Going to the Head of the Class

Being IJ means always being ready to take up the fight for liberty in a new way. One new approach in our property rights pillar is class action lawsuits. Class action lawsuits might have a reputation for creating windfalls for attorneys while producing trivial results for the plaintiff class members, but, in our hands, the class action approach allows us to directly defend the rights of as many people as possible in a single lawsuit. Class actions come in especially handy when the government is committing the same basic constitutional violation against hundreds or even thousands of people.

In our Philadelphia forfeiture case, for example, the constitutional problem is the city’s routine use of forfeiture against thousands of its citizens. Similarly, in Pagedale, Missouri, the problem is the town’s routine use of petty fines and fees as a source of revenue. And, in our latest case in New York, the city is threatening to evict innocent businesses to “punish” them for housing illegal markets—ones that the police had manufactured.

By bringing such cases as class actions, we can directly represent not only our clients, but also the countless others affected by the unconstitutional law. In doing so, we can obtain rulings that immediately require the government to stop unconstitutional practices against everyone, not just our clients.

Class actions serve another purpose. They prevent the government from easily giving up before we have a chance to bring our case before a judge. In our Philadelphia forfeiture case, for example, the city wrongfully took our clients’ home, and then, when confronted with IJ’s representation of an otherwise defenseless family, gave the home back. If we had not brought this case as a class action, the case would have been over and Philadelphia could have carried on with its unconstitutional policies against everyone else without fear of judicial review. But by bringing all forfeiture victims in Philadelphia into the suit through the class action procedure, we are making sure that Philadelphia will have to answer for its outrageous use of forfeiture.

We do not undertake class actions lightly. They are resource intensive, and IJ attorneys and paralegals have had to learn unfamiliar and complex areas of procedural law. But we are dedicated to doing everything we can to safeguard liberty, so when we discovered property rights violations that required class action lawsuits, we became class action lawyers.

Our new work in this area illustrates how IJ will always rise to whatever challenges government poses to our core freedoms. And not only will we win for our clients and everyone whose rights are at stake, we will ensure that future generations are given the same protections.

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