Corporations Do Not Have Unalienable Rights – Doctrines of Interposition and Nullification Imposed by States

“Today the business once transacted by individuals in every community is in the control of corporations, and many of the men who once conducted an independent business are gathered into the organization, and all personal identity, and all individualities lost. Each man has become a mere cog in one of the wheels of a complicated mechanism. It is the business of the corporations to get money. It exacts but one thing of its employees: Obedience to orders. It cares not about their relations to the community, the church, society, or the family. It wants full hours and faithful service, and when they die, wear out or are discharged, it quickly replaces them with new material.  The corporation is a machine for making money, but it reduces men to the insignificance of mere numerical figures, as certainly as the private ranks of the regular army. ~ Fighting Bob La Follette, speech on the Dangers Threatening Representative Government, Mineral Point, Wisconsin, July 4, 1897
 UPDATE January 5, 2012:  NY City Council Passes Resolution Declaring that Corporations Are Not People
UPDATE January 5, 2012:  National Media Advisory: Occupy The Courts, Nationwide Protest, January 20
January 4, 2012
MEDIA ADVISORY for Friday, January 20, 2012
CONTACT: Glenn Turner, 917-817-3396, or Shayna Samuels, 718-541-4785,
OCCUPY THE COURTS — January 20, 2012
Over 80 Protests Planned at Courthouses Nationwide Against Supreme Court Ruling that Corporations Are People
Over 80 courthouses, including the Supreme Court, will become the focus of Occupy protesters against corporate rule on Friday, January 20. This is one day before the second anniversary of the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision, in which Supreme Court ruled that corporations are persons, entitled by the U.S. Constitution to buy elections and run the government.
Neither the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution mention corporations, which were rare entities at our nation’s founding. But thanks to decades of rulings by Justices who molded the law to favor elite interests, corporations today are granted privileges that empower them to deny citizens the right to full self-governance.  Armed with these rights, corporations wield ever-increasing control over jobs, natural assets, elected officials, even judges and the law.
We believe corporations are not persons and possess only the privileges citizens and their elected representatives willfully grant them. Organizers of OCCUPY THE COURTS propose a Constitutional Amendment that will overturn the Court-created legal doctrines of corporate personhood and “Money Equals Speech.”
Speakers at the Supreme Court OCCUPY THE COURTS action in Washington, D.C. will include: progressive radio talk show host Thom Hartmann; founder of the Coffee Party, USA, Annabel Park; and MoveToAmend national spokesman (and 2004 Green Party Presidential Candidate) David Cobb. Dr. Cornel West will be speaking at the OCCUPY THE COURTS action in Gainesville, FL.
To learn more about OCCUPY THE COURTS – 1.20.2012 please visit
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application/vnd.openxmlformats-officedocument.wordprocessingml.document iconOTC-NationalMediaAdivosory.docx
UPDATE January 4, 2012:   Montana high court upholds ban on election spending by corporations -corporations are not people – no unalienable rights
UPDATE December 6, 2011:  LA City Council ends corporate personhood in Los Angeles:  Portion of Resolution:
WHEREAS, the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling in Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission rolled back legal restrictions on corporate spending in the electoral process, allowing unlimited corporate spending to influence elections, candidate selection, and policy decisions, thereby threatening the voices of “We the People” and the very foundation of our democracy; and
WHEREAS, corporations are not mentioned in the Constitution, and The People have never granted constitutional rights to corporations, nor have We decreed that Corporations have authority that exceeds the authority of “We The People”
WHEREAS, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black in a 1938 opinion stated, “I do not believe the word ‘person’ in the Fourteenth Amendment includes corporations” …


It is self-evident at the time the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, corporations were not mentioned in it.  Corporation do not have unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  The simple reason is that the corporations of the modern day did not exist in 1776 as a concept and they did not come into existence as “artificial entities” until the Civil War and Reconstruction periods (1870-1900).   Corporations as an artificial entity arose at this time together with a new concept called “limited liability” borrowed from French Tontine and maritime law (law of the sea and law merchant).

