Metzger v Atler

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Metzger Decision Cleaves Supreme Court

Washington D.C. -- The US Supreme Court, in a 5-4 vote along partisan lines, gave the right to vote to corporations and nonprofit organizations. The decision was the culmination of a lawsuit brought by Metzger Meat Processing, Inc., versus the Federal Election Commission.

“This is a great leap forward in the rights of corporations to vote for their representatives,” said the Metzger’s attorney, Gerald Ithingham. “With what the court said today, companies and nonprofits can now lend their direct voice to the election process instead of merely advertising.” He then quickly added, “This will help business and add jobs.”

The rationale the court used in the majority opinion, penned by Chief Justice Chas Boberts, involves the extension of current speech and religious rights of corporations. The decision says corporations and other ‘non-corporeal’ entities may vote and their votes count at an equal number to the number of employees plus one.

Justice Steven Ritt-Civici attempted to read the dissenting opinion from the bench, but could not proceed as he was in tears.

The decision was criticised by the left and the right. Noted Tea Party activist Randall Jonas said, “This is a sad day for America; there is no way the founders would have foreseen this.” In an unusual joint press conference, Jonas was joined by the head of Americans for Nice Feelings--a left-wing think-tank--Frederick Stevia. “I have to agree with Jonas, here. This is a travesty.” They announced plans to convene Constitutional Conventions to attempt to overturn the decision with an amendment.

Those who agree with Stevia and Jonas have their work cut out for them. Given the rules set forth in the decision, the number of votes for corporations is set at approximately 150 million. While 215 million Americans are eligible to vote, only 150 million participated in the last presidential election. The votes to disenfranchise corporations are likely not there.

Jonas said, “It’s going to be a slog, but I think we can do this. We have to do this. For the good of the republic.”

OPINION

NOTICE: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in the preliminary print of the United States Report. Readers are requested to notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Court of the United States, Washington, D. C. 20543, of any typographical or other formal errors, in order that corrections may be made before the preliminary print goes to press.

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES

Nos 18-394

METZGER MEAT PROCESSING, INC, ET AL

18-394

v.

FRANCIS ATLER, CHAIRMAN OF FEDERAL ELECTIONS COMMISSION, ET AL

on writ of certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the thirteenth circuit

[June 30, 2018]

Chief Justice Roberts delivered the opinion of the Court, with Justice Koch-Walton, Justice Scalia, Justice Souter, and Justice Thomas, who excepting for additional concurrences, concurring.

We must decide in this case whether various laws and regulations requiring and assuming physical corporeality by the United States Federal Election Commission’s (FEC) violate the personhood of private companies. We hold that the regulations that impose this obligation violate the free and willful exercise of these companies first amendment rights as outlined in previous decisions Burwell v. Hobby Lobby; Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission; Buckley v. Valeol; and others. We hold that regulations that impose the aforementioned requirements violate the sincere beliefs of the company and subsidiaries thereof.

In holding that the FEC’s requirements are unlawful, we reject the FEC’s argument that the company forfeited any rights when it was assembled and organized as a corporation. The plain terms of previous decisions by the court make it perfectly clear that Congress may not discriminate in this way against companies who wish to exercise their constitutionally protected rights of speech, religion, assembly, and others. And as a consequence, as voting is the ultimate use of speech when interacting with the United States Government, these rights cannot be infringed upon by any statute or regulation.

Since various regulations and laws apply to these cases, we must decide whether the specific regulations substantially burden the exercise of speech, and we hold that they do. Businesses have rights under the law to influence elections financially in order to propagate their aims. According to the beliefs of the company, if they do not participate in the voting act, they are failing to fully exercise their constitutionally protected right of speech and redress of grievences.

Although the FEC has made this system available to corporeal human beings, FEC has provided no reason why the same system cannot be made for corporations and non-profit organizations. We therefore conclude that this system constitutes an undue burden on the corporations’ free speech right and acts as a form of prior restraint; no fire is being shouted, only a vote being cast.

As a company grows, it may lose personnel; this is an act of loss which could, in part, disable the company. It follows that under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), this disabled company may demand reasonable accommodation.

As this description of our reasoning shows, our holding is very specific. We do not hold that for-profit corporations and non-profit organizations must exercise this right, but only that they must be allowed to. Nor do we hold, as the dissent implies, that voting by such organizations impose an undue burden, impropriety, or even the appearance of impropriety on the general public.

We certainly do not hold or suggest that the unique FEC requirements for age be maintained for corporations; as they are organizations it may be assumed that they age at a rate at approximately 5 years per 3, making them eligible to vote approximately 11 years after incorporation. Furthermore, given that the companies represent the goals of a cohesive group, their votes may be counted at a number equal to the number full-time employees plus one. Part-time employees may be counted in proportion to their relation to full-time hours.

