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  • Legal person
  • A “legal person” (also sometimes called “juridical person” or “juristic person”) is a legal entity through which the law allows a group of natural persons to act as if they were a single entity (composite individual) for certain legal purposes. In some jurisdictions, a single person also may have a separate legal personality other than her/his natural own.[1] (Common examples include heads of corporations, ecclesiastical offices, such as a bishop and his/her office, and certain statutory offices, such as a public environmental protection agency, or minister of trade.)

    Such a legal distinction does not mean that these corporations or offices are human beings, but only that the law allows such composite entities to act as persons for certain limited purposes, most commonly as parties to lawsuits and contracts, or owners of property. (This concept is distinct from and should not be confused with limited liability or the joint stock principle.[2])

    Certain basic rights, like freedom of expression, adequate housing, food security and due process of law, do not necessarily follow from legal personhood, but instead from natural personhood.

    A legal person is sometimes called an “artificial person” or “legal entity,” although the latter is sometimes understood also to include natural persons as well.

    The “legal person” concept is more central to Western—both common law and civil law—countries, but it is also found in virtually every legal system.[3]

    [1]    For example, under English law, this is referred to as a corporation sole. See Luigi Cerri, “Corporate Personhood and Economic Democracy,” Università di Siena, Dipartimento di Economia Politica; Université de Paris X, Ecole Doctorale “Economie, Organisation, Société,” at: http://www.econ-pol.unisi.it/econdem/Documenti/Luigi%20Cerri.doc.

    [2]     A joint stock company is financed with capital invested by the members or stockholders who receive transferable shares, or stock. It is under the control of certain selected managers called directors. Joint stock companies are a form of partnership in which each member, or stockholder, is financially responsible for the acts of the company. It is not a legal entity separate from its stockholders.

    [3]    George F. Deiser, “The Juristic Person,” University of Pennsylvania Law Review and American Law Register, Vol. 57, No. 3 [new series Vol. 48] (December 1908), pp. 131–42.

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