Heroic Women: Judge Debbie O'Dell-Seneca

Joan of Arc, the French martyr, military heroine and symbol of French nationalism was canonized as Saint Joan. In similar fashion, will Judge Debbie O'Dell-Seneca, of the Washington County Court of Common Pleas in Pennsylvania, be known as "Saint Debbie," for her historic ruling that corporations are not "persons." They cannot elevate their "private rights" above the rights of persons.

In uncommonly elegant language, Judge O'Dell-Seneca cites the 1776 Pennsylvania Constitution as she declares:

it is axiomatic that corporations, companies, and partnerships have no 'spiritual nature,' 'feelings,''intellect,' 'beliefs,' 'thoughts,''emotions,' or 'sensations,' because they do not exist in the manner that humankind exists... They cannot be 'let alone' by government, because businesses are but grapes, ripe upon the vine of the law, that the people of this Commonwealth raise, tend, and prune at their pleasure and need.

The judgement came after several Western Pennsylvania newspapers had gone to court to reveal the monies one family had received from Range Resources Corp. and other corporations included in a complaint to settle claims of water contamination caused by fracking. The amount: $750,000.

This ruling by O'Dell-Seneca, which caused a corporate settlement to a single family to become unsealed, will lend strength to 150 cases now being brought in eight other states around the U.S. Calling it "A New Civil Rights Movement," the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (celdf.org/) of Mercerberg, PA documents the victory.

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