[Wikipedia, with fn omitted]  “…The scheme is named after Neapolitan banker Lorenzo de Tonti, who is credited with inventing it in France in 1653, although it has been suggested that he merely modified existing Italian investment schemes. Tonti put his proposal to the French royal government, but after consideration it was rejected by the Parlement de Paris.  The first true tontine was therefore organised in the city of Kampen in the Netherlands in 1670.  The French finally established a state tontine in 1689 (though it was not described by that name because Tonti had died in disgrace). The English government organised a tontine in 1693.Tontines became associated with life insurance in the United States in 1868 when Henry Baldwin Hyde of the Equitable Life Assurance Society introduced tontines as a means to sell more life insurance, and meet the demands of competition.  Each indigenous investor pays a sum into the tontine. Each investor then receives annual dividends on his capital. As each investor dies, his or her share is reallocated among the surviving investors. This process continues until only one investor survives. Each subscriber receives only dividends; the capital is never paid back. While once very popular in France, Britain, and the United States, tontines have been banned in Britain and many jurisdictions in the United States, because many of these schemes were little more than swindles.”  See Also modernly in 2003:  “USING TONTINES TO RUN THE ECONOMY”, Le Amis De, L’Ecole de Paris, Alain Henry, French development agency.


It is however self-evident in 2012 that corporations are accorded independent “entity” existence separate from the human beings that may operate them as officers or directors.  Those human beings are not the corporation and the corporation is not the human beings.

As Justice John Paul Stevens recognized in his dissent in the Citizens United decision, “corporations have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires. Corporations help facilitate and structure the activities of human beings, to be sure, and their ‘personhood’ often serves as a useful legal fiction. But they are not themselves members of ‘We the People’ by whom and for whom our Constitution was established.”

Each (human beings versus corporations) operates independently, is entitled to separate legal counsel with differing duties owed and protections accorded  between them.  They are not the same ego, as some scholars have simply put it; hence unalienable rights which are the anknowledged inheritance of a human being in the Declaration of Independence are not somehow vicariously usurped and taken by a corporation on grounds of providing equality, a level playing field, balancing scales, or otherwise.  This analysis insinuates into the discussion of the doctrine of interposition which has been a valid principle of law based upon Creator endowed unalienable rights since the mid-1700’s and possibly back to the Magna Carta (1215).

Black’s Law  Dictionary. Fourth Edition (1951- 1967) offers an expanded definition:  Interposition.  The doctrine that a state, in the exercise of its sovereignty, may reject a mandate of the federal government deemed to be unconstitutional or to exceed the powers delegated to the federal government. The concept is based on the10th Amendment of the Constitution of the United States reserving to the states powers not delegated to the United States.  Historically, the doctrine emanated from Chisholm v. Georgia, 2 Dallas 419, wherein the state of Georgia, when sued in the Supreme Court by a private citizen of another state, entered a remonstrance and declined to recognize the court’s jurisdiction.  Amendment 11 validated Georgia’s position.  Implementation of the doctrine may be peaceable, as by resolution, remonstrance or legislation, or may proceed ultimately to nullification with forcible resistance.


Critics of the Doctrine of Interpostion generally quote COOPER V. AARON, 358 U. S. 1 (1958) as a Supreme court pronouncement declaring interposition to be against Fourteenth Amendment Constitutional protections of “persons.”  The Cooper decision is sui generis. The issues argued by the parties and the decision rendered did not address or reach the Tenth Amendment grounds (relating to States) and Ninth Amendment grounds (relating to individuals asserting unalienable rights) which are now being asserted as underlying the doctrine of interposition relating to CITIZEN’S UNITED challenges within States and Municipal governments such as Los Angeles County.

Other References on Doctrine of Interposition:

Please Read CAREFULLY.  This expression by the Virginia Senate is insightful and elegant:  The Doctrine of Interposition, Its History and Application, A REPORT on Senate Joint Resolution 3, GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF VIRGINIA 1956 and related matters by the Coommmittee for Courts of Justice, Senate of Virginia, SENATE DOCUMENT NO. 21 (1958).

Petition from Indiana General Assembly regarding Doctrine of Interposition as Grounds for Declaring HR 3590 known as the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act”, or any other amendment appended to this act from becoming law in Indiana. (December 2010)

[More to follow.]