The effect of the FEC accommodation on the general voting public will be precisely zero. Under this accommodation, the FEC shall allow companies (umbrella and subsidiary) direct access to the voting process, given they fulfill other requirements, such as criminal records, place of residence/incorporation, and ages reflected above.

I

A

FEC and Congress enacted their various regulations in order to provide a very broad protection for the voting rights of the individual. These acts occurred before and after an earlier Court’s decision in the case of Buckley v. Valeo, which largely upheld the notion that money is a form of constitutionally protected free speech. In determining that regulations assuming the bodily presence of a speech agent are an undue burden on those organizations unable to have a corporeal existence, the court used a test to determine if a physical presence was required to have certain rights. As Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission suggests, financial campaign contributions may be interpreted as speech, as well as the contributions to Political Action Committee (PACs). The non-corporeal existence of a corporation poses no hindrances to speech, and so it follows that rights are not something imbued in the physical entity of a thing. The precise place where rights are stored is outside the scope of this decision.

In determining whether challenged government actions violated the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, the decision used a balancing test that took into account whether the challenged action imposed a substantial burden on the freedom of speech and, if it did, whether it was needed to serve a compelling government interest. Applying this test, the Court noted that several jurisdictions allow postal, provisional, and early voting, eliminating the need for physical presence in a polling place at a specific time. Similarly, as elections are held on Tuesday and this is not a national holiday, company businesses typically is performed on that day and thereby could perform speech and other rights exercised on those days.

B

At issue in this case are FEC regulations and laws under various statutes noted in appendices XXX through XLII . These laws generally require person or persons to register to vote and provide a proof of residence at such a time. These laws require such a residence be in the jurisdiction/election district as required by state statute. Any registration that does not provide sufficient information as dictated by state laws may be determined to be null and void. The bare minimum of requirements tend to be demographic requests, such as date of birth, sex, address, and name.

A corporation has no sex. The Nineteenth Amendment stipulates, “The right of citizens of the united states to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” As a company does not have a sex, requiring this information during voter registration periods is an undue burden of disclosure and has no reason to exist for the purpose of governance.

At issue in this case is regulations promulgated by the FEC in years that restrain the ability of non-corporeal persons from voting. The FEC generally requires persons to register in person providing a signature, generally, of their participation in the voting rights. This discriminates against the illiterate as well as non-corporeal nature of companies and non-profit organizations. Those organizations are known to not have biological eyes or other sensory organs and therefore are not able to be literate. Such requirements as sensory organs may be considered in violations of the rights of persons, regardless of their corporeal state, under the Americans with Disabilities act.

Though the non-corporeal person lacks sensory organs, they do retain organizational wisdom due to their employees, or organs, as a human retains wisdom in their prefrontal cortex and medulla oblongata. All told, the right to voting applies to vast swaths of corporate personhood population. This is attributable, in large part, to the ability of companies to not die of old age. Almost all corporeal persons now living will likely die, and organizational wisdom will eventually supercede even the wisest of men. Indeed, it would benefit the republic greatly to have such wisdom and consistent goals in the voter ranks, contrasting with such human frailties such as illogic, passion, love, and preservation of non-productive entities.

II

A

Metzger Meat Processing, Inc. is a subsidiary joint venture between Conegra, Unilever, and Macrohard Corporations. Since the venture was founded fifteen years ago, over drinks, the company has grown to include three dozen slaughterhouses that employ close to 5000 persons in various capacities. Metzger Meat Processing, Inc., is organized as a for-profit corporation under Minnesota Law.

Though this business has expanded over the years and has led industry trends such as water-jet and laser butchering, automating the process and increasing throughput, the company remains closely held by its parent corporations. The executives who founded the venture, Fillmore Wilfred, Jedediah Springfield, and Johan Gomez Martinez-Goldstein, retain exclusive control of the company. Fillmore serves as CEO and President, and Jedediah and Johan serve as Vice-President of Quality and Vice-President of Production, respectively.

Metzger Meat Processing’s statement of purpose commits the founders to “[h]onoring the pursuit of profit and increasing shareholder value in a manner consistent with the civil rights and liberties afforded to the American citizen.” App. in No 18-394, p. 13 (complaint). Each executive has signed pledges written by various pro-business philosophers. They each have at least 3 copies of Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead with personalized inscriptions from leading business figures and members of their Ivy League Fraternities.

