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Institute for Justice

Institute for Justice
1717 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Suite 200
Washington, DC 20006-4615

The Institute for Justice (IJ) is a libertarian public interest law firm. Founded in 1991, it is a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation, with offices in Washington, DC. IJ has eight staff attorneys and eight other employees. Their primary interest is in protecting property rights, free speech rights, eliminating government regulation of industry and school choice (privatization) programs. Founding members Clint Bollick and William Mellor used to work for the Mountain States Legal Foundation.

In addition to litigation, IJ runs annual legal seminars during the summer for a few dozen law students to train them in IJ's brand of public interest law. They similarly organize Policy Activist Conferences which link free market advocates from all over the country and show them how public interest law tactics can advance their goals. The Institute for Justice also organizes attorneys for analogous training conferences. The alumni of these programs are linked together through the IJ's "Human Action Network," a nationwide "talent bank" that can be drawn upon to find local attorneys to litigate cases, appear as expert witnesses, assist in organizing public relations, and to "act as the Institute's eyes and ears at the grassroots." IJ has begun tapping this network to set up state chapters. The first state chapter was established in Arizona, the second in Washington state, in order to effectively mobilize local initiatives. Lastly, IJ supports a clinic at the University of Chicago Law School (Institute for Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship).

Many of IJ's clients are minorities, often African-Americans. For example, in Denver IJ represented four minority entrepreneurs who were unable to open up their own taxicab company due to government regulations. As a result of a concerted public relations campaign, the Colorado legislature deregulated the taxicab industry. The Institute for Justice engaged in similar campaigns in Cincinnati and Indianapolis to achieve deregulation, and hopes to gain similar results in Boston. Cornwell v. California Board of Barbering and Cosmetology is another example of this type of activity. In this case, IJ filed suit on behalf of Dr. JoAnne Cornwell, a woman who practiced traditional African hair braiding techniques. California laws required that the hairstylist spend nine months and several thousand dollars at a state-approved school of cosmetology before sitting for an exam to receive a license to practice. After the IJ won this case, California deregulated the hair braiding industry. Another type of case IJ frequently litigates is school choice. Often representing poor, minority parents, they fight to preserve school choice programs. The fact that they represent poor, minority clients so often is frequently trumpeted on the group's website, along with the implication that the reason minorities are so poor is due to government over-regulation, which prevents them from realizing self-reliance and entrepreneurship.

An example of the type of First Amendment issues the IJ gets involved in is a lawsuit that they have filed challenging Arizona's Clean Elections Law. This law places a $100 surcharge on lobbyists who represent for-profit groups and trade associations, and places a 10 percent surcharge on civil and criminal fines. The collected money is allocated to candidates for political office. In addition to imposing these fees, Arizona limited the amount of campaign funding that candidates could raise, and imposed stringent reporting requirements upon them. The Institute for Justice is challenging this law on the basis that the money collected for the surcharges go to political causes, and so the state is compelling people to engae in political speech against their will. Secondly, this would have a negative impact upon unions. If IJ wins a favorable precedent in this case, it could litigate further to prevent unions from spending member dues on political activities, or to at least make such activity far more difficult.

In May v. McNally, a case heard by the Arizona Supreme Court (VC-02-0215-PR), state legislator Steve May challenged the state's Clean Elections law, alleging that it infringed on his first amendment rights, because paying the surcharge on lobbyists would force him to support the campaigns of his opponents, a violation of his right "to not speak." The state Supreme Court decided that the surcharge on fines was lawful, deeming the cases cited by May's legal team, the Institute for Justice's Arizona Chapter, irrelevant. The IFJ and the Pacific Legal Foundation both filed amicus briefs in support of May. The cases cited by May's attorneys were Abood v. Detroit Board of Education (431 US 209), Keller v. State Bar of California (496 US 1) and United States v. United Foods (533 US 405).

In Abood the high court decided that unions cannot us agency shop fees of non-union members for any political purposes. The case was decided in 1977, and the Pacific Legal Foundation filed an amicus brief supporting Abood. Keller built on the precedent established in Abood. At issue in Keller was whether the California Association, a state agency, could spend its money on political activities. The Supreme Court ruled that the state could compel membership in the bar association, but as a result, it lacked the discretion that other state agencies had with regard to appropriate spending, and so could not spend membership dues for political purposes. The Washington Legal Foundation and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation filed amicus briefs in this case, which was decided in 1990.

In United States v. United Foods the issue was whether the government could compel United Foods to contribute to an advertising campaign promoting mushrooms, and funded by mushroom growers, when United Foods was opposed to the message that the government wanted to convey, because it desired to differentiate its mushrooms from other mushrooms. The Supreme Court decided in favor of United Foods. Both the Washington Legal Foundation and the Institute for Justice filed amicus briefs supporting United Foods. The case was decided in 2000.

IJ has also actively tried to overturn prevailing wage laws important to unions.

Funding: In 2002 the Institute for Justice received nearly $6 million in revenues, with $4.74 million in expenses and $6.8 million in assets. Major funders include the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation ($230,000 in 2002), Sarah Scaife Foundation ($100,000 in 2002), Castle Rock Foundation ($75,000 in 2002), John M. Olin Foundation ($175,000).

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