Before you watch this, you must understand this is a production that includes several Disney family members in disguise. They are talking about Disney so you know they are lying about much of it, but if you are skilled and have been listening to me for the past five years, you will be able to pull out the facts from the fiction.
To have legal personality means to be capable of having legal rights and obligations within a certain legal system, such as entering into contracts, suing, and being sued. Legal personality is a prerequisite to legal capacity,
LEGAL CAPACITY The capacity of natural and juridical persons, and legal persons in general, determines whether they may make binding amendments to their rights, duties and obligations, such as getting married or merging, entering into contracts, making gifts, or writing a valid will. Capacity is an aspect of status and both are defined by a person’s personal law:
- for natural persons, the law of domicile or lex domicilii in common lawjurisdictions, and either the law of nationality or lex patriae, or of habitual residence in civil law states;
- for juridical persons, the law of the place of incorporation, the lex incorporationis for companies while other forms of business entity derive their capacity either from the law of the place in which they were formed or the laws of the states in which they establish a presence for trading purposes depending on the nature of the entity and the transactions entered into.
When the law limits or bars a person from engaging in specified activities, any agreements or contracts to do so are either voidable or void for incapacity. Sometimes such legal incapacity is referred to as incompetence. For comparison, see Competence (law).
As an aspect of the social contract between a state and its citizens, the state adopts a role of protector to the weaker and more vulnerable members of society. In public policy terms, this is the policy of parens patriae. Similarly, the state has a direct social and economic interest in promoting trade, so it will define the forms of business enterprise that may operate within its territory, and lay down rules that will allow both the businesses and those that wish to contract with them a fair opportunity to gain value. This system worked well until social and commercial mobility increased. Now persons routinely trade and travel across state boundaries (both physically and electronically), so the need is to provide stability across state lines given that laws differ from one state to the next. Thus, once defined by the personal law, persons take their capacity with them like a passport whether or however they may travel. In this way, a person will not gain or lose capacity depending on the accident of the local laws, e.g. if A does not have capacity to marry her cousin under her personal law (a rule of consanguinity), she cannot evade that law by travelling to a state that does permit such a marriage (see nullity). In Saskatchewan Canada, an exception to this law allows married persons to become the common law spouse of other(s) prior to divorcing the first spouse. This law is not honored amongst other Canadian provinces.
Natural personsSee also: Testamentary capacity
Standardized classes of person have had their freedom restricted. These limitations are exceptions to the general policy of freedom of contract and the detailed human and civil rights that a person of ordinary capacity might enjoy. Hence, for example, freedom of movement may be modified, the right to vote may be withdrawn, etc. As societies have developed more equal treatment based on gender, race and ethnicity, many of the older incapacities have been removed. For example, English law used to treat married women as lacking the capacity to own property or act independently of their husbands (the last of these rules was repealed by the Domicile and Matrimonial Proceedings Act 1973, which removed the wife’s domicile of dependency for those marrying after 1974, so that a husband and wife could have different domiciles).
