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Supreme Court Historical Dig Downloads

Corporations didn't always have this much power.

Yes! It's true. Historical Digs will be posted here. They will post with one or two questions and a pdf download of a Supreme Court case.  You’re welcome to skip the download (save paper) and do your research online.  These lessons will look at the development of the notion of ‘corporate personhood’ and corporate rights.  It has been really controversial throughout history!  We will start digging and work our way up to the present.

I’m also listing two websites that can serve as references for court cases. 


It's fun to do research online because of the hotlinks throughout the cases.  (If you’re reading a case and another one is referenced, you can click on the hotlink and it will take you to the referenced case.)

Notes about these websites: The Justica website sometimes has numerical values that are missing.  The FindLaw website is more commercial and sometimes tries to make the viewer sit through various commercials. 

Historical Dig #1

Lafayette Insurance Company v. French 1855

This case looks at whether a company or corporation fit within the meaning of a citizen within the Constitution. It's short, and it's a great place to start.

1. How does Justice Curtis explain how the Supreme Court views the idea of a company being preceived as a citizen?

2. Was an opinion made on natural persons and foreign corporations?

Click on the image to the right for the pdf (4 pages). Or go to

http://supreme.justia.com/us/59/404/case.html and/or


Historical Dig #2

Covington Drawbridge Company v. Shepherd 1857

There was a lot of talk back then about where a company was incorporated and chartered as well as whether or not it had similar rights in a different state. The Supreme Court once again affirms that an artifical being could not be interpreted as citizen under the Consitution. There is, however, a Justice who disagrees.

1. Why do you think the Justice disagrees, while the others affirm the previous decision? The fun parts are on page 3.

Click on the image to the right for the pdf (3 pages). Or go to

http://supreme.justia.com/us/61/227/case.html to view the case.

This case was not foud on FindLaw (April 08)

Historical Dig #3

Ohio & Mississippi Railroad Company v. Wheeler 1861

It seems that a lot of time was spent deliberating upon where a corporation could operate and how the corporation could be represented in Court.

1. Do you think individuals have more or less rights compared to the historical times that were closer to the era in which the Consitution was written? (Keep in mind that certain groups of individuals were not included in its interpretation as having rights, then bring the debate up to the present, weaving in the notion that all individuals as humans have rights, then compare it to the rights of corporations.)

Click on the image to the right for the pdf (3 pages). Or go to http://supreme.justia.com/us/66/286/case.html to view the case.

This case was not found on FindLaw (April 08)

Historical Dig #4 and #5

Paul v. the State of Virginia 1868/1869

This is turning out to be a fascinating study of power in the U.S. This will look at the presentation of one Supreme Court case as presented by two different web sites.

1. What significance does this subtle difference in the presentation of information have on the training and beliefs of young law

Click on the respective images for the pdf. The first one comes from the justia site. Here's the link http://supreme.justia.com/us/75/168/case.html

The second one comes from FindLaw. Or go to their website
and do some reading and sleuthing. Fascinating! http://laws.findlaw.com/us/75/168.html

2. Think about the significance of the different dates listed for the Paul v. the State of Virginia case.

Recent Historical Dig #6

This has been included in the historical digs, because a person has to really sift and dig through information in order to start understanding what is going on. Someone received a couple of Republican Party Census Documents in the mail. Perhaps you won't believe them until you see them. There's not enough room here, but they are on another page.

Big Historical Dig

Whew! Here is a list of interesting cases (there're a lot more) but here's a good start.

Paul v. Virginia 1868

Munn v. Illinois 1877

Noble v. Union River Logging R. Co., 1893 - 5th Amendment rights

Lochner v. New York 1905

Hale v. Henkel 1906 - 4th Amendment rights

Pennsylvania Coal Co. v. Mahon 1922

Louis K. Liggett Co. v. Lee 1933

Grosjean v. American Press Co. 1936

Connecticut General Life Insurance Co. v. Johnson 1938

Wheeling Steel Corp. v. Glander 1949

Bell v. Maryland 1964

Salyer Land Co. v. Tulare Lake Bastin Water Storage District 1973

Buckley v. Valeo 1976

Virginia Board of Pharmacy v. Virginia Consumer Council 1976

National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti 1977/1978

Main Downloads Page

Have your own opinion and be able to back it up. (Because things are more fun when you're empowered!)

This Court does not hold that either a voluntary association of persons or an association into body politic created by law is a citizen of a state within the meaning of the Constitution.

- Justice Curtis

Opinion of the Court 1855

Now no one, we presume, ever supposed that the artificial being created by an act of incorporation could be a citizen of a state in the sense in which that word is used in the Constitution of the United States...

- Chief Justice Taney

Opinion of the Court 1857

...the Court held that the artificial person or legal entity known to the common law as a corporation can have not legal existence out of the bounds of the sovereignty by which it is created...a corporation is not a citizen within the meaning of the Constitution...

-Chief Justice Taney 1861

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