On Tuesday a California judge ruled that a stack of papers does not count as a passenger in a car, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
In October, a California highway patrol officer pulled over Jonathan Frieman for driving solo on a freeway carpool lane. The officer explained that California law required a minimum of two persons to be in the car and proceeded to write Frieman a ticket.
In his defense, Frieman cryptically handed to the officer a stack of papers. He explained that these were the incorporation documents for his family’s charity foundation.
Frieman’s argument relied on the long-established doctrine of corporate personhood, which holds that corporations are entitled to some of the same rights — and have some of the same responsibilities — as individuals. The doctrine does not hold that corporations have all of the same rights that people have.
More recently, the Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling brought the doctrine of corporate personhood back to newspapers’ front pages and into late night comedians’ joke routines.
Additionally, California’s vehicle code specifically defines persons as “natural persons and corporations.”
As a result, Frieman told the officer that his papers of incorporation should count as the second person required to use a California carpool lane.
The officer told Frieman he would have to take it up with the judge.
He did just that.
A judge ruled on Tuesday that Frieman’s incorporation papers did not count as the second person in the car required by law to drive in the carpool lane.
“Common sense says carrying a sheath of papers in the front seat does not relieve traffic congestion,” the judge explained, pointing to a section of the California vehicle code stating that the intent of carpool lanes is to relieve traffic congestion.
In spite of his ruling, the judge stated that he found Frieman’s argument amusing.
Frieman reports that he has been driving alone with the incorporation papers in carpool lanes for years in order to bait a legal showdown in court over corporate personhood.
Frieman said he was not surprised at the verdict but will appeal within 30 days.
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