William H. Mellor


President and General Counsel

Jump to

William H. (Chip) Mellor serves as President and General Counsel of the Institute for Justice, which he co-founded in 1991. He litigates cutting-edge constitutional cases nationwide protecting economic liberty, property rights, school choice, and the First Amendment. IJ is headquartered in Arlington, Va., and has offices in Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Minnesota, Texas, and Washington state. IJ pursues strategic public interest litigation that combines courtroom advocacy with award-winning media relations, activism, and strategic research to secure constitutional protection for individual rights.

Under Mellor’s leadership, the Institute for Justice has litigated five U.S. Supreme Court cases, winning all but one: In Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, the Institute for Justice successfully defended Cleveland’s school choice program from a lawsuit brought by the teachers’ unions and other school choice opponents to establish the constitutionality of school vouchers. In Granholm v. Heald, the Supreme Court struck down New York’s ban on interstate wine sales, allowing small wineries and consumers represented by IJ to successfully challenge a government-imposed wholesale wine and liquor monopoly. In Kelo v. City of New London, the Supreme Court ruled against the Institute in a controversial 5-4 decision that held private property can be taken for private development. IJ mobilized unprecedented public outrage over the decision to secure legislative reforms or state supreme court decisions in 46 states that strengthened protection for property rights. In Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn, the Supreme Court dismissed an Establishment Clause challenge to Arizona’s scholarship tax credit program because the Court recognized that individuals who donate to private, nonprofit scholarship-granting organizations spend their own money—not state funds. The Institute’s latest high court victory came in June 2011 in Arizona Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett, where the Court struck down a key provision of Arizona’s system of government-funded campaigns, which showered money on campaigns that took government funding when privately financed and independent speakers opposing them spoke more than the government wanted.

Mellor co-authored with the Cato Institute’s Bob Levy The Dirty Dozen: How Twelve Supreme Court Cases Radically Expanded Government and Eroded Freedom, which examines 12 Supreme Court cases that effectively amended the Constitution and profoundly reshaped the role of government in America. In The Dirty Dozen, Mellor and Levy argue for judicial engagement and for a Supreme Court that will enforce what the Constitution actually says about civil liberties, property rights, and many other controversial issues.

Mellor personally litigated lawsuits that broke open Denver’s 50-year-old taxi monopoly and ended the funeral industry’s monopoly on casket sales in Tennessee, achieving the first federal appellate court victory for economic liberty under the 14th Amendment since the New Deal. He launched the Institute for Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago in 1998 and IJ’s Center for Judicial Engagement in 2011.

Mellor’s regular “Constitutional Crossroads” column is carried on Forbes.com. His work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The New York Times, USA TODAY, Financial Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Boston Globe, New York Post, National Law Journal, Reason, National Review, Investor’s Business Daily, and all the major television and radio networks. In his Fox Business show Stossel, John Stossel named Mellor a “Champion of Freedom” in a 2012 broadcast.

Prior to founding IJ, Mellor served as president of the Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy, a nationally recognized “think tank” located in San Francisco. Under his leadership, the Institute commissioned and published path-breaking books on civil rights, property rights, and technology and the First Amendment that formed the Institute for Justice’s long-term, strategic litigation blueprint.
Mellor also served in the Reagan Administration as Deputy General Counsel for Legislation and Regulations in the Department of Energy, and from 1979 to 1983, he practiced public interest law with Mountain States Legal Foundation in Denver. Mellor received his J.D. from the University of Denver School of Law in 1977. He graduated from Ohio State University in 1973.

Mellor sits on the board of directors for the Donors Capital Fund, and the Kern Family Foundation. He is a member of the Mont Pelerin Society and a 2012 recipient of the Bradley Prize.

Past Cases

In the News

Research and Reports

  • May 1, 2008    |    Legal and Policy Studies

    The Dirty Dozen

    How Twelve Supreme Court Cases Radically Expanded Government and Eroded Freedom

    Ever wonder how our nation changed from a country with a Constitution that limited government power to a land where the Constitution is interpreted to limit the rights of the citizenry? And what can be done to restore the founding vision for a free and prosperous nation? A new book called The Dirty Dozen: How…

  • January 1, 1997    |    Studies on Barriers to Entrepreneurship

    This report describes licensing and permitting laws and related regulations affecting entry-level entrepreneurship in New York City.

Liberty and Law

JOIN THE FIGHT!   Sign up for newsletters: