Justice Clarence Thomas while speaking at the Stetson University law school in Florida, provided a defense of the Supreme Court’s majority decision in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission (08-205). Thomas asserted that corporations have First Amendment rights to engage in political speech. I maintain that legal fictions like corporations or any form of business organization do not have innate rights under the First Amendment like human beings do.
Thomas reasoned that corporations have first amendment rights to political speech because human beings have the right to association. This right to association, he explains, allows groups of people to collectively assert their speech rights. Thus, the people in so assembling can create a partnership or a corporation to assert their political views.
I disagree with Thomas’ reasoning because a business organizations (partnerships, c corporations, LLCs, LLPs, and so on) are created under state law. Partnerships are creatures of contract, one that can be dissolved rather easily. In addition, people have to pay fees to create a business organization. Outside of strictly commercial activity (buying and selling of goods and services), I do not see why these business organizations would be seen as having First Amendment rights.
First Amendment rights have to be limited to those who are capable of exercising them autonomously–a requirement that an business organizational form will never satisfy (rightly so).
Post at the Above the Law blog