In “Corporate Personhood and Constitutional Rights in the US,” I will chronicle the astonishing story of one of the most successful yet least well-known civil rights movements in American history: the two-centuries long battle for constitutional rights for corporations. Although never oppressed like women and minorities, business corporations too have fought to win equal rights under the Constitution—and today have nearly all the same rights as ordinary people. I will show how recent controversies in the US over the extension of religious and political rights to corporations reflect a longstanding effort to make corporations “people” under the law. The corporate rights movement, led by the most powerful and influential corporations in the economy, transformed the Constitution from a charter of protection for the most vulnerable into a bulwark against the regulation of big business.
Adam Winkler is the Connell Professor of Law at UCLA School of Law. He is a specialist in constitutional law, the Supreme Court of the United States, and gun policy. His book We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights was a finalist for the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the ABA Silver Gavel Award, and received the Scribes Book Award. He is also the author of Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America. He is one of the twenty most cited legal scholars in judicial opinions today.