Characteristics of Soulless Persons: The Applicability of the Character Evidence Rule to Corporations

50 Pages Posted: 18 Aug 2006

See all articles by Susanna Kim Ripken

Susanna Kim Ripken

Chapman University, The Dale E. Fowler School of Law


The article discusses the nature of corporate personhood and the propriety of using certain types of evidence to prove corporate misconduct. Under Federal Rule of Evidence 404, the character evidence rule, evidence of a person's bad character generally is not admissible to prove that a person acted in conformity with that character on a particular occasion. Although the rule serves to protect individuals in both criminal and civil cases, no consensus exists as to whether the character evidence rule should apply with equal force to corporations. This article argues that the ban on character evidence should not be extended to corporations.

The resolution of the issue requires an understanding of the extent to which a corporation constitutes a "person" with the capacity to possess an identifiable "character." Drawing upon philosophical and psychological conceptions of personhood, personality, and character, this article suggests that corporations not only meet the conditions of legal, moral, and actual personhood, but also have the ability to develop organizational character. Corporate character is separate and apart from the character of the corporations' individual members and reflects the internal operating system of the corporate organization. Nonetheless, the rationales that support the character evidence rule, especially Kantian conceptions of human autonomy, should not be extended to corporate entities. This article examines the practical implications of excluding corporations from the protections afforded individuals under the character evidence rule.

Keywords: corporations, corporate character, corporate culture, organizational behavior, character evidence, personhood, federal rule of evidence 404, human autonomy, Kant

JEL Classification: K1,K2,K20,K22,K3,K4,K41,K42,L21,L22,M14,D2,D21,D23

Suggested Citation

Ripken, Susanna Kim, Characteristics of Soulless Persons: The Applicability of the Character Evidence Rule to Corporations. University of Illinois Law Review, Vol. 2000, No. 3, pp. 763, 2000, Available at SSRN:

Susanna Kim Ripken (Contact Author)

Chapman University, The Dale E. Fowler School of Law ( email )

One University Drive
Orange, CA 92866-1099
United States

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