Using the 14th amendment as their basis, many courts have treated corporations as people. Usually these rulings are beneficial to corporations and their larger interests, such as in the Supreme Court decision that allows corporations to endorse candidates like individuals. However, a new case will determine whether or not a corporation can be convicted as an accomplice to a crime against humanity. In Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, Royal Dutch Petroleum and its subsidiary, Shell, are accused of aiding an autocratic regime that brutalized minorities in an oil-rich region of Nigeria.
Kenji Yoshino is Chief Justice Earl Warren Professor of Constitutional Law at New York University School of Law.
Maria LaHood is senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights.