This point seems out of place to me. To my understanding as a lay person, the law does not distinguish between a crime committed as civil disobedience and the same crime otherwise. Neither corporations nor private citizens can use a defense like, "it was civil disobedience," to avoid criminal liability. This has nothing to do with corporations being people or not. Could you please bring your lawyerly knowledge to bear and correct whatever deficiencies in understanding I have here?
1) People love to say corporations are people too (thanks SCOTUS), but the law doesn't actually always consider corporations as legal people. It depends on lots of things.
2) "The law" is also too vague. Sometimes intent is relevant, sometimes its not; it just depends on what the law itself says.
3) Civil disobedience is not (as far as I know-there's a lot of laws) a defense for law-breaking, but, it may mitigate punishment or liability for a human. This depends on many things, ranging from the law, to the jurisdiction, to the facts of the case.
4) The distinction I was trying to make was: unlike people, companies do not engage in civil disobedience and a court will not allow a company to claim otherwise, be it as defense or as liability mitigation.
Hope that answers your question?
In other words, civil disobedience may be legally relevant (tho not as a defense) when a human is the defendant, but it is not relevant for a corporation.
> it may be permitted to mitigate punishment for humans--but not for corporations
By whom or what, pursuant to what? Courts? Sentencing guidelines? Can you provide an example?
But no, civil disobedience is not about sentencing guidelines, and its not statutory (legislatures don't create laws for breaking the law) nor is it a defense, but nonetheless, it may be relevant. Again, it depends on many things, like the case itself, the jurisdiction, local rules, applicable laws, the judge...and why any of this matters is hard to understand without a background in civil & criminal procedure.
Someone else asked similar here & I went into further detail about why. A short answer is that humans have have states of mind, intentions and motives, and corporations do not (maybe you think they do; the legal system does not--judges and juries determine them as elements of crimes for humans, but not for corporations.) https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14278589
Hope this helps; I wish I had a better way of explaining, but, I'm no sure what else to say other than that our laws distinguish between humans and corporations and so do our courts, because our democracy has determined that its best for public policy not to, for example, allow companies, whose legal purpose is to produce monetary profits for shareholders, to instruct their employees to break laws.
Hmmm. I'll try but maybe we are misunderstanding each other, because this doesn't seem debatable?
There are rules that define what kind of defenses, mitigating circumstances, evidence can be presented etc, are permitted for civil & criminal cases & what common law & evidence can be shared with the jury etc.. I'm unaware of any jurisdiction where corporations are considered equal to people or have a mens rea etc or were permitted to describe their corporate law-breaking as "civil disobedience" to a jury.
That's not how I'd say the law viewed corporations or punitive damages; guessing we use words differently & aren't understanding each other.
I am not sure what else to say; that different rules & laws apply to corporations & people seems to be a standard thing in my world. In my head its a given, so maybe my explanations are not as clear as I think. If I come across a link I'll share.
And with Uber, the board and owners could similarly claim that they were personally engaging in civil disobedience, right? In the way that they managed Uber. However, I suspect that limited personal liability for corporate actions is a better deal.
I don't think there is anything that would stop a defense from making that argument. If that's all you had to argue, then that's the proverbial "pound the table", if you will.
Edit: To be clear, I am not talking at all about Greyball. I mean cases where civil disobedience would actually be justified.
When companies want to change laws, they lobby the government, in part because telling one's employees to break the law is criminal conspiracy and very expensive, given how much power companies have & employees don't.
Sure, corporations sometimes do act in the public interest and sometimes act in the interest of justice. However, legally, courts & judges do not consider mitigating liability or punishment for their behavior on this basis. There are many reasons for this, but mostly because its just better public policy to limit any civil disobedience mitigation to actual humans.
Otherwise, eg, wouldn't coal mining companies be all about "civil disobedience"?
(1) Why should we not welcome civil disobedience then or call it anything other than "civil disobedience"?
(2) In a judicial context, what specifically do you believe would stop the same sentencing considerations from applying to corporations? Sentencing guidelines? Judicial precedent?
Criminal procedure is not my field, so there's a possibility I am making some basic mistaken assumption - please correct me if so.