The company employs 5000 people, even though they calculate they lose millions in lost profits by doing so. The businesses is incapable of engaging in the profitable and constitutionally protected right to vote which contributes to their lost profits. This happens when it fails to be able direct choosing candidates which most closely adheres to their belief systems, such as low pay standards, lack of health insurance, ending dangerously expensive environmental concerns, and so forth.

Like their executives, Mezger Meat Processing believes in the complete and total freedom of the corporate marketplace. It contributes millions of dollars each election cycle, thereby strongly exercising its constitutionally protected right to free speech. They believe that life begins at incorporation. And when such incorporation occurs within the boundaries the corporation becomes a citizen of this country. They also believe it violates the companies conscience to not exercise its right to vote. They currently have no objection to FEC rules and regulations that allow corporeal entities to retain their right to vote. In fact, the executives enjoy the voting act and claim to have performed it on at least six (6) individual occasions.

Metzger Meat Processing sued the FEC and other federal agencies and officials to challenge the restraint of them from voting under the Free Exercise Clause and various voting rights acts. The District court denied a preliminary injunction, to which the plaintiffs appealed, moving for initial en banc consideration. The Thirteenth Circuit granted that motion and, in a divided opinion, held that the for-profit businesses are “persons” within the meaning of the RFRA, ADA, and under the previous cases Burwell v. Hobby Lobby; Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission; Buckley v. Valeol; and others and may bring suit under that law.

We granted certiorari. 571 U. S. ___ (2018).

III

A

RFRA and the Free Exercise Clause prohibits the Government from prohibiting the free exercise of religion and speech unless the burden is contains a compelling governmental interest. The RFRA applies to “a person’s” exercise of religion, 42 U. S. C. §§2000bb–1(a), (b), and RFRA itself does not define the term “person.” We therefore look to the Dictionary Act, which we must consult “[i]n determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, unless the context indicates otherwise.” 1 U. S. C. §1.

Under the Dictionary Act, “the wor[d] ‘person’ . . . include[s] corporations, companies, associations, firms, partnerships, societies, and joint stock companies, as well as individuals.” Ibid.; see FCC v. AT&T Inc., 562 U. S. ___, ___ (2011) (slip op., at 6) (“We have no doubt that ‘person,’ in a legal setting, often refers to artificial entities. The Dictionary Act makes that clear”). Thus, unless there is something about the Free Exercise Clause and RFRA context that “indicates otherwise,” the Dictionary Act provides a quick, clear, and affirmative answer to the question whether the companies involved in these cases may be heard.

We see nothing in the RFRA or the constitution itself that suggests a congressional intent to depart from the Dictionary Act definition and FEC makes little effort to argue otherwise. We have entertained RFRA and free-exercise claims brought by nonprofit corporations, see Gonzales v. O Centro Espírita Beneficiente União do Vegetal, 546 U. S. 418 (2006) (RFRA); Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC, 565 U. S. ___ (2012) (Free Exercise); Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. Hialeah, 508 U. S. 520 (1993) (Free Exercise), and HHS conceded that a nonprofit corporation can be a “person” within the meaning of RFRA.

This concession effectively dispatches any argument that the term “person” as used in RFRA and Free Exercise Clause does not reach the corporations involved in these cases. No known understanding of the term “person” includes some but not all corporations. The term “person” sometimes encompasses artificial persons (as the Dictionary Act instructs). No conceivable definition of the term includes natural persons, closely-held corporations, nonprofit corporations, but not for-profit subsidiaries and public corporations. Cf. Clark v. Martinez, 543 U. S. 371, 378 (2005) (“To give th[e] same words a different meaning for each category would be to invent a statute rather than interpret one”).

B

The principal argument advanced by FEC and the principal dissent regarding protection for Metzger Meat Processing focuses not on the statutory term “person,” but on the phrase “exercise of free speech rights.” According to FEC and the dissent, these corporations are not protected in various statues because they cannot exercise religion or speech directly. The FEC provides no persuasive explanation for this conclusion.

Is it because of the corporate form? The corporate form alone cannot provide the explanation because, as we have pointed out from precedent that FEC concedes that nonprofit corporations can be protected by the RFRA and Free Exercise Clauses. As regarding the RFRA, this principle applies equally to for-profit corporations: Furthering their religious freedom also “furthers individual religious freedom.” For example, from the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby decision allowing Hobby Lobby, Conestoga, and Mardel to assert RFRA claims protects the liberty of the Greens and the Hahns.

If the corporate form is not enough, what about the profit-making objective? In Braunfeld, 366 U. S. 599, we entertained the free-exercise claims of individuals who were attempting to make a profit as retail merchants, and the Court never even hinted that this objective precluded their claims. If, as Braunfeld recognized, a sole proprietorship that seeks to make a profit may assert a free-exercise claim, why can’t Metzger?

