Judge Julia Smith Gibbons Says Corporations Aren’t People After All

Julia_Gibbons_Circuit_JudgeThe best part of writing political fiction is that you can cure every problem. Immigration? Don’t send them home, send them to Detroit. They’re in need of about a million people. Suicidal veterans? Open up all the shuttered military bases as vet centers where they can live for free with other guys like themselves who understand whatever it is they’re going through. Abortion? Have the medical community lead the country to adopt the same brain wave standard for birth as we do for death. If a specific type of brain wave determines whether you’re alive or not at the end of life, why should that be different for the beginning of life?

Christopher Buckley is a master at creative solutions.

Even more fun are the situations you can put people in. If you’re in the mood, you can dress Michele and Marcus Bachmann in latex or send Rick Santorum to the ER with a hamster problem. I once had Dick Cheney delivered to The Hague in the dead of night, left handcuffed in a courtroom wearing his jammies, with a videotape of himself bragging about enhanced interrogations chained around his neck . (I let The Hague put him on trial. Now what does the newly elected President Obama do? Spoiler alert, in the end you find out it was the Navy Seals who captured Cheney on Obama’s order.)

But sometimes, life is stranger than fiction, and real life people behave in ways you never suspect they had in them. That’s what happened when Judge Julia Smith Gibbons wrote the opinion in a case that was heard by the Sixth Circuit Appeals Court en banc, in which a for-profit corporation claimed providing birth control coverage to its employees violated the religious freedom of the owner.

Julia Smith Gibbons has impeccable conservative credentials. Vanderbilt undergrad. U of Virginia Law. Fresh out of law school, she clerked for a conservative judge on the Sixth Circuit and after a couple of years in private practice she joined Tennessee Governor Lamar Alexander’s staff. Ronald Reagan appointed her to the federal bench and W elevated her to the Sixth Circuit in 2003. Her husband Bill Gibbons is a former district attorney who ran on the Republican ticket for governor of Tennessee three years ago. I bet she even has a string of pearls.

The Sixth Circuit upheld the provision in Obamacare that says an employer must offer contraception coverage. Court watchers expected Julia Smith Gibbons to dissent. Instead, she wrote the opinion for the unanimous decision. In it she says corporations are not people, so they can’t have a religion. Judge Smith wrote what we wish the Supreme Court had decided about corporations in Citizens United; that the reason corporations are created:

“is to create a distinct legal entity, with legal rights, obligations, powers, and privileges different from those of the natural individuals who created it, who own it, or whom it employs.”

Appellate courts have split on the legality of the contraception requirement in the Affordable Care Act, which means the Supreme Court will probably be the final arbiter of the issue. The High Court has the power to discard Judge Gibbons assertion that corporations are not people, and declare them all members of the Westboro Baptist Church. I’m sure none of us would even be surprised.

But maybe not. The decision of the very conservative Julia  Smith Gibbons should be seen as a glimmer of hope. Until now, the Supreme Court has always limited religious liberty claims to “individuals and non-profit religious organizations.” Perhaps this is one of those times when Chief Justice Roberts will read the Six Circuit’s decision by Judge Gibbons and worry about his place in history. He can’t be happy that his court’s “corporations are people” decision has become the punchline of a national joke. 

So let’s give a nod of appreciation to the judge who tweaked the High Court’s nose about their disastrous decision in Citizen’s United. Today, Judge Julia Smith Gibbons, and her declaration that corporations aren’t people, are On Our Radar.

Photo: Wiki

tncrmJean Ann Esselink is a straight friend to the gay community. Proud and loud Liberal. Closet writer of political fiction. Black sheep agnostic Democrat from a conservative Catholic family. Living in Northern Oakland County Michigan with Puck the Wonder Beagle.

Follow me on Twitter as @Uncucumbered or friend me on Facebook.

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