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Calif. motorist makes brilliant challenge to corporate personhood law

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
January 8th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

For the past 10 years, a California man has been trying to get a traffic ticket. His goal has been singular - to get pulled over in the carpool lane with his "special passenger."

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Johnathan Frieman of San Rafel, California was perhaps the happiest motorist to be pulled over in the state all last year. Frieman has been looking forward to seeing the business side of a courtroom.

His goal has been to get convicted and to bring to higher court the issue of corporate personhood. To accomplish this, Frieman has spent the last 10 years using the carpool lane with just himself and a set of articles of incorporation, which he argues is another person.

In fact, California state law does hold that corporations are people for the purposes of law.

If corporations are people under the law, then they ought to be allowed to use the carpool lane.

Frieman has been annoyed by this niggling detail long before it made its way into public debate with the Citizens United case. The Citizens United case was the landmark Supreme Court ruling that corporations are people and are entitled to political speech. That ruling led to the 2012 elections being some of the most expensive in history as corporations flooded campaigns with cash.

Frieman is actually opposed to the notion of corporate personhood.

Now after 10 years of driving in the carpool lane at every opportunity, Freiman is about to put the entire issue of corporate personhood into the lap of a traffic court judge.

Next Monday, the hapless judge must decide to let Freiman go, or to convict him with a minimum fine of $481, and overturn state law by ruling that corporations are not people.

Frieman is actually hoping for conviction.

Frieman wrote an opinion piece in 2011, explaining his position. "A carpool lane is two or more persons per vehicle," he wrote. "The definition of person in California's Vehicle Code is, 'natural person, firm, copartnership, association, limited liability company, or corporation.'"

Therefore, based on the law, Frieman either gets to drive all he wants with his corporation in the carpool lane, or the notion of corporate personhood must be changed.

His case goes to trial on Monday. We'll see then if his judge can find a way out of the Rube Goldberg logic puzzle he's created, or if the judge will overturn more than 125 years of established state law with the stroke of a pen.

UPDATE: Marin Country Traffic Judge Frank Drago acknowledged the argument was novel and on Monday issued a conviction. Freiman and his attoprney are appealing as planned.

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