Cases expanding constitutional rights of corporations

March 7, 2019


Corporations and other types of organizations have long exercised a range of constitutional rights, including those found under the

* Contracts Clause

See Trs. of Dartmouth Coll. v. Woodward, 17 U.S. (4 Wheat.) 518, 638-39 (1819) (finding that state law unconstitutionally interfered with an organization’s contractual rights).

* Due Process Clause

See Minneapolis & St. Louis Ry. Co. v. Beckwith, 129 U.S. 26, 28 (1889) (recognizing corporations receive protection for the “enjoyment of property,” including the ability to challenge “legislation injuriously affecting it”).

* Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection Clause

See Metro. Life Ins. Co. v. Ward, 470 U.S. 869, 881 n.9 (1985) (citing the “well established” Equal Protection Clause rights of corporations); Santa Clara Cnty. v. S. Pac. R.R. Co., 118 U.S.394, 396 (1886) (noting that the Court agreed that the Equal Protection Clause applied to corporations at issue).

* First Amendment

See Citizens United, 130 S. Ct. at 903 (“[T]he First Amendment does not allow political speech restrictions based on a speaker’s corporate identity.”).

* Fourth Amendment

See Marshall v. Barlow’s, Inc., 436 U.S. 307, 325 (1978) (declaring a statute unconstitutional because it violated the corporation’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from warrantless search).

* Fifth Amendment Takings and Double Jeopardy Clauses

See United States v. Martin Linen Supply Co., 430 U.S. 564, 575 (1977) (assuming corpora-tions are protected by Double Jeopardy Clause rights); Russian Volunteer Fleet v. United States, 282 U.S. 481, 489 (1931) (discussing the Takings Clause as applied to a foreign corporation).

* Sixth Amendment

See S. Union Co. v. United States, 132 S. Ct. 2344, 2351-52 (2012) (holding that the Sixth Amendment can protect a corporation from criminal fines).

* Seventh Amendment

See Ross v. Bernhard, 396 U.S. 531, 542 (1970) (holding that in a derivative shareholder
action, shareholders possess the same right to trial by jury as a corporation).