The government does not require companies to comply with a scheme. Companies are free to contract with the government, but certainly aren't forced. PRISM & Muslim registries are also edge cases. There are many companies who choose not to do any work with the military, defense industry, or even gun, drug, or tobacco companies for ethical reasons. Most companies will allow their employees to opt not to work on projects that violate their ethics or values. However, a company would certainly be within their rights to fire an employee for refusing to participate in a project. (its not a smart move, nor does it help with retention of other employees) None of this is, by any means, civil disobedience--nor are ethics and civil disobedience interchangeable. (& it doesn't have to be illegal to be unethical--but civil disobedience is about law-breaking.)
As you may remember, the courts would not permit the government to force Apple to build decryption software to crack that iphone.
And we should not welcome all or encourage civil disobedience. We should just create just laws. Also, we should not redefine or expand the definition of civil disobedience.
Civil disobedience is not a "sentencing consideration." All of this is so inside baseball that it'd take explaining all of civil & criminal procedure in order for you to understand. It would take me a long time to make it both clear and accurate and the payoff would not be worth it. Sorry, but yes, you are making many mistaken assumptions:)
There are many public policy reasons why corporations do not & are not considered to engage in civil disobedience. Here's a few quick ones: we don't want companies to direct their employees to break the law or ignore health safety or environmental regulations, or to encourage the formation of criminal enterprises, most (99%?) are defined by a profit-making purpose & this undermines that (& create shareholder lawsuits.) and, despite Citizens United, the overwhelming majority of our laws do not treat corporations as people. For instance, corporations, legally speaking, are not considered to have mens rea or intentions.
TLDR: Citizens United aside, it is actually just not useful or accurate to consider corporations as people, because they aren't. As far as our legal system goes, humans have intentions & a state of mind and corporations don't.
(Feel argue they do, but, as far as the US legal system goes, they don't. And shouldn't. Because they actually don't. So, please, don't. Or, just don't expect my response).
You seem to view civil disobedience as a concept inherent to legal procedure as opposed to being by definition outside of law. That seems to me a very unorthodox definition of civil disobedience.
What I mean by civil disobedience is any legal agent (natural person or otherwise) refusing to comply with valid law for reasons of conscience. If you are subject to a law, you can engage in civil disobedience. A company that refuses for reasons of company principles to comply with a legally valid order to comply with a Muslim registry is engaging in civil disobedience. The ethics of corporate civil disobedience is complicated given obligations to shareholders and need to respect autonomy/views of dissenting employees. But groups of people are indeed capable of having shared principles, and that has nothing to do with Citizen United. Fine if you disagree.
Of course those are edge cases. Instances where civil disobedience is relevant usually are. Those are precisely the cases worth talking about.
Creating just laws and violating unjust ones still in effect are not mutually exclusive.
I am not sure what you mean. I do view civil disobedience through a legal lens, but its inherent in its definition-its action taken in opposition to law. Its not civil disobedience unless the law is being broken.
From Wikipedia: Civil disobedience is the active, professed refusal to obey certain laws, demands, and commands of a government, or of an occupying international power.
I am not sure I understand your definition, but it is broader than mine.
I do not understand what you mean here: "A company that refuses for reasons of company principles to comply with a legally valid order to comply with a Muslim registry is engaging in civil disobedience."
What is a “legally valid order”? The US government doesn't & can't order companies to work for it. (Again, consider Apple & San Bernardino--the Court refused the DoJs request) It cannot arbitrarily demand data. (Obviously court orders for discovery, subpoenas,etc are not the same thing) And our Constitution & many very settled SC precedents, along with many other laws, make it illegal for the government to discriminate on the basis of religion.
Similarly, the US Government cannot compel Palantir or Facebook to make a Muslim Registry, but, leaving the Registry aside, either could fire an employee for refusing to work on a project for the Trump administration, (though it'd be a dumb thing to do). Any public attempt the Trump administration makes to create a Muslim registry will be challenged & enjoined in federal court.
If the Trump signs an executive order creating a Muslim Registry, it will be immediately challenged in court, and, a TRO or an injunction, will be granted for the same reasons.
