This year is the 150th anniversary of the Fourteenth Amendment and provides an opportune moment to reflect on the role corporations have played in shaping not merely their own, but also individual constitutional rights. An examination of the “corporate rights movement” reveals the most successful legal battle in American jurisprudence, which was waged by corporations to obtain constitutional protection. From the right to sue in federal court to the right of contract through free speech rights, corporations have enlisted the best legal minds to advance their cause for expanded constitutional rights. As a result of their relentless litigation strategies, corporations have been at the forefront of shaping constitutional interpretation and, thus, have profoundly impacted American notions of democracy, equal protection, and due process. Although impactful, the corporate rights movement is not commonly studied in traditional corporate law, constitutional law, or economic justice courses.

This essay reflects on the corporate rights movement as a powerful tool for interrogating the enduring struggle for economic inclusion in this country. Additionally, this article offers thoughts on how transactional clinicians can use Professor Adam Winkler’s new research on the corporate rights movement in their clinic seminars to ground their students’ understanding of not only corporate common law, but also its impact on society.

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