Posted by | January 11, 2011 20:03 | Filed under: Top Stories

By Yashwanth Manjunath

Last week, ultra-conservative justice Antonin Scalia revealed his curious interpretation of the 14th Amendment. According to Scalia, when the 14th Amendment was passed following the Civil War, it was never intended to apply to women. Thus, women have no constitutionally-guaranteed protection against discrimination. Well that logic is certainly compelling, if you know nothing about constitutional law, or precedent, or Scalia’s history as one of the most hypocritical and dishonest Supreme Court justices ever.

When the the question of “corporate personhood” arose in Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad (1886), the court made no mention of corporations having the rights of legal persons. But that case is referenced frequently as the one that established legal precedent that corporations are entitled to equal protection of the law guaranteed to them by the 14th Amendment. Thom Hartmann explains the real truth behind that controversial Supreme Court case in his book, Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights:

The clerk of the court, John Chandler Bancroft Davis, former President of the Newburg and New York railroad, wrote into a head note – the commentary on the case – which has no legal standing, a quote from the chief justice who had since died, he was dying of congestive heart failure during the year the proceedings happened, he died the next year. This was published two years later. He wrote that the chief justice said, “a corporation is a person and therefore entitled to protection under the 14th amendment.” When nobody knows if the chief justice said that. Even if he did, it doesn’t matter. It’s not the case.

It certainly isn’t the case! As Scalia points out, the 14th Amendment was very limited in its purpose. It was meant to give legal rights and equality to the newly freed slaves following the Civil War. The amendment makes NO direct mention of women, OR corporations! So naturally, when the issue of whether corporations have First Amendment rights guaranteed to them by the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment came up in the recent Citizens United case, Scalia joined with the majority in expanding the constitutional rights of corporations.

Wait, what?

So according to Scalia’s “originalist” interpretation of the 14th Amendment, corporations are legal persons entitled to equal protection under the law — but women aren’t. This painful hypocrisy is the point at which Antonin Scalia should cease being regarded as a venerable legal scholar, and should be called out for what he really is: A partisan, ideological hack totally unfit to be on the Supreme Court.

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