How the adolescent mindset of the corporate-state refuses to grow-up
And how fundamental rights get taken seriously, eventually


This year CELDF’s community rights organizing has exposed the pustule-pocked rump of corporate America like never before.  The marriage of corporate and state power that Mussolini called “fascism,” we refer to simply as “the corporate state.” And it has erupted like a nasty case of acne pretty much everywhere across the land.

State and Federal Courts Back Corporate Greed, Abandon Communities

State and federal courts regularly protect the immature “gimme gimme” demands of corporate greediness against the adults in the room who exercise local democratic law-making for the protection of inalienable rights. It happens every day, like clockwork, because community rights are violated each time bureaucrats issue state or federal permits to a corporation in order to “legalize” their harmful and destructive behavior.

To protect the narcissistic interests of wealth against the ethically and morally legitimate interests of people and the natural environment, the courts have had to adopt a level of social immaturity that is breathtakingly quaint. To pull it off, they plug their ears and close their eyes while intoning “lalalalalalalalala” when confronted with arguments advanced by CELDF attorneys. Our lawyers make the case that a Right of Local Community Self-Government and the Rights of Nature are inalienable and deserve legal protection. However, these and other community rights are routinely denied a hearing by the courts.

In order to make these rights irrelevant and ignore the consent of the governed, state legislatures and the federal congress, hell-bent on coddling their whiny juvenile industrialist, go the extra mile to cheat democracy by enacting laws that forbid local legislation that would protect these inalienable rights. When communities snub such illegitimate state and federal laws by adopting local laws that do protect community rights, the courts rely on their hackneyed “cause it’s the law” arguments to enforce state and federal supremacy over municipalities rather than considering testimony about why such local measures are necessary in the absence of other legal protections. In doing so, the courts refuse to acknowledge the existence of these fundamental rights, opting instead to enforce procedure, preemption, and patronizing sophistry.


Courtesy of Matt Wuerker

Shunning the Right to Local Self-Government

The courts assiduously avoid allowing our arguments to be heard about why they must secure and uphold fundamental rights, like the Right of Local Self-Government and the Rights of Nature. In Ohio, we are puzzling over the oxymoronic label the state Supreme Court recently pasted to the Right of Local Self Government, naming it a “NEW fundamental right,” which they would not consider in a mandamus ruling. In that case, we tried to help four communities place proposed county charters on the ballot for consideration by the people. Industry and corporate opponents used the Secretary of State to block the people’s initiative. A public servant refused to back the citizens’ right to propose and vote on public law through the initiative power – because his industrialist buddies wouldn’t like it. The people’s right of local community self-government was violated, and the Ohio Supreme Court didn’t blink. Instead, it played word games.

One might ask, “If it is fundamental, how could it be a new right?”  The ninth amendment of the US Constitution assures us that “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” This suggests that rights not specifically listed are still rights, and that when one of those rights is defended it will not be considered a “new” right, but is in fact a “retained” right.

We might reasonably expect the courts to consider arguments claiming the Right of Local Self-Government and the rights of nature to be long-standing – in fact always standing. Instead they invent mind-bending and self-contradictory monikers like “new fundamental right” in order to avoid having to deal with the possibility that those inalienable rights are being violated every day.

But this time we were on the losing side. Our arguments were not allowed to be considered. State Supreme Court Justice O’Neil was on the losing side too, and in his dissent from the other judges he said

“The secretary of state does not have the power to veto charter petitions on behalf of the oil and gas industry simply because the citizens did not pick exclusively from the two forms of county government delineated in R.C. 302.02.3 This is a usurpation of power from the people that we should not indulge.”

What power is he referring to? Why, it’s the Right of Local Self-Government, which the rest of the court dismissed without consideration – calling it a ”new” right.

Advancing the Rights of Nature

Meanwhile, in Highland Township, Pennsylvania, CELDF attorneys are arguing for the protection of what may be the oldest of rights, but which western law predictably considers a claim to a “new” right. There, the Crystal Spring ecosystem has been included in a request for intervenor status in litigation over a local ordinance – a Community Bill of Rights that recognizes the legal Rights of Nature. One might reasonably think that the rights-bearing entity in question would have standing in a court of law considering the revocation of those rights. But the corporate-state is moody, and we’re still waiting to see what judicial mood prevails.

Explaining this actually new legal concept, our attorney Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin put it this way:

“By recognizing ecosystems as legal persons we’re trying to change this, to recognize legally that the earth has rights and is not merely property. That means, of course, that we’re going up against at least 1,000 years of dogma in western law. That’s not going to be easy, but at the same time we need to make some fundamental shifts in how we relate to the earth in short time.”

An article published by Environment & Energy Publishing (“Rights of nature’ heads back to federal court”) offers the corporate-state’s opinion about rights for a living ecosystem and for nature itself.  The article tells us: “Industry lawyers have derided the idea as absurd, and mainstream environmental lawyers have called it far-fetched.” And yet industry and environmental lawyers agree that the name Environment & Energy Publishing – a corporation existing on paper only – should be capitalized as if the name were a personal noun because “the corporation” has the status of a rights-bearing “person” under the law. The irony is palpable.

“Absurd” and “far-fetched” are terms I’m sure were applied to the idea of emancipating slaves, enfranchising women, dropping the property qualifications for white male common folk to vote, trial by a jury of peers (a revoked right, given the regularity of mandatory arbitration clauses in corporate employment and consumer contracts).

Court Whimsy

It should be clear from our judicial history that the lack of precedent in “case law” for a fundamental right leaves it to the courts to decide if and when they will simply admit without argument or justification that the right exists. It happened that easily and quickly in the case of legal recognition for the personhood rights of paper corporations. The decision was based on immature emotions – keeping in mind that greed has long been recognized as an emotional driver.

But, as we have seen played out regularly, the corporate-state’s courts are notorious procrastinators and lay-abouts when it comes to doing the minimal governing chore of recognizing and securing inalienable rights for living beings. In fact, they expend enormous effort avoiding the least modicum of exertion to protect fundamental rights, and they do it by simply refusing to consider arguments supporting the legitimacy of these rights.

Everything Needs to Change

So, what needs to change for the outcomes to change, and for rights to be freed from the immature whims of jurists ruling from positions of bias, bigotry, corruption, ignorance, ideological loyalty and metaphysical conviction? I think the simple answer is: Everything needs to change. Not just the law, but the values that shape the law.

And how will that happen?

Only by a constant demand that the irresponsible “haves” who wield power without accountability stand aside from obstructing justice – and by demonstrating an unyielding and mature resoluteness that grabs the attention and admiration of people who are now either overwhelmed by the unceasing propaganda churned out by the “haves” who want to perpetuate their childish self-absorption, or who are “hope to haves” hypnotized by the promised baubles of materialism.


Courtesy of Matt Wuerker

As the predictable self-destruction of this culture of deceit and greed proceeds and accelerates, CELDF’s recommendations for change will become less “far-fetched” and “absurd.” They will at last seem inevitable and unavoidable. So we continue to push for them, regardless of the expected obstinacy of sophists in robes, lawyers for cartels and career bureaucratic conservationists infatuated by the law and not justice.

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