- Infancy The definition of an infant or minor varies, each state reflecting local culture and prejudices in defining the age of majority, marriageable age, voting age, etc. In many jurisdictions, legal contracts, in which (at least) one of the contracting parties is a minor, are voidable by the minor. For a minor to undergo medical procedure, consent is determined by the minor’s parent(s) or legal guardian(s). The right to vote in the United States is currently set at 18 years, while the right to buy and consume alcohol is often set at 21 years by U.S. state law. Some laws, such as marriage laws, may differentiate between the sexes and allow women to marry younger. There are instances in which a person may be able to gain capacity earlier than the prescribed time through a process of emancipation. Conversely, many states allow the inexperience of childhood to be an excusing condition to criminal liability and set the age of criminal responsibility to match the local experience of emerging behavioral problems (see doli incapax). For sexual crimes, the age of consent determines the potential liability of adult accused. As an example of liability in contract, the law in most of Canada provides that an infant is not bound by the contracts he or she enters into except for the purchase of necessaries and for beneficial contracts of service. Infants must pay fair price only for necessary goods and services. However, the British Columbia Infants Act (RSBC 1996 c.223) declares all contracts, including necessities and beneficial contracts of service, are unenforceable against an infant. Only student loans and other contracts made specifically enforceable by statute will be binding on infants in that province. In contracts between an adult and an infant, adults are bound but infants may escape contracts at their option (i.e. the contract is voidable). Infants may ratify a contract on reaching age of majority. In the case of executed contracts, when the infant has obtained some benefit under the contract, he/she cannot avoid obligations unless what was obtained was of no value. Upon repudiation of a contract, either party can apply to the court. The court may order restitution, damages, or discharge the contract. All contracts involving the transfer of real estate are considered valid until ruled otherwise. Minors and Contractual Capacity A minor (typically under 18) can disaffirm a contract made, no matter the case. However, the entire contract must be disaffirmed. Depending on the jurisdiction, the minor may be required to return any of the goods still in his possession. Also, barter transactions such as purchasing a retail item in exchange for a cash payment are generally recognized through a legal fiction not to be contracts due to the absence of promises of future action. A minor may not disavow such a trade. Disaffirmance – it must be timely. For example, a contract that goes beyond two years of reaching the age of majority would be considered ratified. Minors are still allowed to disaffirm, even if their age is misrepresented. They will not face tort violations. Some states don’t allow disaffirmance if the consideration cannot be returned. Obligations – most states hold that a minor only must return the goods (consideration) if the goods are still in the minor’s possession. Many states are requiring that the minor restore the adult (other party) to the state they were in before the contract was made. Minors are beginning to be held responsible for damages, wear, tear, etc. of the good in question upon return. A suit for tort is considered by some states to be an enforcement of the contract and is not allowed. Liability – for necessities, (1) the item contracted for must be necessary for minor’s existence, (2) the value must be up to that of the current standard of living or financial/social status (not excessive in value), (3) the minor must not be under the care of a parent/guardian who is required to supply the item. A minor could be held liable for a contract for the purchase of luxury items (those that are not in the financial/social/standard of living range). Ratification – accepting and giving legal force to an obligation. Express ratification (for a minor) is expressly stating, orally or in writing that he/she intends to be bound by the contract. Implied ratification is when the conduct of the minor is inconsistent with that of disaffirmance or when minor fails to disaffirm an executed contract within a reasonable period. Generally, the courts base their determination on whether the minor, after reaching the age of majority, has had ample opportunity to consider the nature of the contractual obligations he or she entered into as a minor and the extent to which the adult party to the contract has performed.
As one court put it, “the purpose of the infancy doctrine is to protect ‘minors from foolishly squandering their wealth through improvident contracts with crafty adults who would take advantage of them in the marketplace.'”
- Insanity, mental illness, or mental/medical condition Individuals may have an inherent physical condition which prevents them from achieving the normal levels of performance expected from persons of comparable age, or their inability to match current levels of performance may be caused by contracting an illness. Whatever the cause, if the resulting condition is such that individuals cannot care for themselves, or may act in ways that are against their interests, those persons are vulnerable through dependency and require the protection of the state against the risks of abuse or exploitation. Hence, any agreements that were made are voidable, and a court may declare that person a ward of the state and grant power of attorney to an appointed legal guardian. In England and Wales, this is a specific function of the Court of Protection, and all matters concerning persons who have lost, or expect soon to lose, mental capacity are regulated under the Mental Capacity Act 2005. This makes provision for lasting powers of attorney under which decisions about the health, welfare and financial assets of a person who has lost capacity may be dealt with in that person’s interests. This sort of problem sometimes arises when people suffer some form of medical problem such as unconsciousness, coma, extensive paralysis, or delirious states, from accidents or illnesses such as strokes, or often when older people become afflicted with some form of medical/mental disability such as Huntington’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy body disease, or similar dementia. Such persons are often unable to consent to medical treatment and otherwise handle their financial and other personal matters. If the afflicted person has prepared documents beforehand about what to do in such cases, often in a revocable living trust or related documents, then the named legal guardian may be able to take over their financial and other affairs. If the afflicted person owns his/her property jointly with a spouse or other able person, the able person may be able to take over many of the routine financial affairs. Otherwise, it is often necessary to petition a court, such as a probate court, that the afflicted person lacks legal capacity and allow a legal guardian to take over their financial and personal affairs. Procedures and court review have been established, dependent on the area of jurisdiction, to prevent exploitation of the incapacitated person by the guardian. The guardian periodically provides a financial accounting for court review. In the Criminal Law, the traditional common law M’Naghten Rules excused all persons from liability if they did not understand what they were doing or, if they did, that they did not know it was wrong. The consequences of this excuse were that those accused were detained indefinitely or until the medical authorities certified that it was safe to release them back into the community. This consequence was felt to be too draconian and so statutes have introduced new defenses that will limit or reduce the liability of those accused of committing offenses if they were suffering from a mental illness at the relevant time (see the insanity and mental disorder defenses).