Groups of people are absolutely capable of having shared principles & working together (its even common), but that is not how corporations are defined by laws made by legislatures or how courts interpret & apply those laws. Law is all about definitions, overlapping jurisdictions, and knowing which rules apply. I
However, the government cannot compel or order a company to build a Muslim Registry let alone anything else. Google & Facebook aren't ordered around at their whim. Plus our Constitution also forbids discrimination on the basis of religion. There are many more layers to this than I can explain.
My point about PRISM & the Muslim Registry was that they are on the edge because they are easy….since both are widely viewed as illegal and/or unconstitutional. As have US courts. Laws don't have to be changed; PRISM already violates them. Same with the Muslim Registry; if Trump orders it, a court will enjoin it before it is made. Neither the government nor Trump can order a company to build anything, let alone something that is facially unconstitutional. Neither is as much about civil disobedience as they are are about challenging laws in courts.
I don't think creating just laws and violating unjust ones are mutually exclusive at all. However, the purpose of a company (leaving B corps aside-rooting for you Etsy) is to make profits, regardless of who works there.
A company's BoD may believe that environmental regulations are deeply unjust because climate change is myth, but that doesn't mean that the company can order their coal miners to violate laws.
Last try: companies have fiduciary duties to their shareholders. Not breaking laws is implicit. When a company wants to change a law, it is cheaper & less risky to lobby for change than liability for breaking them. And a broader definition of civil disobedience undermines it, eventually into meaninglessness. Which is great for folks who don’t think words should have meaning, I guess?
Final comment on this: Though civil disobedience is defined by relation to law, ethics are not dependent on or related to law. Seems like our definitions vary more than we disagree.
What about Silk Road? I would say that's a legitimate case of a company (of sorts) engaging in civil disobedience. Ross Ulbricht was ideologically motivated.
I've heard some rumors about Travis' ideology. Maybe he's similar. (He named his company Uber, maybe he's some sort of Nietzschean?)
Regardless, whether its Ross, Travis or anyone else, why would or should ideological motivation be relevant to whether or not any given act is legal or how it should be punished?
When libertarians, for whatever reason, choose to start businesses in CA, they are explicitly consenting to our government & to obeying our democratically enacted laws. Ideology is not a shield for consequences--and, for both Travis & Ross, using Ayn Rand to justify their behavior only makes them less sympathetic to judges, prosecutors & juries.
Although the indictment mentions at one point that he had an employee, but he may have been paying him privately and not as part of a corporate structure.
Does that change anything vis-a-vis the argument you're making with regards to civil disobedience?
My reading of your comments is that a corporation doesn't have certain rights private individuals have. That makes sense, but does your argument still hold if Silk Road is a purely private website without any corporate structure?
No, it changes literally nothing. Criminal enterprises tend to be lean on corporate structure and paperwork for a variety of reasons.
There is also no such thing as a purely private website where everything is legal and there is no liability.
But it couldn't if Google had the same information and published it on its front page, since it's a corporation.
1. But what if guy X publishes it on his personal blog?
2. What if he occasionally sells used goods via his blog?
3. What if the main point of the blog is to sell those used goods, with a small "notes from the author" section where the information is published?
4. What if it's purely a commercial enterprise & isn't incorporated?
5. And then if it's incorporated it should be clear-cut, since as you said "only people [and not corporations] engage in civil disobedience".
My question is when civil disobedience stops being a defense. Your original comment points out that Uber can't use that because it falls into #5, but then you're saying it wouldn't apply to Silk Road either which as far as I can tell falls into #4.
How about #1-3?
This is the core of your misunderstanding - 'civil disobedience' is never a 'defense'. At best, a judge can take it into account come sentencing time. There is no such thing as a generic 'if you are ideologically motivated, you're off the hook' rule. Private or legal person, doesn't matter.
With that caveat my question still stands, `gotothedoctor` is , if I understand him correctly, saying that corporations like Uber can't expect that sort of leniency, but what about other not-quite-just-a-person entities?
AKA: no, Ross is not Silk Road. And, yes, the Silk Road is a business that took in millions if not billions.
Simply put: when there is material benefit or an economic exchange, it is a business, whether you are selling lemonade, drugs, guns or even personal services. There is no loophole.
