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Legal Lies

Via Steve Bates, Thom Hartmann has an informative piece about “corporate personhood”, Wal-Mart Is Not a Person, and actually explains what the legal decision in Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company, 118 U.S. 394 (1886) says about the concept – well, nothing.

The reference to “corporate personhood” is in the preface to the decision written by a court reporter, not in the decision rendered by the Court. Justice Sotomayor indicated a desire to revisit the concept during the Citizens United case, but the Synod¹ wasn’t having it. The “precedent” for all of these decisions doesn’t actually exist.

Oly Mike at The Left Coaster discusses another Supreme Court decision that is pending on the State Secrets Privilege claimed by the Executive.

That is based on the decision in United States v. Reynolds, 345 U.S. 1 (1953), which does exist, but there is one major problem – there were no State Secrets involved in the case. This was about the crash of a B-29 and the report on the accident investigation. When the report was finally de-classified, it was discovered that there was no justification for classifying it in the first place, because it contained no “State Secrets”. The Executive had won a privilege by lying to the Court.

It is bad enough living with some of the totally off-the-wall decisions that courts make, without having to put up with things based on lies or made up from whole cloth.

1. The five conservative male Catholics who get to make all of the decisions.

2 comments

1 Steve Bates { 01.19.11 at 4:29 pm }

Notwithstanding the relatively moderate nature of Clinton’s and Obama’s appointees, the Supreme Court has been, for most of my adult life, an ideologically driven institution. “Synod” indeed.

It’s particularly discouraging, since the Court, in John Marshall’s day, in Marbury v. Madison, took for itself the power to rule laws unconstitutional… or not. Yes, I know, Wiki Answers, in a variety of posts, lists “Article III” as the source of that power, but the quotes they cite inevitably are completely general in nature and say nothing about decisions of constitutionality… because, face it, there is no suitable citation in the Constitution. The Court, arguably as conservative then as it is now, saw a power vacuum and filled it.

2 Bryan { 01.19.11 at 4:52 pm }

The Supreme Court has the power to decide cases without establishing precedents, and does it quite often, The Heller decision on the Second Amendment was limited to DC. It took another case to expand the principle through the Fourteenth Amendment.

The damage is done when the Court decides to create a broad precedent from a very narrow case, because the wider implications are never reviewed or discussed.