Carpool Guy

Challenging Corporate Personhood


Who is the Carpool Guy?

Jonathan Frieman is a community advocate from the San Francisco Bay Area who made national headlines by battling a traffic ticket he received on Oct 2, 2012 while driving his electric car in the carpool lane with a stack of incorporation papers at his side.

Jonathan was found guilty as charged at his Marin County Superior Court hearing on January 7th, as expected. Jonathan and his attorney Ford Greene are preparing to appeal this determination in the coming weeks.

When he is not driving the carpool lane trying to get ticketed, Jonathan is a nonprofit consultant and the co-founder of several public interest corporations, including the JoMiJo Foundation and the Center for Corporate Policy.

After hosting a strategy conference to address the legal status of corporations, Jonathan helped found the Center for Corporate Policy -- a nonprofit, non-partisan public interest corporation -- that investigates the legal structure of corporations so as to curb corporate abuses, hold corporations publicly accountable, and compel them to invest in a sustainable future.

Why should I care about Jonathan Frieman’s carpool battle?

Jonathan is expanding a crucial movement to challenge the extent of power that corporations have over the common human.

Jonathan’s carpool ticket battle is the latest challenge to the absurdity of our country’s corporate personhood laws. He is appealing his traffic citation on the grounds that he was legally allowed to drive in the carpool lane because the second person in the car with him was a corporation.

Legal challenges like this open the door to future lawsuits that could create new case law challeng ing the assumptions embedded in existing case law that inaccurately assigns personhood to corporations that are technically only citizens.

What are the legal grounds for his appeal?

Jonathan and his attorney are arguing that technically, under California state law, when a corporation is present in one's car, it qualifies the vehicle as two-person occupancy for commuter lane purposes.

This argument bears legal scrutiny because, under California vehicle code 470, the definition of a person includes "natural persons and corporations." Highway signs throughout Marin County state, “Carpools Only 2 or More Persons Per Vehicle.”

Why did Jonathan decide to become the Carpool Guy?

Jonathan wishes to expand and inspire activism that challenges the extent of power that corporations have over the common human.

What is the Carpool Guy’s next step?

Jonathan and his attorney are preparing to appeal his guilty verdict to the Marin County Traffic Appellate Court. Should they lose the appeal there, Jonathan plans to appeal once again to the Circuit Court, and eventually all the way to the California Supreme Court, if he has to.

Why is he going to all this trouble to argue that a corporation was his passenger? Doesn’t it cost more to hire an attorney than it does to just pay the $478 ticket?

Jonathan is actually not contesting his traffic ticket for the sake of avoiding a $478 fine. He is appealing his case all the way to the California Supreme Court in an effort to expose the absurdity of corporate personhood and to raise important questions about what it means to be human, and who exactly we should be extending important legal protections to, and who we should be treating as actual human beings.

Which corporation was riding shotgun in Jonathan’s car?

Jonathan had the articles of incorporation for his nonprofit corporation, the JoMiJo Foundation, in the passenger seat of his car with him at the time of the citation. The JoMiJo Foundation is a family foundation that provides financial support for grassroots efforts aimed at social change.

What is Citizens United?

On January 21, 2010, the U kamagra en france.S. Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission by a 5-4 decision, that restrictions on corporate expenditures in elections contained in the federal Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (known as BCRA or “McCain-Feingold”) violated the First Amendment protections of free speech.

This Supreme Court ruling gave corporations the right to spend unlimited funds in U.S. elections because their corporate personhood granted them the First Amendment protection of freedom of speech. This represents the largest expansion of corporate personhood to date.

The issue of corporate free speech and corporate personhood therefore became more prominent than ever before in human history during the 2012 U.S. election cycle, due to the unprecedented amounts of money corporations were allowed to spend due on campaigns, candidates and committees. In response, last November over 100 communities across the nation passed ballot initiatives to amend the U.S. Constitution and reverse the Supreme Court's 2011 Citizens United decision.

What is Corporate Personhood?

“Corporate Personhood” is a legal concept, also known as a “legal fiction” that, as a matter of interpretation of the word “person” in the 14th Amendment, has legally guaranteed certain, increasing constitutional protections for corporations since 1886.

The misguided argument behind corporate personhood is that, since corporations are organizations of people, people should not be deprived of their constitutional rights when they act collectively.

Under this legal rhetoric, corporations have been able to sue and be sued in court in the same manner that natural persons or unincorporated associations of persons can.

Over the past three decades, the fabrication of corporate rights have allowed corporations increased opportunity to legally strike down democratically-enacted laws in environmental, health care, consumer rights and civil rights sectors – specifically through the development of a set of legal rights under state and federal statues that have granted corporations protections under the First Amendment. Before 1976, “commercial speech” was not protected under the First Amendment.

Is the Carpool Guy trying to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United Decision?

When you start to carefully examine the language of the law, one sees there is a double meaning as to what a person is. That ambiguity also calls into question the fiction of corporate personhood; that is how much power should be given to a corporation and whether such powers should be constrained.

The point of the lawsuit is to get the Legislature to say what it means and to mean what it says. California state law says a person can be a human being and also can be a corporation, but inconsistently punishes drivers who rely on the language of the law in order to travel with a corporation.

Who else is involved in this movement, and are they available to speak to the media?

Some of the nation’s top legal and political professionals are available to talk with reporters about their take on Jonathan’s challenge to corporate personhood.

How can I get involved?