> You would be incorrect. Humans, not companies, engage in civil disobedience.
Is this a point of observation ("I've never heard of a company doing this"), law ("Companies have no legal grounds to claim civil disobedience"), or logic ("companies cannot act, only its constituent humans act")?
If it's the first, I'm claiming to give you a contradictory observation. If it's the second, you yourself said that civil disobedience has no legal significance anyway (just a possible source of sympathy when it comes time for the judge's discretion) so in this sense I don't see why a human's civil disobedience is any more real than a company's. If it's the third, fair enough, but it wasn't clear to me that this was your point.
I did not say that civil disobedience has no legal significance for humans--I said it has no legal significance for corporations. Nor did I say it was a source of sympathy--I said it could mitigate liability or punishment.
While it is not a defense for law-breaking by humans, asserting civil disobedience can mitigate punishment or liability for humans; it cannot be used to do the same for corporations.
Jurisdictions, laws and rules make it difficult to generalize (eg some courts accept some mitigating factors but not others), but I've never come across or heard of any case where a corporation could or did claim "civil disobedience" as a mitigating factor for liability or punishment.
What is the basis of that "cannot"? Sentencing guidelines? Inference from cases where it was asserted but rejected because it came from a corporation?
Edit: Not asking for a citation. Just want to understand the basis for your view, because the point is an important one (current context aside) and your responses thus far about it feel circular (e.g., doesn't apply because it's irrelevant).
I didnt work for the Justice Department, but this appears to not be consistently logical. If ideology doesnt matter, why does valuing liberty negatively influence a judge's or prosecuter's actions towards you? That doesn't seem right.
Also, if ideological motivation should not play a role in prosecuting crimes, then why does our justice system sometimes do the opposite (consider hate crimes, or other cases where motivation is considered when prosecuting crimes, i.e. different versions of murder charges.)
I also did not say that "valuing liberty" has a negative influence. That is not how I was using the word "libertarian"
Nor did I say ideological motivation should not or does not play a role in prosecuting crimes. Whether it should or not is probably not important--because ideology does play a role prosecution, particularly in jurisdictions where they're elected.
As you know, motive (mens rea) is an element of some criminal charges, including murder. Motivation matters basically for public policy reasons--for example, we punish hate crimes more harshly because we, as a society, decided crimes motivated by hate are more damaging to society & harsher punishment is a deterant. Similarly, sometimes "crimes of passion" are punished less harshly, because society has decided that harsher punishment would not be a deterrant or effective.
What I said was: ideology is not a defense. And, in Travis's & Ross's cases, such ideology is more likely to increase, rather than mitigate, liability.
And, what I meant was: neither Uber nor the Silk Road would, could or should attempt to assert a defense based on not consenting to CA law, democracy, and/or denying the legitimacy of federal courts. Not only will it irritate the humans whose legitimacy is being questioned, but such a defense is not procedurally permissible in any court that I am aware of. Basically, it won't help either of them--its more likely to increase liability than anything else.
My sense is that we define words like libertarian quite differently, so I'm going to leave it here.
Just look at these superfluous! They acquire riches and yet they become poorer. They want power and first of all the crowbar of power, much money – these impotent, impoverished ones!
I can't tell you what exactly "Nietzschean" would be, but I think that in this and any neighboring contexts it's like talking about having lit fire underwater; some may have confused some sort of reflection with actual fire, but Nietzsche never set and never will set foot in any of these parts. Having been discerned and discarded by him is the only sort of business Nietzsche and any random shareholder value maximizing CEO will ever have. I don't pretend to know or understand Nietzsche at all, but the "worst" that could happen is that someone proves me wrong with Nietzsche quotes, so I'll just claim it and see what happens.
To steal an example from rayiner elsewhere in this thread, let's say you're a restaurant in the segregation-era south in a jurisdiction that requires restaurants to have separate seating areas for white and black people. Let's say you decide to break the law by having a single seating area for everyone. That would be civil disobedience because you're going out of your way to improve conditions for marginalized people at considerable risk, not just of prosecution but of being boycotted by racists. In other words, you breaking the law benefits society more than it benefits you.
