have to feel reassured that this was one of [her] first questions," said Douglas Kendall, president of the liberal Constitutional Accountability Center.

She may want to take whatever direction she wants now, but she's outvoted at the moment. Still, it is possible that the latest Supreme Court Justice understands that a corporate entity given human characteristics for purposes of law but out of the reach of legal culpability for so many of its actions represents a lack of fairness and twisted logic.

This whine is priceless:

"I don't want to draw too much from one comment," says Todd Gaziano, director of the Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at the conservative Heritage Foundation. But it "doesn't give me a lot of confidence that she respects the corporate form and the type of rights that it should be afforded."

Right, um, there is no corporate form. There are only corporations who have convinced enough conservative jurists over the years that they can claim personhood to protect their own wealth or strike down regulations but not when their companies break the law and those harmed seek accountability.

As I said, not the biggest or most meaningful shift now, but something to keep in mind as Sotomayor's career on the bench continues. The biggest area in which the Court has moved to the right in recent years is on the subject of corporate law, and someday we'll have to do something about that. Maybe Sotomayor can be the beginning of a new trend.

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