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We handle cases across the United States. Allen Stewart is licensed to practice law in Texas, California, New York, Pennsylvania, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio and Arizona.

AT&T: When Corporations Are People Too

The U.S. Supreme Court declared the Constitution protects an individual’s right to privacy beginning with Griswold v. Connecticut.[1] Justice William O. Douglas, writing for the majority, declared that “specific guarantees in the Bill of Rights have penumbras, formed by emanations from those guarantees that help give them life and substance.”[2] And so, the Court concluded that the State had no business forbidding the use of contraceptives. In Justice Douglas’ words:

We deal with a right of privacy older than the Bill of Rights — older than our political parties, older than our school system. Marriage is a coming together for better or for worse, hopefully enduring, and intimate to the degree of being sacred. It is an association that promotes a way of life, not causes; a harmony in living, not political faiths; a bilateral loyalty, not commercial or social projects. Yet it is an association for as noble a purpose as any involved in our prior decisions.

Thus, the noble human association of sacred marriage formed the foundation for the Court’s first foray into pronouncing a right of privacy.

Now, forty-five years later, AT&T demands its personal privacy protections too. Specifically, AT&T argues that it can invoke the personal privacy provisions of the Freedom of Information Act to restrict the government from telling the rest of us what the government learned from AT&T during an investigation.[3] Never mind the fact that AT&T is a legal fiction—an artificial construct designed solely to protect investors from liability and pursue profit. AT&T believes that it deserves all the personal privacy protections provided to real living breathing Americans. Because, after all, legislators, judges and justices keep treating AT&T and other large corporate interests like they are special.

Legislators presently write laws specifically designed to protect corporate interests. Often corporate lobbyists write the actual bill that a legislator then introduces as his or her idea of how the law should be changed. Judges routinely sign protective orders that allow corporations to hide information under the false moniker of “trade secrets” thereby keeping the public in the dark about the full extent of the corporation’s misdeeds. And the recent Supreme Court case of United Citizens v. Federal Election Commission[4] allows corporations unlimited electoral financial influence. In fact, a corporation can now decide whom they wish to run America and then spend unlimited amounts of money making that result occur.

Yet corporations don’t send sons and daughters into war. They simply profit from it. Corporations don’t seek the public good. They seek to profit from it. Corporations don’t routinely do the best thing. They seek the most profitable thing. This reality should instruct us that corporations are not equal with real people. For they have no soul to stir towards sacrificing selflessly for others. They do not love and they do not forgive. Nevertheless, many corporations are powerful and they are wealthy. What they want now is all the benefits of “personhood” without any of its moral, ethical or legal obligations. And unfortunately, money and power mesmerize many, including lawmakers and judges.

This insanity will not stop without a radical paradigm shift in American life. Money must matter much less in our society and real people must matter infinitely more. When we value artificial entities more than or even equal to real men, real women and real children, then we sacrifice the sacredness of what it truly means to be human.

[1] 381 U.S. 479 (1965)

[2] Id. at 484.

[3] The U.S. Supreme Court has decided to hear this matter: FCC et al v. AT&T et al, docket number 09-1279.

[4] 558 U.S. 50 (2010)

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