- Drunkenness or drug abuse Although individuals may have consumed a sufficient quantity of intoxicant or drug to reduce or eliminate their ability to understand exactly what they are doing, such conditions are self-induced and so the law does not generally allow any defense or excuse to be raised to any actions taken while incapacitated. The most generous states do permit individuals to repudiate agreements as soon as sober, but the conditions to exercising this right are strict.
- Bankruptcy If individuals find themselves in a situation where they can no longer pay their debts, they lose their status as credit-worthy and become bankrupt. States differ on the means whereby their outstanding liabilities can be treated as discharged and on the precise extent of the limits that are placed on their capacities during this time but, after discharge, they are returned to full capacity. In the United States, some states have spendthrift laws under which an irresponsible spender may be deemed to lack capacity to enter into contracts (in Europe, these are termed prodigality laws) and both sets of laws may be denied extraterritorial effect under public policy as imposing a potentially penal status on the individuals affected.
- Enemy aliens and/or terrorists During times of war or civil strife, a state will limit the ability of its citizens to offer help or assistance in any form to those who are acting against the interests of the state. Hence, all commercial and other contracts with the “enemy”, including terrorists, would be considered void or suspended until a cessation of hostilities is agreed.
- Corporations The extent of an artificial person’s capacity depends on the law of the place of incorporation and the enabling provisions included in the constitutive documents of incorporation. The general rule is that anything not included in the corporation’s capacity, whether expressly or by implication, is ultra vires, i.e. “beyond the power” of the corporation, and so may be unenforceable by the corporation, but the rights and interests of innocent third parties dealing with the corporations are usually protected.
- General and limited partnerships There is a clear division between the approach of states to the definition of partnerships. One group of states treats general and limited partnerships as aggregate. In terms of capacity, this means that they are no more than the sum of the natural persons who conduct the business. The other group of states allows partnerships to have a separate legal personality which changes the capacity of the “firm” and those who conduct its business and makes such partnerships more like corporations.
Insolvenc When a business entity becomes insolvent, an administrator, receiver, or other similar legal functionary may be appointed to determine whether the entity shall continue to trade or be sold so that the creditors may receive all or a proportion of the money owing to them. During this time, the capacity of the entity is limited so that its liabilities are not increased unreasonably and to the detriment of the existing creditors.
the ability of any legal person to amend (enter into, transfer, etc.) rights and obligations.
The law of obligations is one branch of private law under the civil law legal system and so-called “mixed” legal systems. It is the body of rules that organizes and regulates the rights and duties arising between individuals. The specific rights and duties are referred to as obligations, and this area of law deals with their creation, effects, and extinction. An obligation is a legal bond (vinculum iuris) by which one or more parties (obligants) are bound to act or refrain from acting. An obligation thus imposes on the obligor a duty to perform, and simultaneously creates a corresponding right to demand performance by the obligee to whom performance is to be tendered. Obligations may be civil, which are enforceable by action in a court of law, or natural, which imply moral duties but are unenforceable unless the obligor consents.
