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Speaker Series: Evelyn Atkinson and Paul Baumgardner, ABF Doctoral Fellows

  • When: September 12, 2018, 12–1:30 pm
  • Where: ABF Woods Conference Room, 750 N. Lake Shore Drive, 4th floor, Lakeside, Chicago, IL 60611

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ABF Incoming Doctoral Fellows Presentations

Slaves, Coolies, and Shareholders: Corporations Claim Equal Protection

My dissertation examines the development of the constitutional doctrine of corporate personhood in the nineteenth century.  I focus specifically on how popular movements for control of corporations gave rise to legal challenges through which federal courts gradually expanded corporations’ ability to claim constitutional rights.  In this presentation, I discuss my final chapter, which illustrates how corporations first claimed constitutional protection under the Fourteenth Amendment.   I argue that corporate lawyers successfully claimed Fourteenth Amendment protection for corporations by comparing corporate shareholders to persecuted minorities like Chinese immigrants and freedpeople.  This comparison was bolstered by the fact that corporations and Chinese immigrants were seen as intertwined evils in popular thought at the time, as evidenced by the debates of the California Constitutional Convention of 1879.  Federal judges of the Ninth Circuit adopted this analogy in order to craft an expansive interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment that prohibited special legislation targeting any specific group of people, be they “the despised laborer from China or the master of millions.”

Photo and Bio Courtesy of Evelyn Atkinson

Evelyn Atkinson is a doctoral candidate in History at the University of Chicago. Her dissertation, "American Frankenstein: Creating the Constitutional Corporate Person," traces the development of the constitutional law of corporate personhood in the nineteenth century United States. Combining legal history and social history, she illuminates how, from the early years of the new republic, farmers, merchants, and others who dealt with corporations in their daily lives attempted to enforce a vision of popular sovereignty that included public regulation of business corporations. These local movements for control of corporations, she reveals, resulted in the seminal legal cases that granted corporations constitutional rights, and shaped ongoing conflicts over the nature of democracy, economic justice, and the relationship of corporations to the state. Evelyn's scholarly publications have appeared in the Journal of Law & Social Inquiry, the Law and History Review, the Yale Journal of Law & Humanities, and the Harvard Journal of Law & Gender.  She is the recipient of the Fishel-Calhoun Article Prize from the Society for Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, as well as the Graduate Student Paper Competition Prize from the Journal of Law & Social Inquiry, for her article, "The Burden of Taking Care: Attractive Nuisance Lawsuits and the Safety First Movement.” She received her J.D. cum laude from Harvard Law School and her B.A. in Liberal Arts from Sarah Lawrence College.  

Rethinking the Rise of the Conservative Legal Movement: Professors, Activists, and the Legal Academy of the 1980s

By the early 1980s, conservative social movements within the United States had succeeded in a variety of important legal objectives, including the staffing of conservative lawyers within the U.S. Department of Justice and the assignment of right-leaning judges onto federal courts. However, other significant legal aims remained out of reach. Although law schools, legal thought, and well-positioned law professors were seen as essential for minting new conservative lawyers and advancing conservative legal gains into the future, conservatives had a difficult time penetrating the legal academy for much of the 1980s. My presentation traces conservatives’ difficult trajectory by examining the development of several leading schools of thought and intellectual movements operating within the American legal academy during the 1980s. Many mainstream law schools witnessed ongoing conflicts linked to these movements’ activities, as law professors, students, administrators, and those outside of the academy clashed over competing views of the professional values and goals that motivate (and ought to motivate) American legal education. I demonstrate how the ideological combat and institutional competitions between these movements both reflect and diverge from phenomena occurring within other legal institutions in the 1980s. 

Photo and Bio Courtesy of Paul Baumgardner

Paul Baumgardner is a doctoral candidate seeking a joint Ph.D. in the Department of Politics and the Humanities Council at Princeton University. His dissertation, “Rethinking the Rise of the Conservative Legal Movement: Professors, Activists, and the Legal Academy of the 1980s,” explores the important battles waged over American legal development operating around educational institutions during the 1980s. Relying on interviews, archival materials, and additional primary sources, the dissertation showcases the types of movement mobilizations and intellectual competitions that many top law schools witnessed during the 1980s. These phenomena relate to, but also differ in important ways from, the movement actors, agendas, and legal actions found within other American legal institutions in the period. Baumgardner’s additional research in American politics and law has appeared or is forthcoming in journals such as Law & Social Inquiry, Journal of Church and State, and Law and History Review. Paul recently co-authored a book about interdisciplinarity and university life, titled Keywords; For Further Consideration and Particularly Relevant to Academic Life (Princeton University Press, 2018). He has been a visiting fellow at the Rutgers Law School Institute for Law and Philosophy and a visiting scholar at the University of Buffalo Law School Baldy Center for Law & Social Policy. Paul holds a B.A. from Baylor University and a M.A. from Princeton University. 

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