Yes, Corporations Do Share Many Of Our Rights

Jul 14, 2014

“As a practical matter, that train has left the station,” said Burt Neuborne, a New York University law professor, concerning the Supreme Court’s adoption of the idea that a corporation is a person for the purposes of the 14th Amendment, which guarantees life, liberty, property and equal protection of the laws.

Speaking with KUOW’s Ross Reynolds on The Record, Neuborne said it makes sense to give corporations some constitutional rights in order to shield them from unfair regulation.

“The trouble is that they have taken the idea that corporations are persons for economic purposes and rolled it over to saying that they’re persons for dignitary purposes, which frankly strikes me as absurd,” he said.

“A corporation is an artificial thing. It doesn’t exist – it exists only because we create a legal set of rules that recognize it. It’s not like a human being – corporations don’t have dignity, they have economic efficiency.”

The subject has been in the news recently due to the Supreme Court’s recent Hobby Lobby decision that allows small corporations to deny coverage of certain contraceptives to its employees.

Protesters of the Supreme Court's decision outside a Hobby Lobby store on July 5.
Protesters of the Supreme Court's decision outside a Hobby Lobby store on July 5.
Credit Flickr Photo/Light Brigading (CC-BY-NC-ND)

So the question has come up: What rights do people and corporations share?

  • Free speech
  • Free exercise of religion (small corporations)
  • Not subject to unreasonable search and sizure
  • Jury trial
  • Protection against double jeopardy
  • Freedom from cruel and unusual punishment
  • Protection against deprivation of property without due process
  • Equal protection of the laws

According to Neuborne, the only right that people have that corporations don’t have, yet, is freedom from self-incrimination.