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The Atlantic Legal Foundation

The Atlantic Legal Foundation
150 East 42nd Street
New York, NY 10017

Founded in 1976, under the auspices of the National Legal Center for the Public Interest, the Atlantic Legal Foundation (ALF) is a non-profit 501 (c)3 public interest law firm. Their mission is to advocate limited government, free enterprise, individual liberty and "sound science." They have six staff members and are located in New York City.

ALF does not appear to initiate lawsuits, but files numerous amicus briefs on issues including charter schools, affirmative action, and the use of scientific testimony in court. It is the latter issue that seems to occupy the most of ALF's recent efforts.

ALF has a science advisory board with 18 members, including 6 Nobel Laureates, most famous among them James Watson, the co-discoverer of DNA. Through its briefs, ALF succeeded in establishing (e.g. they have been cited in Supreme Court rulings) that a high standard should apply to the use of scientific experts. In three different Supreme Court cases (Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Joiner v. General Electric, and Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael) ALF convinced the high court that the judiciary should use high standards in determining which scientific evidence is admissible, succeeding in having plaintiff's scientific experts deemed unsuitable, and aided in the determination that trial judges should serve as "gatekeepers" for all experts, not merely scientific ones to ensure only relevant and reliable testimony.

The consequence of such rulings is that plaintiffs litigating against pharmaceutical companies, medical providers, or other corporate concerns will have a more difficult time establishing the scientific basis of their claims. Corporations which finance scientific experts, and the scientists who in many cases are implicated in these cases, would be unopposed in their "expert" claims in the courtroom. Having established this precedent on the federal level, Atlantic Legal Foundation is looking to further expand it at the state levels, where the majority of tort claims are pursued. The logical conclusion of such precedents would be a vast reduction in the size and frequency of judgments against corporations, thus making it profitable for them to disregard health and safety laws.

ALF's annual budget is around $500,000. Sources of funding include the Sarah Scaife Foundation ($90,000 in 2002 and around the same amount each year since 1988), the Castle Rock Foundation, the John M. Olin foundation, and the Phillip M. McKenna Foundation. In 2002 the ExxonMobil Foundation made a $5,000 donation; ExxonMobil has given at least $20,000 since 1998. Other corporate contributors include Alcoa, which gave ALF $10,000 almost every year since at least 1994. For details, visit Guidestar.

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