Tenth Amendment Center: Interposition is the cousin of nullification

Black’s Law  Dictionary. Fourth Edition (1951- 1967) offers an expanded definition:  Interposition.  The doctrine that a state, in the exercise of its sovereignty, may reject a mandate of the federal government deemed to be unconstitutional or to exceed the powers delegated to the federal government. The concept is based on the10th Amendment of the Constitution of the United States reserving to the states powers not delegated to the United States.  Historically, the doctrine emanated from Chisholm v. Georgia, 2 Dallas 419, wherein the state of Georgia, when sued in the Supreme Court by a private citizen of another state, entered a remonstrance and declined to recognize the court’s jurisdiction.  Amendment 11 validated Georgia’s position.  Implementation of the doctrine may be peaceable, as by resolution, remonstrance or legislation, or may proceed ultimately to nullification with forcible resistance.


Virginia House Revives Doctrine of ‘Interposition’ Last Used To Defend Jim Crow

By Ian Millhiser on Jan 29, 2011 at 1:30 pm

In response to the landmark Affordable Care Act, numerous right-wing state lawmakers have introduced unconstitutional bills attempting to nullify this federal law. Earlier this week, however, the Virginia House of Delegates went even further, passing a sweeping nullification bill that directly conflicts with numerous Supreme Court decisions:

All goods produced or manufactured, whether commercially or privately, within the boundaries of the Commonwealth that are held, maintained, or retained within the boundaries of the Commonwealth shall not be deemed to have traveled in interstate commerce and shall not be subject to federal law, federal regulation, or the authority of the Congress of the United States under its constitutional power to regulate commerce.

It is all but certain that the Supreme Court will uphold the Affordable Care Act under its existing precedents, but this specific question has yet to reach the justices themselves. The Virginia House’s attempt to prevent the federal government from regulating locally produced goods, by contrast, is a direct assault on the judiciary. The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that Congress does not simply have the power to regulate commerce that crosses state lines, it also has the power to regulate wholly intrastate matters that “substantially affect interstate commerce.”

The Virginia Legislature has pulled this stunt before. In 1956, Virginia lawmakers objected to a different Supreme Court decision — Brown v. Board of Education. Rather than acknowledging that they are bound by the Constitution, however, these lawmakers instead enacted a “resolution of interposition” claiming that they were “duty bound” to defy the Supreme Court:

[W]e have watched with growing concern as the power delegated to the Congress to regulate commerce among the several States has been stretched into a power to control local enterprises remote from interstate commerce; we have witnessed with disquietude the advancing tendency to read into a power to lay taxes for the general welfare a power to confiscate the earnings of our people for purposes unrelated to the general welfare as we conceive it . . . .

Virginia can remain silent no longer. Recognizing, as this Assembly does, the prospect of incalculable harm to the public schools of this State and the disruption of the education of her children, Virginia is duty bound to interpose against these most serious consequences, and earnestly to challenge the usurped authority that would inflict them upon her citizens.

Sadly, the Virginia House is not alone in attempting to revive long discredited legal doctrines to advance its right-wing agenda. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) has suggested that child labor laws, FEMA, food stamps, the FDA, Medicaid, income assistance for the poor, and even Medicare and Social Security violate the Constitution. Sens. David Vitter (R-LA) and Rand Paul (R-KY) both believe that they can strip millions of U.S. citizens of their citizenship in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. The right-wing lawsuits challenging the Affordable Care Act all ask the courts to “jettison nearly two centuries of settled constitutional law.”

Indeed, if the right had its way, it’s doubtful there would be much left of the Constitution.


This work by Truthout is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

Montana State Supreme Court: Citizens United Not Welcome Here

Wednesday 4 January 2012
by: Sam Ferguson, Truthout | Report

(Photo: s_falkow)

In a rebuke to the United States Supreme Court, the Supreme Court of Montana has held that Citizens United does not apply to Montana campaign finance law.

Last Friday, the Montana Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of a 1912 voter initiative – the Corrupt Practices Act – that prohibits corporations from making contributions to or expenditures on behalf of state political candidates and political parties. In 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that a similar federal prohibition was unconstitutional, prompting a wave of bills and court rulings that erased prohibitions on corporate and union political expenditures around the country.

“For over 100 years, Montana has had an electoral system that preserves the integrity of the political process, encourages full participation and safeguards against corruption,” state Attorney General Steve Bullock said in a statement after the ruling, adding, “the [Montana] Supreme Court’s decision upholds that system and is truly a victory for all Montanans.”

ALSO SEE: David Cobb – ‘Citizens United’ Doesn’t Fly in Big Sky State (Video)

The Montana Court cited the state’s “unique” history, culture and economy in justifying the decision not to follow Citizens United.

