Submitted by Allison Bernstein on Thu 3 Jul, 2014
Did you miss your Supreme Court news this week? Let our Weekly Roundup help. (To stay on top of the latest Supreme Court happenings, follow ISCOTUS on Twitter.)
Our director, Professor Christopher Schmidt, explains the Hobby Lobby ruling and its implications
Learn more about the Supreme Court's decision in the Aereo case from Prof. Ed Lee in this video
A unanimous Supreme Court holds that police need a warrant to search the cell phone of an arrestee. Prof. Godfrey explains in our video
The Supreme Court ruled to limit the president's recess appointment power. Prof. Greenberg explores the ruling in our video
Professor Schmidt discusses corporate rights in light of this week's ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby
Our director, Professor Christopher Schmidt, wrote about Justice Scalia's unusual concurrence last week
Last week, the Supreme Court struck down a Massachusetts law that kept 35-foot buffer zones around abortion clinics
Do the Supreme Court's rulings show that the Justices understand technology?
A little-noted Supreme Court ruling from last week made retirement savings a bit more stable for employees
Harris v. Quinn opinion
Hobby Lobby opinion
SCOTUSblog made it clear during the opinion announcement of Hobby Lobby that the ruling was narrowly tailored
Though the Supreme Court ruling on the contraception mandate only applies to closely held companies, take a look at America's largest private companies
SCOTUSblog responds hilariously to people who tweeted them, mistaking them for the Court itself
This week's Supreme Court ruling that public sector unions cannot require fees from "partial public employees" was a blow to labor, but it could have been worse
By Professor Christopher Schmidt
Yesterday’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case offers yet another chapter in the still-unfolding story of the extent to which corporations are “persons” for purposes of claiming constitutional rights. Judicial recognition that corporations might claim constitutional rights has a long history, dating back to the late nineteenth century. In recent years, the Supreme Court has sparked renewed attention to the issue, most notably with its 2010 decision in Citizens United in which a 5-4 majority held that certain campaign funding restrictions violated the First Amendment free speech rights of corporations.
In the Hobby Lobby case, one of the government’s arguments in defending the challenged contraception coverage of the Affordable Care Act was that the plaintiffs lacked the standing to even make this kind of religious freedom claim. Only Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor bought that argument (Justices Breyer and Kagan did not join that section of Justice Ginsburg’s dissent in which she challenged “the notion that free exercise rights pertain to for-profit corporations”).
Justice Alito, in his Opinion of the Court, insisted that when Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, it “employ[ed] a familiar legal fiction: It included corporations within RFRA’s definition of “persons.” He went on to explain that “the purpose of this fiction is to provide protection for human beings.”
A corporation is simply a form of organization used by human beings to achieve desired ends. An established body of law specifies the rights and obligations of the people (including shareholders, officers, and employees) who are associated with a corporation in one way or another. When rights, whether constitutional or statutory, are extended to corporations, the purpose is to protect the rights of these people.
He then listed as an example the value of allowing corporations to make Fourth Amendment claims, which “protects the privacy interests of employees and others associated with the company.” Similarly, the Fifth Amendment’s protection against government takings of property without just compensation “protects all those who have a stake in the corporations’ financial well-being." (Notably missing from this list, of course, are the free speech rights of corporations that the Court used to justify its controversial Citizens United ruling. The only mention of that case in the Hobby Lobby opinions is Justice Ginsburg’s approving quotation of Justice Stevens’ Citizens United dissent, in which he wrote that corporations “have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires.”) For Justice Alito, the same reasoning that justifies allowing corporations to make Fourth and Fifth Amendment claims justifies allowing them to make free-exercise claims. For in making such claims, a corporation can provide protection for “the religious liberty of the humans who own and control those companies.”
On June 30, 2014, the Supreme Court decided one of the most closely-watched cases of the Term. In their ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby, the Court held that the Affordable Care Act's birth control mandate does not require closely held for-profit companies to provide contraception coverage. Professor Christopher Schmidt (IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law) explains the case, the ruling, and its implications in this video.