Man argues "corporate personhood" to fight carpool ticket

January 7, 2013 8:43:37 PM PST
A Marin County man went to court Monday to fight a traffic violation. His challenge could have national implications because it revolves around the controversial issue of "corporate personhood."

It was just after 7:30 a.m. last October when a silver station wagon was heading south through Novato on Highway 101 in the carpool lane.

"I'm always in the carpool lane because I know I've got another person in the car with me," defendant Jonathan Frieman said.

What Frieman had was the paperwork for his non-profit corporation. The state vehicle code's definition of a person includes a corporation, so that was Frieman's argument when the California Highway Patrol pulled him over.

"He said you need two persons in your vehicle and I showed him the papers; I said, yes, I do have two persons in my car," Frieman said.

The 59-year-old San Rafael man is actually opposed to what's called "corporate personhood" and is pleased the case is going to court.

"Corporations are fictional entities and to treat them as a real, live human being is absurd," Frieman said.

For Frieman it's been a 10 year crusade of riding in the carpool lane waiting for a citation to mount a legal challenge. Traffic Court Judge Frank Drago called his argument "novel," but says the intent of the legislature in devising the lanes was to reduce the volume of traffic and pollution.

"A common sense interpretation of that is carrying sheets of paper on your seat in no way relieves traffic congestion," Drago said.

The judge found Frieman guilty, but Frieman will continue the fight. He says he expected the judge's ruling and will appeal within 30 days.


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