Copyright (c) 2006 Texas Review of Law & Politics
Texas Review of Law & Politics
ESSAY: If I Were a Corporation, I'd Be a Constitutional Person, Too
10 Tex. Rev. Law & Pol. 427
Charles I. Lugosi*
Since the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade that unborn children are not persons within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment, 1 the question arises why an artificial legal entity called a corporation acquires constitutional rights that a natural human being cannot. This essay explores how corporations attained constitutional protection under the Fourteenth Amendment and identifies the various legal tests developed by judges that must be passed before personhood is conferred. When these tests are applied to unborn human beings, it becomes obvious that the unborn have a stronger case for personhood than do corporations. Yet the unborn remain non-persons while corporations maintain their legal status as persons. So why are there two different laws of personhood - one denying personhood for a human being and one granting personhood for a fictional entity?
II. The Common Law
The precedent that artificial persons known as corporations can be created by laws for the purposes of society and government is inherited from the common law. 2
In Trustees of Dartmouth College v. Woodward, Justice Story described how these artificial persons have a life of their own and possess certain legal rights equal to that of a natural person:
An aggregate corporation, at common law, is a collection of individuals, united under one collective body, under a special name, and possessing certain immunities, privileges, and capacities, in its collective character, which do not belong to the natural persons composing it. Among other ...
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