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Neither Persons nor Associations

Against Constitutional Rights for Corporations

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 October 2022

David Ciepley*
University of Denver
For correspondence, please write Dr. Ciepley at


This article challenges the practice of extending constitutional rights to corporations. Drawing on recent corporate law scholarship, it shows that a corporation is neither an association of natural persons nor an independent person (or “real entity”) itself. The rights of natural persons thus do not pass to it. Instead, the corporation is an abstract, property-owning legal entity entirely distinct from its members that owes its very existence to a complex of legal privileges granted by government. Having been constituted by government, the corporation cannot properly assert constitutional rights against it. Corporations have only what rights they are granted by charter or statute, and these do not and cannot include constitutional rights.

Research Article
© 2013 by the Law and Courts Organized Section of the American Political Science Association. All rights reserved.

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For helpful comments, the author thanks David Klein, Jeffrey Lustig, Charles McCurdy, members of the Institute for the Advanced Study of Culture, and participants in the University of Virginia’s Political Philosophy, Policy, and Law symposium. Thanks to the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars for financial support while the article was under revision.


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