Can I Also Marry a Corporation?

This is certainly an interesting way for an individual to protest the absurdity that a corporation is a person.

When Jonathan Frieman of San Rafael, Calif., was pulled over for driving alone in the carpool lane, he argued to the officer that, actually, he did have a passenger.

He waved his corporation papers at the officer, he told NBCBayArea.com, saying that corporations are people under California law.

Frieman doesn’t actually support this notion. For more than 10 years, Frieman says he had been trying to get pulled over to get ticketed and to take his argument to court — to challenge a judge to determine that corporations and people are not the same. Mission accomplished in October, when he was slapped with a fine — a minimum of $481.

I guess this is silly. But at the same time if we are going to consider corporations to be legal human beings, why wouldn’t they have all the rights and responsibilities of a person?

45 comments on this post.
  1. dan:

    Let me explain why this is stupid:

    1) Just because the Supreme Court has stated that a corporation is a person for First Amendmeny purposes doesn’t mean that a corporation is considered a person under the California Vehiclr Code; and

    3) Even if it were a person under the Veh. Code, in what sense was the corporation in the car? The incorporation papers are not the corporation

    Just because Citizens United is bad law doesn’t mean that even more stupid arguments that don’t follow from the CU rationale have to be accepted.

  2. Major Kong:

    Not sure who said this first but:

    I’ll believe corporations are people when Texas executes one.

  3. PS:

    Well the California Vehicle Code does define person as ““natural person, firm, copartnership, association, limited liability company, or corporation”.

    As a legal argument, it’s largely silly (as Erik says); but then again, so is Citizens United. Sometimes parody is the best response…

  4. marijane:

    When my partner and I were more serious about marriage, we discussed choosing a new last name together. He ended up using his favorite choice to brand his LLC, with the eventual goal of changing his last name to it as well. But I pointed out that using it for his company first made it kind of feel like getting married and taking the name would be like me getting branded, as well, and that felt weird. That and a couple other factors resulted in us deciding we didn’t need to get married.

    But now… now I want to marry his LLC to protest corporate personhood. Thank you for this hilarious idea, Erik.

  5. Decrease Mather:

    What was reason #2?

  6. Boots Day:

    Does the life of a corporation begin at conception?

  7. MAJeff:

    Steal underwear?

  8. arto:

    Is owning a corporation tantamount to slavery?

  9. jon:

    My corporation is considering all offers, assuming you’re cute enough and rich enough.

  10. Richard:

    “3) Even if it were a person under the Veh. Code, in what sense was the corporation in the car? The incorporation papers are not the corporation”

    Yeah. That really disposes of the argument without ever getting to the question of whether a corporation has rights. Similar to claiming that you aren’t violating the car pool lane law if you have a friend’s birth certificate in the car

  11. jsmdlawyer:

    You can only marry the corporation if it’s a girl, Erik. Not sure how you can tell the sex of a corporation (where would one find the genitalia of a corporation?), but rules are rules.

  12. rea:

    where would one find the genitalia of a corporation?

    The pricks and assholes are usually in upper management . . .

  13. Anonymous:

    If the corporation is not inside the car, it must be outside the car. In which case it is violating the law against pedestrians on the expressway.

  14. joe from Lowell:

    $48 a year for unlimited HOV lane use is damn good deal.

  15. arguingwithsignposts:

    Profit!

  16. blowback:

    Is there anything to stop a person changing their surname to LLC? Then they could call themselves, say, Lockheed Martin Gyrocam Systems LLC. And since more than one person can have the same name…

  17. cpinva:

    not really:

    “3) Even if it were a person under the Veh. Code, in what sense was the corporation in the car? The incorporation papers are not the corporation”

    Yeah. That really disposes of the argument without ever getting to the question of whether a corporation has rights. Similar to claiming that you aren’t violating the car pool lane law if you have a friend’s birth certificate in the car

    corporations can, and have been, argued to have a “presence” wherever a corporate officer is physically located. technically, mr. frieman’s car could be considered a “branch office” of his corporation, thereby giving it a “physical presence” on the road. both the supreme court, and the CA legislature, have put themselves in this idiotic position, by specifically defining corporations as “persons”, they are estopped from now arguing otherwise.

    the traffic court judge is going to have to decide whether he follows actual CA law, and tosses the ticket, or opts for common sense (and risks getting overturned on appeal), and does what the legislature and USSC failed to do, recognizing that a corporation is no more a “person”, than is a rock in your yard.

    this was bound to happen eventually, i’m just surprised it took this long. a corporation or partnership is nothing more than a bunch of people, getting together for a prescribed activity. the “personhood” of the group has always been a legal fiction, solely for the purpose of making it easier for the group to conduct business, without requiring every single investor/partner to sign off on every contract/decision, etc. it was the supreme court, in Citizens United, and state legislatures, that raised this to the present state of absurdity. i have no sympathy for them.

  18. cpinva:

    probably have to hang it,

    I’ll believe corporations are people when Texas executes one.

    since corporations are notoriously heartless, finding a vein would be tough.

  19. Linnaeus:

    Not here in Washington! Woo hoo!

