Is a Corporation a “Person?” Legally, YES!

by Norris Law Group on October 24, 2014

Some recent court cases, such as the Hobby Lobby case or the Citizens United case—both of which were brought before the U.S. Supreme Court—have once again brought up a question that has been debated in the national media for some time: Is a corporation a person?

In both cases, the U.S. Supreme Court found that each organization did indeed have the right to make decisions as though it were an individual person. Corporations of all kinds may make decisions about issues they wish to support or not support, or make contributions to political causes or candidates of their choosing.

The idea that corporations are viewed as people under many aspects of the law originated in the U.S. Supreme Court itself quite a long time ago. According to National Public Radio (NPR), the idea that corporations are people goes back to the passage of the 14th Amendment in 1868. The 14th Amendment provides the legal residents of each state equal protection under the law, and ensures that the residents of individual states will not be treated differently under the law, due to factors such as the wealth of the state, how much it pays in federal tax, etc. Since the passage of the 14th Amendment, lawyers have fought to extend these rights of equal protection to corporations as well, and have been successful in many instances.

The recognition of corporations as people has been a politically contentious issue for nearly as long. Traditionally, more fiscally conservative parties and individuals have been in favor of viewing corporations as people, because they believe it affords corporations more freedoms. More politically progressive groups, however, have typically fought against the idea that corporations are people.

A recent article in The Atlantic, which often leans to the political left in its articles, defended the notion of viewing corporations as people. Ironically, it used the example of a case that the ACLU brought against NSA head James Clapper in regard to the Edward Snowden’s leaking of NSA documents—in which the ACLU argues that corporations are not people—as justification as to why corporations should be viewed as people. If corporations—even nonprofits such as the ACLU—are not viewed as people, then the ACLU would not even be able act as a “person” and bring suit against James Clapper, or anyone, for that matter.

If you choose to incorporate in Utah, Idaho or Wyoming, these issues may affect you directly. If you have any questions about how incorporation might affect your business, speak with an experienced business law attorney skilled in setting up corporations in these states.

Attorney Graham Norris and his associates at the Norris Law Group serve the residents of Utah County, UT and throughout Utah, Wyoming and Idaho. Contact them today at 801-932-1238 or online for a free consultation.

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