“With the infusion of unlimited corporate money in support of or opposition to a targeted candidate,” wrote Chief Justice Mike McGrath, in a 5-2 decision, “the average citizen candidate would be unable to compete against the corporate-sponsored candidate, and Montana citizens, who for over 100 years have made their modest election contributions meaningfully count would be effectively shut out of the process.”

Under the First Amendment, limits on speech are justified only if the government can demonstrate a “compelling” interest for the limitation. The Montana high court ruled that the state had several compelling interests: preventing the corrupting influence of large political expenditures; guarding against Montana’s susceptibility to corruption because of its low-cost, grass roots political culture; and stemming the threat posed by out-of-state economic interests that have a financial stake in Montana’s agriculture and resource-extraction based economy.

But in Citizens United, Justice Anthony Kennedy held that the government may “not deprive the public of the right and privilege to determine for itself what speech and speakers are worthy of consideration.” In other words, the government may not quiet the voice of some speakers in an effort to boost the voice of others. The Supreme Court also held that there is no compelling interest in limiting so-called “independent expenditures,” because such limitations do not prevent corruption.

UCLA law Professor Eugene Volokh wrote on his influential legal blog, The Volokh Conspiracy, that “the disagreement with Citizens United is so striking that it is likely that the Supreme Court will agree to hear the case and will reverse the Montana Supreme Court’s decision.”

Previously, a lower court in Montana ruled the state’s law limiting campaign spending unconstitutional, saying, “Citizens United is unequivocal: the government may not prohibit independent and indirect corporate expenditures on political speech.”

Montana’s Corrupt Practices Act

Montana’s 1912 initiative was adopted in response to considerable corruption in the state government, according to the opinion. Around the turn of the century, the so-called “Copper Kings,” powerful mining barons, ruled Montana through campaign spending and bribery. One such baron, William A. Clark, was elected to the United States Senate in 1899 after buying votes in the Montana Legislature. He was unseated and the scandal helped lead to the passage of the 17th Amendment, which requires the direct election of senators.

Before the adoption of the Corrupt Practices Act, “the State of Montana and its government were operating under a mere shell of legal authority,” said the court in Friday’s majority opinion, “and the real social and political power was wielded by powerful corporate managers to further their own business interests.”

The court reasoned that the interest in protecting against the corrupting influence of money on the political system remains meaningful 100 years after Montana voters adopted the Corrupt Practices Act. “Does a State have to repeal or invalidate its murder prohibition if the homicide rate declines? We think not. Issues of corporate influence, sparse population, dependence upon agriculture and extractive resource development, location as a transportation corridor and low campaign costs make Montana especially vulnerable to continued efforts of corporate control to the detriment of democracy and the republican form of government.”

Justice James Nelson wrote in dissent that “[t]he language of Citizens United … is remarkably sweeping and leaves virtually no conceivable basis for muzzling or otherwise restricting corporate political speech in the form of independent expenditures…. As much as I would like to rule in favor of the State, I cannot in good faith do so.”

Montana First Court to Challenge Supreme Court on Citizens United Ruling

The Montana Supreme Court is the only state court so far to uphold a ban on corporate political expenditures in the wake of Citizens United. The Colorado Supreme Court held its own corporate expenditure ban unconstitutional in March 2010. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 11 states have also repealed bans on corporate expenditures, and administrative agencies in five states have declared corporate political expenditure bans unconstitutional.

States may still ban direct corporate contributions to candidates or expenditures coordinated with candidates.

The three plaintiffs who sued to roll back Montana’s election law limiting campaign contributions are a sole-proprietor painting business, an influential Montana gun-rights organization and an out-of-state advocacy group. The advocacy group, Western Tradition Partnership, has renamed itself American Tradition Partnership (ATP). According to its web site, ATP is “dedicated to fighting environmental extremism and promoting responsible development and management of land, water and natural resources.”

“The Montana Supreme Court, through this decision, has shown contempt for the overriding law of the land and has thumbed its nose at the United States Supreme Court, which has specifically held that the State of Montana has no interest in prohibiting people who associate together from speaking,” said ATP Executive Director Donald Ferguson.

John Bonifaz, director of Free Speech for People, a group dedicated to overturning Citizens United, said in a statement that the ruling sets up “the first test case for the US Supreme Court to revisit its Citizens United Decision, a decision which poses a direct and serious threat to our democracy.”

The plaintiffs have until March 29 to seek review by the United States Supreme Court.

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