In international law, consequently, legal personality is a prerequisite for an international organization to be able to sign international treaties in its own name.
Legal persons (lat. persona iuris) are of two kinds: natural persons (also called physical persons)
In jurisprudence, a natural person is a human being, as opposed to a legal person, which may be a private (i.e., business entity or non-governmental organization) or public (i.e., government) organization.
In many cases, fundamental human rights are implicitly granted only to natural persons. For example, the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which states a person cannot be denied the right to vote based on gender, or Section Fifteen of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees equality rights, apply to natural persons only. Another example of the distinction between natural and legal persons is that a natural person can hold public office, but a corporation cannot.
A corporation or non-governmental organization can, however, file a lawsuit or own property as a legal person.
and juridical persons (also called juridic, juristic, artificial, or fictitious persons, lat. persona ficta)
Institutions are “stable, valued, recurring patterns of behavior.” As structures or mechanisms of social order, they govern the behaviour of a set of individuals within a given community. Institutions are identified with a social purpose, transcending individuals and intentions by mediating the rules that govern living behavior.
The term “institution” commonly applies to a custom or behavior pattern important to a society, and to particular formal organizations of the government and public services. As structures and mechanisms of social order, institutions are a principal object of study in social sciences such as political science, anthropology, economics, and sociology (the latter described by Émile Durkheim as the “science of institutions, their genesis and their functioning”). Institutions are also a central concern for law, the formal mechanism for political rule-making and enforcement.
Personhood is the status of being a person. Defining personhood is a controversial topic in philosophy and law and is closely tied with legal and political concepts of citizenship, equality, and liberty. According to law, only a natural person or legal personality has rights, protections, privileges, responsibilities, and legal liability.
Personhood continues to be a topic of international debate and has been questioned critically during the abolition of human and nonhuman slavery, in theology, in debates about abortion and in fetal rights and/or reproductive rights, in animal rights activism, in theology and ontology, in ethical theory, and in debates about corporate personhood and the beginning of human personhood.
Processes through which personhood is recognized socially and legally vary cross-culturally, demonstrating that notions of personhood are not universal. Anthropologist Beth Conklin has shown how personhood is tied to social relations among the Wari’ people of Rondônia, Brazil. Bruce Knauft’s studies of the Gebusi people of Papua New Guinea depict a context in which individuals become persons incrementally, again through social relations. Likewise, Jane C. Goodale has also examined the construction of personhood in Papua New Guinea.
when they are born, juridical persons do so when they are incorporated in accordance with law.
A juridical or artificial person (Latin: persona ficta; also juristic person) has a legal name and has certain rights, protections, privileges, responsibilities, and liabilities in law, similar to those of a natural person. The concept of a juridical person is a fundamental legal fiction. It is pertinent to the philosophy of law, as it is essential to laws affecting a corporation (corporations law).
Juridical personality allows one or more natural persons (universitas personarum) to act as a single entity (body corporate) for legal purposes. In many jurisdictions, artificial personality allows that entity to be considered under law separately from its individual members (for example in a company limited by shares, its shareholders). They may sue and be sued, enter contracts, incur debt, and own property. Entities with legal personality may also be subjected to certain legal obligations, such as the payment of taxes. An entity with legal personality may shield its members from personal liability.
In some common law jurisdictions a distinction is drawn between corporation aggregate (such as a company, which has a number of members) and a corporation sole (which is where a person’s public office is deemed to have a separate personality from them as an individual). Both have separate legal personality. Historically most corporations sole were ecclesiastical in nature (for example, the Archbishop of Canterbury is a corporation sole), but a number of other public offices are now formed as corporations sole.
The concept of juridical personality is not absolute. “Piercing the corporate veil” refers to looking at the individual natural persons acting as agents involved in a company action or decision; this may result in a legal decision in which the rights or duties of a corporation or public limited company are treated as the rights or liabilities of that corporation’s members or directors.
