Legal person

In law, a legal person is any person or 'thing' (less ambiguously, any legal entity)[1][2] that can do the things a human person is usually able to do in law – such as enter into contracts, sue and be sued, own property, and so on.[3][4][5] The reason for the term "legal person" is that some legal persons are not people: companies and corporations are "persons" legally speaking (they can legally do most of the things an ordinary person can do), but they are not people in a literal sense (human beings).

There are therefore two kinds of legal entities: human and non-human. In law, a human person is called a natural person (sometimes also a physical person), and a non-human person is called a juridical person (sometimes also a juridic, juristic, artificial, legal, or fictitious person, Latin: persona ficta).

Juridical persons are entities such as corporations, firms (in some jurisdictions), and many government agencies. They are treated in law as if they were persons.[4][6][7]

While natural persons acquire legal personality "naturally", simply by being born (or before that, in some jurisdictions), juridical persons must have legal personality conferred on them by some "unnatural", legal process, and it is for this reason that they are sometimes called "artificial" persons. In the most common case (incorporating a business), legal personality is usually acquired by registration with a government agency set up for the purpose. In other cases it may be by primary legislation: an example is the Charity Commission in the UK.[8] The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 16 advocates for the provision of legal identity for all, including birth registration by 2030 as part of the 2030 Agenda.[9]

As legal personality is a prerequisite to legal capacity (the ability of any legal person to amend – i.e. enter into, transfer, etc. – rights and obligations), it is a prerequisite for an international organization to be able to sign international treaties in its own name.

The term "legal person" can be ambiguous because it is often used as a synonym of terms that refer only to non-human legal entities, specifically in contradistinction to "natural person".[10][11]

  1. ^ "What is LEGAL ENTITY? definition of LEGAL ENTITY (Black's Law Dictionary)". The Law Dictionary. 19 October 2012.
  2. ^ Anonymous (19 August 2010). "Entity". LII / Legal Information Institute.
  3. ^ Lewis A. Kornhauser and W. Bentley MacLeod (June 2010). "Contracts between Legal Persons". National Bureau of Economic Research. doi:10.3386/w16049. S2CID 35849538. Retrieved 7 June 2013. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  4. ^ a b Elizabeth A. Martin (2003). Oxford Dictionary of Law (7th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0198607563.
  5. ^ Smith, Bryant (January 1928). "Legal Personality". Yale Law Journal. 37 (3): 283–299. doi:10.2307/789740. JSTOR 789740.
  6. ^ Deiser, George F. (December 1908). "The Juristic Person. I". University of Pennsylvania Law Review and American Law Register. 48 New Series (3): 131–142. doi:10.2307/3313312. JSTOR 3313312. [...] men in law and philosophy are natural persons. This might be taken to imply there are persons of another sort. And that is a fact. They are artificial persons or corporations [...]
  7. ^ Frederic William (1911). "Moral Personality and Legal Personality 1". In H.A.L. Fisher (ed.). The Collected Papers of Frederic William Maitland. Cambridge University Press. Besides men or "natural persons," law knows persons of another kind. In particular it knows the corporation, and for a multitude of purposes it treats the corporation very much as it treats the man. Like the man, the corporation is (forgive this compound adjective) a right-and-duty-bearing unit.
  8. ^ "Charities Act 2006, s. 6". 8 November 2006.
  9. ^ Doss, Eric. "Sustainable Development Goal 16". United Nations and the Rule of Law. Retrieved 2020-09-25.
  10. ^ "What is JURIDICAL PERSON? definition of JURIDICAL PERSON (Black's Law Dictionary)". The Law Dictionary. 19 October 2012.
  11. ^ Ash, Elliott T. (4 May 2010). "legal person". LII / Legal Information Institute.