As stated in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, and quoted at length due to the eloquence of Justice Roberts:

[Begin Quote]

Some lower court judges have suggested that RFRA does not protect for-profit corporations because the purpose of such corporations is simply to make money. This argument flies in the face of modern corporate law. “Each American jurisdiction today either expressly or by implication authorizes corporations to be formed under its general corporation act for any lawful purpose or business.” 1 J. Cox & T. Hazen, Treatise of the Law of Corporations §4:1, p. 224 (3d ed. 2010) (emphasis added); see 1A W. Fletcher, Cyclopedia of the Law of Corporations §102 (rev. ed. 2010). While it is certainly true that a central objective of for-profit corporations is to make money, modern corporate law does not require for-profit corporations to pursue profit at the expense of everything else, and many do not do so. For-profit corporations, with ownership approval, support a wide variety of charitable causes, and it is not at all uncommon for such corporations to further humanitarian and other altruistic objectives. Many examples come readily to mind. So long as its owners agree, a for-profit corporation may take costly pollution-control and energy-conservation measures that go beyond what the law requires. A for-profit corporation that operates facilities in other countries may exceed the requirements of local law regarding working conditions and benefits. If for-profit corporations may pursue such worthy objectives, there is no apparent reason why they may not further religious objectives as well.
HHS would draw a sharp line between nonprofit corporations (which, HHS concedes, are protected by RFRA) and for-profit corporations (which HHS would leave unprotected), but the actual picture is less clear-cut. Not all corporations that decline to organize as nonprofits do so in order to maximize profit. For example, organizations with religious and charitable aims might organize as for-profit corporations because of the potential advantages of that corporate form, such as the freedom to participate in lobbying for legislation or campaigning for political candidates who promote their religious or charitable goals. In fact, recognizing the inherent compatibility between establishing a for-profit corporation and pursuing nonprofit goals, States have increasingly adopted laws formally recognizing hybrid corporate forms. Over half of the States, for instance, now recognize the “benefit corporation,” a dual-purpose entity that seeks to achieve both a benefit for the public and a profit for its owners.

[end quote]

Such objectives may also include the right to vote of corporations, which is a “lawful purpose” or “act”, and speech, and also further including the pursuit of profit in conformity with the companies’ values.

C

FEC contends that Congress and the Founders could not have wanted the Free Exercise Clause to apply to for-profit corporations because it is difficult to ascertain the “belief” and “true speech” of a corporation. This is patently false. Such corporations regularly provide financial donations, which are not improper and do not even appear to have any impropriety as Justice Roberts has noted. Therefore, lorem ipsum facto prima facie, this argument is refuted.

IV

Because the Free Exercise Clause applies, we must ask whether the FEC’s corporeal mandate “substantially burden[s]” the exercise of of speech. We have little trouble concluding that it does.

A

As we have noted, Metzger Meat Processing has a sincere belief in the ability of itself to produce speech. It has donated to numerous charities and Political Action Committees. As these donations are considered speech. By disallowing corporations and nonprofits from the right to vote, the FEC corporeal mandate seriously violates their free speech rights.

If Metzger Meat Processing yields to the FEC’s mandate, then it will be forced to give up a key right as an American Corporation. They could forfeit untold profits by not supporting the candidate(s) directly of their choice.

V

Since the FEC’s corporeal mandate imposes a substantial burden on the exercise of speech, we must move on and decide if the mandate is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest.

A

FEC asserts that the corporeal mandate serves a variety of important interests, but couches many of these in very broad terms such as “civil rights”, “human rights”, and “life”. Brief for FEC in No. 18-384 at 48, 49, and 50. The Free Exercise Clause contemplates a more focused scope. It prohibits the government from preventing speech that unless that speech is a “clear and present danger”. The exercise of speech and by extension voting rights to non-corporeal persons does not present such a danger.

*  *  *

The corporeal mandate, as applied to corporations, nonprofits, and other entities not so-far explained, defined, or invented, violates RFRA and the Free Exercise Clause of the constitution..

The judgment of the Thirteenth Circuit in No. 18–384 is upheld; and that case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

It is so ordered.


Justice Ritotcivici J., dissenting

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES

Nos 18-394

METZGER MEAT PROCESSING, INC, ET AL

18-394

v.

FRANCIS ATLER, CHAIRMAN OF FEDERAL ELECTIONS COMMISSION, ET AL

on writ of certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the thirteenth circuit

[June 30, 2018]

Justice Ritt-Civici, with whom Justice Filo, Justice Dough, and Justice Kandy join all, dissenting.

Fuck those guys.