Californian Challenges HOV Lane Citation & Corporate Personhood

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Instigating one of the most hotly contested American political disputes in recent history, a few years ago the Supreme Court of the United States heard the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case.  At issue in the case was a provision of the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act or BCRA—also known as the McCain-Feingold Act.  The provision challenged by Citizens United, a non-profit group, was one that restricted unions, corporations and non-profit organizations from broadcasting communications meant to influence an election within 60 days of a general election and within 30 days of a primary election. Citizens United challenged this legislation because they wanted to air an advertisement for a film that was critical of Hillary Clinton, but was prevented from doing so by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia because she was a candidate in a primary election that was less than 30 days away.

The Supreme Court ultimately decided in favor of Citizens United and declared the McCain-Feingold Act provisions unconstitutional because they violated the 1st Amendment right to free speech. This decision was widely criticized because in awarding unions, non-profit organizations and corporations 1st Amendment rights, many interpreted this to mean that they now had the same rights as individuals and that under law they would be treated as such. The case was decided in late January of 2010 and since then there have been many creative arguments illustrating the folly behind considering a corporation an individual. However, the latest argument just might be the most creative yet.

As reported by Auto Blog, a man driving north of San Francisco in San Rafael, California was ticketed $478 for driving in the HOV lane without a passenger and without a HOV lane sticker (California allows some hybrid and electric cars to travel in the HOV lane regardless of occupancy). His argument?  He wasn’t actually alone—he had another individual with him—a corporation.

According to the Auto Blog article, California’s law defines personhood as that belonging to a “natural person” or a “corporation.”  The driver apparently had incorporation papers with him in the vehicle, and he and his attorney have vowed to take this case all the way to the Supreme Court to “expose the impracticality of corporate personhood.”  According to the Pacific Sun, an initial court date is scheduled for today, January 7th, at 3pm PST in San Rafael.

  • Brittany Larson

    Brittany is an environmental and automotive enthusiast based in Las Vegas, Nevada. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she currently moonlights as a law student at UNLV. You can contact her via Twitter @brittlarson10.

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