Justice Hugo Black on Corporate Personhood

Re-posting this from my webpage of several years ago:

Posted Fri, 04/23/2010 - 13:28 by jim
I found Justice Hugo Black's dissenting opinion in this 1938 case to be an extremely clear and convincing argument that corporate personhood was NOT intended to be created by the 14th Amendment. Below is an extensive excerpt from Black's dissenting opinion. If you don't have time to read it, just scan down and read the sections I put in bold.


Decided Jan. 31, 1938.

Mr. Justice BLACK (dissenting). [emphasis added]

"I do not believe the word 'person' in the Fourteenth Amendment includes corporations. 'The doctrine of stare decisis, however appropriate and even necessary at times, has only a limited application in the field of constitutional law.' This Court has many times changed its interpretations of the Constitution when the conclusion was reached that an improper construction had been adopted. Only recently the case of West Coast Hotel Company v. Parrish, 300 U.S. 379 , 57 S.Ct. 578, 108 A.L.R. 1330, expressly overruled a previous interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment which had long blocked state minimum wage legislation. When a statute is declared by this Court to be unconstitutional, the decision until reversed stands as a barrier against the adoption of similar legislation. A constitutional interpretation that is wrong should not stand. I believe this Court should now overrule previous decisions which interpreted the Fourteenth Amendment to include corporations.

Neither the history nor the language of the Fourteenth Amendment justifies the belief that corporations are included within its protection. The historical purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment was clearly set forth when first considered by this Court in the Slaughter House Cases, 16 Wall. 36, decided April, 1873-less than five years after the proclamation of its adoption

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