Sunday, March 21, 2010
The case is most notable for the obiter dictum statement that corporations are entitled to protection under the Fourteenth Amendment.
Preceding every case entry is a headnote, a short summary in which a court reporter summarizes the opinion as well as outlining the main facts and arguments.
The court reporter, J.C. Bancroft Davis, wrote the following as part of the headnote for the case:
"The court does not wish to hear argument on the question whether the provision in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws, applies to these corporations. We are all of the opinion that it does."
In other words, corporations enjoyed the same rights under the Fourteenth Amendment as did natural persons. However, this issue is absent from the court's opinion itself.
John Chandler Bancroft Davis (December 22, 1822 – December 27, 1907), commonly known as Bancroft Davis, was an American lawyer, judge, diplomat, and president of Newburgh and New York Railway Company.
Acting as court reporter in the 1886 Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad case, Davis is a key figure in the corporate personhood debate. Journalists have since cited Davis's prior position as president of Newburgh and New York Railway as evidence of a conflict of interest in the corporate personhood interpretation of the ruling.