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OCTOBER 10, 2003
4:44 PM
CONTACT: Program On Corporations, Law & Democracy 
Richard Grossman 603-473-8637
Mike Ferner 419-729-3205
"Democracy Brief" Calls on Courts to Eliminate Corporate Privilege

S. YARMOUTH, MA - October 10 - The Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy (POCLAD) today posted a “Model Legal Brief to Eliminate Corporate Rights” to its website, making it available to help citizen groups create winning organizing strategies by stripping constitutional protections from corporations and preventing them from governing their communities.

Richard Grossman, co-founder of POCLAD, authored the brief with Thomas Linzey, Esq., president of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, (CELDF) a public interest law firm in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, and Dan Brannen, a Santa Fe attorney.

The Brief was created to support community leaders and citizens across the United States who are confronting the array of judicially bestowed constitutional rights wielded by corporations. The Brief not only challenges “corporate personhood” – the theory that corporations possess the constitutional rights of people and therefore may use the Bill of Rights to get courts and police to deny people’s fundamental rights, but also confronts the powers corporations wield under the Commerce and Contracts Clauses of the U.S. Constitution.

Grossman, of Milton Mills, New Hampshire, has written extensively on corporate and legal history. He pointed out that, “This brief is intended to assist communities challenging the U.S. government’s gift of constitutional powers to property organized as corporations. Accordingly, it is NOT about corporate responsibility, corporate ethics, corporate codes of conduct, good corporate ‘citizenship,’ corporate crime, corporate reform, consumer protection, stakeholders, or fixing regulatory agencies.”

The Brief contains a history showing how federal courts gradually granted more Bill of Rights protections to corporations over the past 150 years. It finds that “corporations regularly and illegitimately deny the people their inalienable rights,” and concludes that such denials “are beyond the authority of the corporation to exercise…beyond the authority of the Courts, or any other branches of government, to confer…(and deny) the people their ability to govern themselves.”

The Brief outlines several cases to show that “such assessments are not ivory tower academic theories, but frightening reality,” including how:

Omnipoint Corporation used the 14th Amendment and the 1964 Civil Rights Act to force towns to both allow construction of cell phone towers and pay the company’s legal fees when communities resisted. Omnipoint Communications Enterprises L.P. v Zoning Hearing Board of Chadd’s Ford Township, No. Civ. A. 98-3299, 1998 WL 764762 (E.D. Pa. Oct. 28, 1998).

Monsanto Corporation, filing an amicus brief that claimed a First Amendment right to remain silent, supported a federal court's decision striking down a Vermont law that required dairy companies to label products containing bovine growth hormones. International Dairy Foods Assn. v Amestoy, 92 F.3d 67 (2nd Cir. 1996).

The U.S. Supreme Court used the 1st Amendment to nullify a Massachusetts law banning corporate spending on political referenda. First National Bank v Bellotti, 435 U.S. 765 (1978).

The 4th Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures has been extended to corporations, preventing the Secretary of Labor and OSHA from conducting warrantless searches to protect workers’ health and safety. Marshall v Barlow’s, Inc. 436 U.S. 307 (1978).

A Pennsylvania company invoked the Contracts and Commerce Clauses of the Constitution in an attempt to overturn a township ordinance requiring sewage sludge be tested before being applied to the land. Synagro-WWT, Inc. v Rush Township, 4:CV-00-1625 (M.D. Pa. June 7, 2002).

Smithfield Foods, Inc. convinced the federal court to strike down an Iowa law intended to protect independent meat packers. Smithfield Foods, Inc., No. 4:02-cv-90324, p. 5n.3.

The Model Legal Brief to Eliminate Corporate Rights is available by contacting POCLAD at 508-398-1145 or by emailing

POCLAD is a group of 13 activists in 8 states who research corporate, labor and legal histories, and help citizen groups develop new strategies that can assert human rights over property interests. Its office is in South Yarmouth, MA.


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