  20. Jon:

    Yeah, har har we have law licenses so we know this is a bogus legal argument. Except that people make bizarre legal arguments all the time and they seem to fly.

    But, this is all over the Internet. So, the guy has been successful at making his point, which is as or more important than winning on the merits. In that sense, he has already won.

    Fwiw, I strongly doubt that that section of the Vehicle Code cited here refers to someone driving. It is probably in reference to ownership or liability in some way.

    But who cares? This guy is a PR genius.

  21. Jon:

    You get an A on your law school final. Now, go try and get as much free press as this guy has for this issue.

  22. ironic irony:

    Zing.

  23. ajay:

    Clearly the New York Stock Exchange is illegal under the Thirteenth Amendment.

  24. ajay:

    Not sure how you can tell the sex of a corporation

    It’s the same rule as for aliens on Star Trek: if the name ends in an A, it’s a female. Erik can marry Alcoa, Inc., but not United Biscuits (except in Washington).

  25. ajay:

    Reproductive biology FAIL, rea.

  26. Informant:

    As the kids would say, “Too cute legal argument is too cute.” Laws routinely distinguish between “natural persons” and “legal persons” in a wide variety of contexts.

  27. Miriam:

    Occupy Worcester (Mass.) held “Marry a Corporation Day” in Nov., 2011.

  28. anon:

    Too bad all the pussies are in liberal academia, amirite?!

  29. Red Square Bear:

    Adam and Evea not Adam and Steve!

  30. Red Square Bear:

    Adam and Evita not Adam and Stevia!

  31. Red Square Bear:

    Make musicals, not sweet tea!

  32. Mrs Tilton:

    Yes. Not quite routinely enough, though (see, e.g., Citizens United v. Fed. Election Comm’n, 558 U.S. 310 (2010)); which would seem to be this guy’s point.

  33. IM:

    And that was the way I would deal with it and a court will deal with it.

  34. ajay:

    Even if it were a person under the Veh. Code, in what sense was the corporation in the car? The incorporation papers are not the corporation”

    If the corporation consists of just Frieman (which I assume it does), then it would be very difficult to argue that the corporation wasn’t in the car. Where else would it be? All its employees were in the car. All its corporate officers were in the car. All its shareholders were in the car.

  35. jon:

    You’ll right quick when their tits are in the ringer.

  36. Njorl:

    Hold on there. I believe you can marry someone of the opposite sex, or someone of the same sex. I wasn’t aware of any laws allowing you to marry anyone else. You’ll have to nail down the corporation you want to marry as one or the other before the wedding can take place.

  37. Njorl:

    I’m predicting that the outcome will be that corporate officers will be allowed to drive in carpool lanes. Republicans will see this as a good and proper thing, consistent with the intent of the founding fathers.

  38. ajay:

    Best solution: “The court recognises that there were two persons in the vehicle – Mr Frieman, and his corporation – and thus he is not guilty of driving alone in the HOV lane. However, Mr Frieman’s corporation was founded eight years ago. Officer Barbrady has testified that Mr Frieman was the only occupant of the vehicle wearing a seatbelt, and he is therefore guilty of endangering a minor by allowing his corporation to ride in a vehicle without proper restraint. He will also be referred to federal authorities for possible violations of the Mann Act.”

  39. Sherm:

    In New York, all you have to do is buy a Prius.

  40. Ian:

    If he wants to break the law with impunity he needs travel with a bigger corporation.

  41. David Hunt:

    Even better: are corporations legal minors for the first 18 years of their existence? Minors can’t do much of anything in a business sense legally without an adult who also on the hook IIRC. Wouldn’t this destroy the shield of corporate liability for the first eighteen years of their existence?

  42. Steve H:

    I used to be appalled at the notion that corporations could be treated as persons with constitutional rights.

    Then I became a partner in a small law firm, and I would rather the government not have the unfettered right to confiscate all of our assets.

  43. Jess Sane:

    ???

  44. Titanium Dragon:

    People don’t really understand Citizens United. Frankly it didn’t even really break any ground that was all that surprising.

    You’re a person. You have the right to freedom of assembly and freedom of speech.

    If a bunch of people band together in a group, why do they suddenly lose these rights?

    The answer is that they don’t. It is an absurd argument on the face of it, and yet people make it with a straight face.

    The truth is that Citizens United was the correct decision because groups of people have the same right to freedom of speech as individual persons do, and by preventing them from banding together and pooling their money to speak out you are, in fact, depriving them of the ability to be heard.

    People don’t like it because they want to repress the freedom of speech of others. But freedom does not mean “the freedom to only say things I like.”

  45. Bijan Parsia:

    Eh. If the corporation libels someone, who’s liable?

    Oh right! Not the people directly, but the corporation.

    Ergo, corporations are not merely aggregations of people and those people acting via that vehicle do not necessarily have the same freedoms of action as they do via other vehicles.

    Compare with a sole proprietorship or partnership (think about the taxes as well).

    The people who own the corporation do not lose any free speech rights if the corporation has restricted speech rights.

    But bonus points for being ridiculously silly in precisely the way to deride. That’s a popular way to lie.

Leave a comment