This isn't what Uber is doing. Sure, let's say that Travis is ideologically motivated because he feels he has a fundamental natural right to make money using any and every means he sees fit. So that means Uber is breaking the law because they feel the law gets in the way of their natural right to line their pockets with as much cash as they can however they can. It's a purely selfish motivation.
And moving on to Ross, it's the same thing. He was raking in bitcoins hand over fist from what he was doing. He can say "selling anything should be legal" all he wants, but if the end result of him breaking the law is that he gets rich, then he's ultimately doing himself a favor more than he's doing society a favor. And he really shot himself in the foot with those attempted hits. That took all the wind out of the sails of his "I'm not hurting anyone; I'm just helping connect people to each other". He tried to kill people. Worse, he tried to kill people because they stole money from him. There was no ideological motivation for the attempted hits. It was just "this guy stole from me, he has to pay". There goes his entire defense.
And ultimately, "civil disobedience" isn't a defense against conviction. It's an argument for leniency in the sentencing phase. It doesn't exist on paper, either: the only reason the concept exists at all is because judges and juries have broad discretion in sentencing. It's just like how first-time offenders tend to get off easy: there's no law saying "if the convicted has no priors, you have to give them a lesser sentence", it's just based on the logic that someone with no priors is probably someone who made a stupid mistake and not a career criminal. Going back to civil disobedience, the upshot is that if you can convince the judge and/or jury that you breaking the law had a net benefit to society, you might get away with the minimum punishment mandated by law. But if the main consequence of you breaking the law is that you got rich, why would any judge or jury care enough to let you off easily?
Edit: Just to make this clear, IANAL & TINLA.
Basically, in 2003, a very different SCOTUS said sorry Planned Parenthood, but, actually Operation Rescue, as awful & harassing as they are, are not committing EXTORTION, so no RICO for you & overturned their damages award.
Here's the part of the article I'd guess you are referring to:
"The decision, Scheidler v. National Organization for Women, No. 01-1118, did not appear to reflect any particular attitude on the court toward abortion, but rather a concern over the implications of invoking the federal racketeering law as a weapon against political protests. In a concurring opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the court was ''rightly reluctant, as I see it, to extend RICO's domain further.'' She noted that in the argument in the case, Solicitor General Theodore B. Olson, who supported the clinics in their interpretation of extortion, acknowledged that the definition might have applied to the sit-ins of the civil rights movement."
Ginsburg's concern was, if SCOTUS accepted that definition of extortion, others could use RICO to prosecute citizens for civil disobedience. Conseqently, she ruled against Planned Parenthood.
Regardless, SCOTUS did not, as you claim, "express concern about expanding motive in RICO cases".
On a very different court, RBG wrote a concurrence, explaining that she voted against Planned Parenthood because she was concerned with the precedent of charging Operation Rescue with extortion, under RICO. Motive is not the issue (nor was it relevant in that case)--RICO...& charging the defendants with extortion, as a basis for RICO prosecution is.
> Governments have generally not recognized the legitimacy of civil disobedience or viewed political objectives as an excuse for breaking the law. Specifically, the law usually distinguishes between criminal motive and criminal intent; the offender's motives or purposes may be admirable and praiseworthy, but his intent may still be criminal. Hence the saying that "if there is any possible justification of civil disobedience it must come from outside the legal system."
See also the Necessity Defense (the above mentioned "political necessity")  and Jury Nullification .
See, the whole point of civil disobedience is this: under the Constitution and the precepts of common law, bad laws don't have to be followed. So civil disobedience is making a show of deliberately breaking a bad law in order to call attention to the fact that the law is bad, risking your own liberty in the process. Then when it goes to trial, a jury may decide that though you broke the law, you are in the right and acquit you. This power of "jury nullification" is also recognized in common law and while it may not actually nullify laws, it makes them more difficult to enforce and when they're not enforced they are effectively void. A lot of the fun-fact ridiculous laws like "it is illegal to kiss in public on Sundays" are old laws which the local authorities can't be bothered to enforce and so are not really in force.
But back to civil disobedience: it is an assertion through deed of human rights. Corporations lack human rights, and furthermore if you are making money off your violation of the law you are less likely to be smiled upon by a jury.