Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Activist Supreme Court Will Legislate from the Bench for Corporate Personhood.

Here's a great commentary from Mike McCabe from the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign:

The U.S. Supreme Court will soon decide a case - Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission - that started as a narrow dispute over whether federal election laws should have applied to a pay-per-view cable TV documentary savaging Hillary Clinton that was to air during the 2008 presidential primary elections.

As previously noted, Chief Justice John Roberts expanded the court's review to include two earlier Supreme Court rulings upholding restrictions on corporate spending in elections. Many court observers believe five of the nine justices favor reversing those precedents.

So at a time of corporate excess and irresponsibility not seen in our land since the Gilded Age, the court appears poised to rule that corporations do not have enough political clout and should be allowed to spend even more freely in elections. And rule thusly in the name of the First Amendment.

Never mind the word "corporation" does not appear in the First Amendment. Nor does the word appear even once in the entire U.S. Constitution for that matter. These justices who call themselves "strict constructionists" and claim to be faithful to the original text of the Constitution are getting ready to sweep away century-old laws banning corporate election spending.
Roberts and his ideological soulmates will not be able to base such a decision on what the Constitution actually says. Nor will they be able to find any predecessor on the nation's highest court who wrote a decision proclaiming that corporations are people and possess the same rights as flesh-and-blood citizens, including those rights spelled out under the First Amendment. Instead, the Roberts court will have to take this guy's word for it.

Bancroft Davis. Former president of a railroad company. As the court reporter for the U.S. Supreme Court, he gave railroad companies a great gift in 1886 when he added a comment to the high court's ruling in a case involving the taxation of railroad properties. And in so doing, this one man gave all corporations a great gift by inventing the pseudolegal doctrine of corporate personhood. Out of thin air.

If the current Supreme Court rules in Citizens United the way many legal experts expect, the handiwork of Bancroft Davis will be affirmed and further cemented in place.

If the Roberts court does this, it will not just be naked judicial activism. It will not simply be the very thing they claim to abhor - legislating from the bench. These "strict constructionists" will be effectively rewriting the Constitution.

What next? Redesign the flag? To capture the essence of the Roberts court's mindset, it will need to look this one.

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