On Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard arguments in the case of Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby. According to NPR, it appears that the justices seem to be split by gender, mostly, the women championing the right of women to receive contraception coverage in the basic health plan partially paid for by their for-profit employer, as mandated by the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known either scornfully or affectionately as Obamacare. Hobby Lobby’s objection to this is on religious grounds. There is a lot of talk now about the fact that a Supreme Court ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby would essentially be another ruling in favor of corporations as people. (Remember the court’s ruling that corporations are people so they can contribute to political campaigns?) The idea of corporations as people doesn’t sound like a very good idea to me, but what do I know? The NPR report seemed to indicate that the court might be looking for a way to make a narrow ruling about “closely-held” (as opposed to publicly traded) corporations. We’ll see if that’s the case.
Recently, though, I read an article that changed my thinking about the case. A legal expert named Mike Papantonio appeared on the Ed Schultz radio show and introduced some information that I had never thought of , but apparently a lot of legal eagles have. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of Hobby Lobby, the idea that corporations are people (even if it is only applied to “closely held” ones like Hobby Lobby) means that the bigwigs at the helm can be held liable for the corporation’s actions. In other words, corporate indemnity would be a thing of the past.
Of course, the legal guys who support the Hobby Lobby side are also working in the background, and apparently, if the Supreme Court sides with Hobby Lobby, then there will be a slew of cases attempting to make the case that the CEOs are not the same as the corporation, in which case it looks like we may not see the end of this issue for a while.
I kind of like the idea that if corporations are people, then we could sue individuals on the board of BP for their oil spill, and we could sue the bigwigs at the insurance companies or the owners of hospitals. I’m not talking about suing the company or the hospital. I’m talking about suing the actual owners or CEOs, individually. If that were allowed, I wonder whether corporations-as-people would turn into kinder, gentler people. Or, at least, a little less morally bankrupt people. We’ll see…