Report No. 101
5.14. Comments on the case First National Bank v. Bellotti.-
A significant literature already exists in the United States as regards the Supreme Court decision in First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti discussed above1. Some commentators have defended the decision as an appropriate doctrinal development. The most noteworthy of such comments is the one in the Harvard Law Review2. In some of the comments, a concern has been expressed about the impact of this decision on the role of the individual in politics3. Some commentators have expressed anxiety about the effect of the decision on the rights of minority share-holders.4
Some have criticised the decision in respect of the theoretical basis, arguing that the decision denies First Amendment interest in preventing one-sided political dialogue.5 Finally, some have expressed the view that corporate rights should be recognised when it would be appropriate to extend those rights to unincorporated associations also, the argument being that it is a mistake to conceive corporations as entitled as having rights distinct from those of members.6 The arguments has also been put forth that such decisions hinder efforts to achieve liberal democracy, characterised both by vigorous participation and by vigorous individual rights.7
However, by and large, the decision, in so far as it recognises corporate freedom of speech, has been welcomed. It may be mentioned that the first amendment protection has been regularly extended by the Supreme Court of U.S.A. in a number of decisions to corporations even prior to the Bellotti case. These earlier rulings relate to-
(a) libel laws;8
(b) special taxation;9
(c) obscenity laws;10 and
(d) restrictions upon various forms of business advertising11.
1. Para. 5.6, supra.
2. The Supreme Court, 1977 Term, (1979) 92 Harvard Law Review 57, 163-164.
3. Hart & Shore Corporate spending on State and Local Referendums, (1979), Vol. 29, Case Western Reserve Law Review 808.
4. Note, Political Contributions, (1979), Vol. 4, Journal of Corporation Law 460.
5. See, Philosophy of Language and Free Expression, (1980), Vol. 55, New York University Law Review 157, 189, 190.
6. O'Kelley The Constitutional Rights of Corporations Revisited, (1979), Vol. 67, Georgia Law Journal 1347.
7. For an exhaustive analysis see Archibald Cox Freedom of Expression in the Burger Court, (1980) 94 Harvard Law Review 198.
8. New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, (1964) 376 US 254.
9. Grosjean v. American Publishing Co., (1936) 297 US 283.
10. Bantam Book Ins. v. Sullivan, (1963) 372 US 48 (92) Ed 2d 584.
11. Linmark Flassociates v. Township of Willingboro, (1977) 431 US 85.