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First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti

    Citation. 22 Ill.435 U.S. 765, 98 S. Ct. 1407, 55 L. Ed. 2d 707, 3 Med. L. Rptr. 2105 (1978)

    Brief Fact Summary. The Appellant, the First National Bank of Boston (Appellant) brought suit seeking to have a Massachusetts statute declared unconstitutional because it infringed on the First Amendment constitutional rights of banks and corporations who wanted to spend money to publicize their political views.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Just because corporations have vast assets at their disposal, they cannot be kept from expressing their own political viewpoints.


    Facts. The Appellant wanted to spend money to publicize their views on a proposed constitutional amendment that would have allowed the legislature to impose a gradual tax on the income of individuals in the State of Massachusetts. The Appellant was informed by the attorney general of Massachusetts that they could no do this, because it was in violation of a state criminal statute. The State Supreme Court rejected the Appellant’s claims that the statute abridged their freedom of speech and the Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court) granted certiorari to consider the question.

    Issue. This case considers whether a corporation is deprived of political speech, because of its corporate identity.

    Held. Reversed.
    The court overturned the criminal statute, alleging that because it prohibited protected speech (contribution in furtherance of expressing corporate views), it should be invalidated.

    Dissent. Justice Byron White (J. White) dissented, noting that there is a compelling state interest not to allow the corporate domination.

    Discussion. A corporation, as an entity, is to be afforded the same freedom of expression of its political views as is an individual.


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