2003 – Nike v. Kasky – Supreme Court fails to rule on corporate right to lie
The Supreme Court chose not to rule on a case brought by Nike Corporation concerning their right to political free speech under the 1st Amendment. A California court ruled that state laws mandating truth in advertising (commercial speech) had been violated. The question was over whether ReclaimDemocracy.org, called the dismissal “a victory for democracy and the truth.” Jeff Milchen, the organization’s director said it was “a relief to hear that the court was not prepared to consider even more extreme judicial activism on behalf of corporate America and against U.S. citizens by creating a corporate right to lie.”
The case returned to California where it was settled out of court before trial. The question of whether the 1st Amendment gives a corporation the right to speak untruths remains undetermined.
2015 – Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court decision – same sex marriage is legal
In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court ruled that a fundamental right to marry in all 50 states is guaranteed under the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution for same sex couples.
As with all decisions that for the first time guarantees rights to a new group of persons, the decision did not happen in a vacuum, but was the result of several decades of organizing for LGBT rights. A key moment that many believed sparked this social movement was the 1969 Stonewall protest in New York City.
1816 – “An Act to Amend The Charter And Enlarge And Improve The Corporation of Dartmouth College” passed by New Hampshire legislature
The legislation converted private Dartmouth College into Dartmouth University, and ordered the new school to set up public colleges around the state. “Whereas knowledge and learning generally diffused through a Community are essential to the preservation of free Government, and extending the opportunities and advantages of education is highly conducive to promote this end…”
The State Supreme Court ruled that the legislature had the authority to change the charter of the college, “because it is a matter of too great moment, too intimately connected with the public welfare and prosperity, to be thus entrusted in the hands of a few. The education of the rising generation is a matter of the highest public concerns, and is worthy of the best attention of every legislature.”
College leaders appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which reversed the decision in the landmark decision Dartmouth College v Woodward in 1819 on the grounds that the college corporate charter was actually not a democratic instrument but a “contract” and that the actions of the New Hampshire legislature and State Supreme Court violated the “Contracts Clause” of the U.S. Constitution.
1836 – Speech of John C. Calhoun, former U.S. Vice-President
“A power has risen up in the government greater than the people themselves, consisting of many and various powerful interests, combined in one mass, and held together by the cohesive power of the vast surplus in banks.”
1836 – Death of James Madison, 4th President of the United States – on corporations
“There is an evil which ought to be guarded against in the indefinite accumulation of property from the capacity of holding it in perpetuity by corporations. The power of all corporations ought to be limited in this respect. The growing wealth acquired by them never fails to be a source of abuses.”
1934 – The National Housing Act is enacted
A federal housing authority was created during the Great Depression to provide loans and subsidies for homeowners. However, mortgage-underwriting standards discriminate against persons of color and their communities in a process labeled “red lining.”
1978 – Regents of the University of California v. Bakke [438 U.S. 265, 388-89] Supreme Court decision upholding affirmative action but forbidding quotas
The US Supreme Court landmark decision upheld affirmative action, allowing race to be one of several factors in college admission policy. The establishment of specific quotas, however, was not permissible.
Justice Thurgood Marshall stated on the decision: “[T]he denial of human rights was etched into the American Colonies’ first attempts at establishing self-government. . . . The self-evident truths and the unalienable rights were intended to apply only to white men.”
2013 – Publication this month of “Public Law to Criminalize Hydrofracking Makes Headway in New York State” by Virginia Rasmussen
“This action is being introduced in towns that passed a protective law zoning out the industrial activity of hydraulic fracturing, an authority granted local governments under NYS Home Rule law. But bans on hydraulic fracturing are no guarantee of true and lasting prohibitions, subject as they are to the vast discretionary authority of regulatory officials appointed by the governor or the executive office.
The move to build a statewide constituency on behalf of criminalization aims not only to make this technology a violation of law with commensurate penalties but to shift people’s relationship to corporations from one of subordination to one of defining and governing the corporate institutions we create. The law would criminalize fracking, frackers and all activities that support and surround the technology: waste disposal, water withdrawal, compressor operations, gas storage, pipeline installation, and more.”
2008 – Publication of Gaveling Down the Rabble: How “Free Trade” Is Stealing Our Democracy by Jane Anne Morris, corporate anthropologist and former POCLAD principal
“The several themes in this book all connect around the subversion of unrepresentative government democracy by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court has usurped from Congress the role of making public policy, with judicial decisions based on the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause. These rulings have built a body of law favoring large corporate interests over the rights of states, municipalities, labor, minorities, and the environment.”
As of 2008 according to Morris, 219 state laws had been overturned by Supreme Court just on commerce clause grounds. A complete list of state laws held to be unconstitutional is at http://law.justia.com/constitution/us/047-state-laws-held-unconstitutional.html
Info on the book is at https://rowman.com/isbn/9781891843396
2014 – Burwell vs Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. [134 S.Ct. 2751, WL 2921709] Supreme Court decision: being persons, corporations can hold “religious beliefs”
The Court concluding that a pile of legal documents constituting a corporation possess “religious beliefs,” thus expanding corporate “personhood” one more notch. The court ruled that religious beliefs could be held not by the individuals who own the corporation but the corporation itself. The legal yoga of this decision with its impressive constitutional twists, stretches and contortions allowed Hobby Lobby’s human owners to avoid covering certain contraceptives for their female employees under the Affordable Care Act which violated the “religious beliefs” of the pile of legal papers.
2013 – “Local Lawmaking: A Call for a Community Rights Movement” is published article by Thomas Linzy, Executive Director, Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF)
“It is that right to local self-government – a right that we’re told that we already have, but which people discover is not there when they need it most – that serves as the guide-star of this slowly gathering movement.
“To stop them, corporate and governmental officials will be forced to slay their own sacred cow – the ‘rule of law’ – which they have used since time immemorial as their own version of ‘God said so’” Thus, governmental and corporate officials will be forced to bring the power of the system’s own courts, legislatures, and regulators crashing down on them, in the face of clear and overwhelming evidence that our food and water systems, our energy systems, and our global climate are themselves crashing as a result of policies created by those very same institutions…
“These communities’ new rule of law – made in the name of environmental and economic sanity – believes that people and nature have rights, not corporations; that new civil, political, and environmental rights must be recognized; and that we must stop (immediately) those corporate acts which harm us.”
1890 – Sherman Antitrust Act passes
The Act was intended to prevent corporate monopolies and conspiracies to suppress competition and control the market. It was used, however, with most devastating effect against labor unions (which were charged as “conspiracies”) beginning in the 1910’s. Corporate attorneys argued that if it was illegal for corporate persons to form monopolies for their own benefit, it should also be illegal for human beings to do the same by forming unions. The courts agreed in most instances.
1964 – Passage of Civil Rights Act passes
The act outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. It ended voting discrimination and literacy testing as a qualification for voting, established the Commission on Equal Employment Opportunity, and ended discrimination in schools, at the workplace and other public facilities.
1997 – Radical Democracy (paperback is published) by Douglas Lummis
“Democracy was once a word of the people, a critical word, a revolutionary word. It has been stolen by those who would rule over the people, to add legitimacy to their rule…The basic idea of democracy is simple . . .
“Democracy is a word that joins demos—the people—with kratia—power . . . It describes an ideal, not a method for achieving it. It is not a kind of government, but an end of government; not a historically existing institution, but a historical project . . . if people take it up as such and struggle for it.”