535.01 Corporations and American Democracy

Lawyers, scholars, business executives, and ordinary people have consistently asked a fundamental question: what is the role of the corporation in society? One way of answering this question is to look to corporate law and consider corporate purpose and its accompanying debates. Yet another way of answering this question involves debates around corporate personhood, especially as they arise in the context of corporate constitutional rights. At bottom, we are continually confronted with the same questions: What rights does the corporation have? How should government regulate the corporation and the power it wields? What is the role of the corporation in American democracy specifically? What does it mean for corporations to engage in social and political activism? Should they do so at all? This course will explore these questions from both a public law and private law perspective, including the ways in which corporate governance can respond to some of these questions. In doing so, this course will bridge a gap between constitutional law and corporate law by focusing on where the doctrines intersect. Students will analyze case law, scholarly literature, and selected popular and practitioner-focused readings in this space.

Throughout this course, there are two overarching questions that we will consider: (1) What should corporate decisionmakers be mindful of when it comes to corporate social and political activity, including the assertion of corporate constitutional rights? and (2) What does the assertion of corporate constitutional rights mean for American democracy and its survival?

The course will be taught as a two-hour weekly seminar, focused on class discussion of assigned readings. Students will complete five three-page response papers and one final fifteen page paper. For an additional credit, students may also fulfill their SRWP requirement with this seminar with my permission and receive an additional credit that counts as an independent study on a credit/no-credit basis.

Special Notes:


Spring 2024

Course Number Course Credits Evaluation Method Instructor
Course Credits
Reflective Writing
Research and/or analytical paper(s) option, 10-15 pages
Ashlee Paxton-Turner
Canvas site: https://canvas.duke.edu/courses/28364
Degree Requirements
Course Requirements - JD
Course Requirements - JD-LLM-LE
Course Areas of Practice