A hearty congratulations this morning to one Jonathan Frieman of San Rafael, California. We realize it’s only January but as far as we’re concerned this Frieman guy has already won the entire year of 2013 for executing a rather brilliant prank on the textualist wing of the Supreme Court.
His plan was as simple as it was brilliant: Frieman just drove around in one of California’s carpool lanes by himself until he eventually was stopped by police for not having an additional person in the car. (Sidenote: Apparently carpool laws are enforced rather loosely in California. It took Frieman over 10 years of driving around like that before he was finally ticketed.)
Once Frieman was finally pulled over, he handed the officer a certificate of incorporation and voila!! According to the Supreme Court’s own precedent, Frieman suddenly had two “people” in his vehicle. Obviously, the officer still gave him the $481 ticket, so today Frieman is heading to traffic court to argue his case.
While Frieman says he has long opposed the legal community’s treatment of corporations as people, his carpool prank is particularly relevant to the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, which expanded this construct even further. The Court in that case decided that corporations have the same speech rights as humans under the law, and therefore these corpo-people-hybrid-monsters are allowed to spend as much money as they want to influence elections.
Just in case this doesn’t sound completely insane to you already, keep in mind that the five justices who signed onto the majority in that case are the exact same guys who constantly accuse their more liberal colleagues of twisting around the meanings of words in order to suit their personal agendas. For instance!! In Citizens United, the liberal justices twisted around the meaning of “person” to mean “person” and somehow found that the word ”speech” means “speech.” The textualists, on the other hand, simply looked at the plain meaning of these words and decided that ”person” includes “corporations” and “speech” is the same thing as “money.” Therefore, limiting the amount of cash that, say, Exxon Mobil can spend to influence an election is just as much of a violation of the First Amendment as punishing an actual human being for writing a disagreeable blog post.
Well okey-doke then, Supreme Court! In that case, we’ll be slipping Wells Fargo some roofies so we can get ourselves preggers and collect some serious child support. (Technically Wal-Mart brings in more cash than Wells Fargo but we’re a little too classy for that. )
Anyway, assuming the police officer actually shows up at the traffic court today, the judge will be either need to: (a.) rule that, duh, obviously a corporation is not a person so articles of incorporation don’t count as an additional passenger; or (b) stand by the Supreme Court’s definition of a corporation and therefore publish a totally ludicrous decision holding that people can just strap their corporate documents into the front seat of their vehicle in order to ride in the carpool lane. Either way, hilarity and further appeals are sure to ensue.