Some examples of juridical persons include:
- Cooperatives (co-ops), business organization owned and democratically operated by a group of individuals for their mutual benefit
- Corporations are bodies corporate created by statute or charter. A corporation sole is a corporation constituted by a single member, in a particular capacity, and that person’s successors in the same capacity, in order to give them some legal benefit or advantage, particularly that of perpetuity, which a natural person could not have had. Examples are a religious officiant in that capacity, or The Crown in the Commonwealth realms. A corporation aggregate is a corporation constituted by more than one member.
- Unincorporated associations, that is aggregates of two or more persons, are treated as juridical persons in some jurisdictions but not others.
- Partnerships, an aggregate of two or more persons to carry on a business in common for profit and created by agreement. Traditionally, partnerships did not have continuing legal personality, but many jurisdictions now treat them as having an independent legal personality.
- Companies, a form of business association that carries on an industrial enterprise, are often corporations, although companies may take other forms, such as trade unions, unlimited companies, trusts, and funds. Limited liability companies—be they a private company limited by guarantee, private company limited by shares, or public limited company—are entities having certain characteristics of both a corporation and a partnership. Different types have a complex variety of advantages and disadvantages.
- Sovereign states are legal persons.
- In the international legal system, various organizations possess legal personality. These include intergovernmental organizations (the United Nations, the Council of Europe) and some other international organizations (including the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, a religious order).
- The European Union has legal personality since the Lisbon Treaty entered into force on 1 December 2009. That the EU has legal personality is a prerequisite for the EU to join the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
- Temples, in some legal systems, have separate legal personality
Not all organizations have legal personality. For example, the board of directors of a corporation, legislature, or governmental agency typically are not legal persons in that they have no ability to exercise legal rights independent of the corporation or political body which they are a part of.
Creation and history of the doctrine
The doctrine has been attributed to Pope Innocent IV, who seems at least to have helped spread the idea of persona ficta as it is called in Latin. In canon law, the doctrine of persona ficta allowed monasteries to have a legal existence that was apart from the monks, simplifying the difficulty in balancing the need for such groups to have infrastructure though the monks took vows of personal poverty. Another effect of this was that as a fictional person, a monastery could not be held guilty of delict due to not having a soul, helping to protect the organization from non-contractual obligations to surrounding communities. This effectively moved such liability to individuals acting within the organization while protecting the structure itself, since individuals were considered to have a soul and therefore capable of being guilty of negligence and excommunicated.
In the common law tradition, only a person could sue or be sued. This was not a problem in the era before the Industrial Revolution, when the typical business venture was either a sole proprietorship or partnership—the owners were simply liable for the debts of the business. A feature of the corporation, however, is that the owners/shareholders enjoyed limited liability—the owners were not liable for the debts of the company. Thus, when a corporation breached a contract or broke a law, there was no remedy, because limited liability protected the owners and the corporation wasn’t a legal person subject to the law. There was no accountability for corporate wrongdoing.
To resolve the issue, the legal personality of a corporation was established to include five legal rights—the right to a common treasury or chest (including the right to own property), the right to a corporate seal (i.e., the right to make and sign contracts), the right to sue and be sued (to enforce contracts), the right to hire agents (employees) and the right to make by-laws (self-governance).
Since the 19th century, legal personhood has been further construed to make it a citizen, resident, or domiciliary of a state (usually for purposes of personal jurisdiction). In Louisville, C. & C.R. Co. v. Letson, 2 How. 497, 558, 11 L.Ed. 353 (1844), the U.S. Supreme Court held that for the purposes of the case at hand, a corporation is “capable of being treated as a citizen of [the State which created it], as much as a natural person.” Ten years later, they reaffirmed the result of Letson, though on the somewhat different theory that “those who use the corporate name, and exercise the faculties conferred by it,” should be presumed conclusively to be citizens of the corporation’s State of incorporation. Marshall v. Baltimore & Ohio R. Co., 16 How. 314, 329, 14 L.Ed. 953 (1854). These concepts have been codified by statute, as U.S. jurisdictional statutes specifically address the domicile of corporations.
Extension of basic rights to legal persons
The term legal person (“pessoa jurídica” in Portuguese) is used in legal science for designating an entity with rights and liabilities which also has legal personality. Its regulations are largely based on Brazil’s Civil Code, among other normative documents.
“Registered trade unions are legal persons. They may, through a unified representation that is proportional to their membership, enter into collective labour agreements that have a mandatory effect for all persons belonging to the categories referred to in the agreement.”
People’s Republic of China
For a typical example of the concept of legal person in a civil law jurisdiction, under the General Principles of Civil Law of the People’s Republic of China, Chapter III, Article 36., “A legal person shall be an organization that has capacity for civil rights and capacity for civil conduct and independently enjoys civil rights and assumes civil obligations in accordance with the law.” Note however that the term civil right means something altogether different in civil law jurisdictions than in common law jurisdictions.
In part based on the principle that legal persons are simply organizations of natural persons, and in part based on the history of statutory interpretation of the word “person”, the US Supreme Court has repeatedly held that certain constitutional rights protect legal persons (such as corporations and other organizations). Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad is sometimes cited for this finding because the court reporter’s comments included a statement the Chief Justice made before oral arguments began, telling the attorneys during pre-trial that “the court does not wish to hear argument on the question whether the provision in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which forbids a State to deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws, applies to these corporations. We are all of the opinion that it does.”
Later opinions interpreted these pre-argument comments as part of the legal decision. As a result, because of the First Amendment, Congress may not make a law restricting the free speech of a corporation, a political action group or dictating the coverage of a local newspaper, and because of the Due Process Clause, a state government may not take the property of a corporation without using due process of law and providing just compensation. These protections apply to all legal entities, not just corporations.
A prominent component of relevant case law is the Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which ruled unconstitutional certain restrictions on corporate campaign spending during elections.
- Elizabeth A. Martin (2003). Oxford Dictionary of Law (7th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0198607563.
- Smith, Bryant (January 1928). “Legal Personality”. Yale Law Journal 37 (3): 283–299. JSTOR 789740.
- Lewis A. Kornhauser and W. Bentley MacLeod (June 2010). “Contracts between Legal Persons”. National Bureau of Economic Research. Retrieved 7 June 2013.
- […] men in law and philosophy are natural persons. This might be taken to imply there are persons of another sort. And that is a fact. They are artificial persons or corporations […] Deiser, George F. (December 1908). “The Juristic Person. I”. University of Pennsylvania Law Review and American Law Register. 48 New Series (3): 131–142. JSTOR 3313312.
- Besides men or “natural persons,” law knows persons of another kind. In particular it knows the corporation, and for a multitude of purposes it treats the corporation very much as it treats the man. Like the man, the corporation is (forgive this compound adjective) a right-and-duty-bearing unit. Frederic William (1911). “Moral Personality And Legal Personality 1”. In H.A.L. Fisher. The Collected Papers of Frederic William Maitland. Cambridge University Press.
- The Juristic Person. I, George F. Deiser, University of Pennsylvania Law Review and American Law Register, Vol. 57, No. 3, Volume 48 New Series. (Dec., 1908), pp. 131-142.
- Frisch D. (2011). Commercial Law’s Complexity. George Mason Law Review.
- Williams v The Shipping Corporation of India (US District Court, Eastern District Virginia), 10 March 1980, 63 ILR 363
- John Dewey, “The Historic Background of Corporate Legal Personality,” Yale Law Journal, Vol. XXXV, April 1926, pages 655-673
- “Basic Law. Art. 19 Abs. 3 GG”. Retrieved 15 October 2014.
- “The Italian Constitution” (PDF). The official website of the Presidency of the Italian Republic.
- Gary J. Dernelle. “DIRECT FOREIGN INVESTMENT AND CONTRACTUAL RELATIONS IN THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA.” DePaul Business Law Journal, Spring/Summer 1994. (6 DePaul Bus. L.J. 331)
- See, for example, Noble v. Union River Logging
- First Nat. Bank of Boston v. Bellotti
- http:/origin.www.supremecourt.gov/docket/08-205.htm[dead link]