The Fight for Liberty Goes Nationwide

Fall 2002

The Fight for Liberty Goes Nationwide

...With a Little Help From Our Friends

by Clint Bolick

As the Institute for Justice celebrated its tenth anniversary last year, it also announced an exciting new initiative: state chapters.

IJ’s state chapters will add an important dimension to its federal constitutional litigation program by focusing on state constitutions to advance the Institute’s mission and to combat grassroots tyranny at its source. State constitutions often can provide a vital independent source of protection for individual liberties. They also provide additional tools, such as taxpayer standing and the initiative process.

State chapters also provide a chance for IJ to leverage its resources by working closely with members of the Human Action Network, both lawyers and policy activists.

IJ opened its first chapter a year ago in Phoenix. I volunteered for the hardship duty of moving to the beautiful Grand Canyon State to get our new chapter up and running. (My penance was having to take the Arizona bar exam, which fortunately I passed in July.) From Phoenix, my new duties encompass opening other state chapters around the nation.

So far in Arizona, we have challenged the state’s taxpayer-financed campaign subsidy program, challenged the City of Mesa’s expropriation of a family-owned brake shop to give to a hardware store that wants to expand, lifted the cloud of redevelopment from a thriving business district in Scottsdale, helped defend scholarship tax credits, and moved to intervene in a left-wing group’s lawsuit that seeks to funnel more taxpayer money to failing school districts.

Along the way we have worked closely with the Goldwater Institute and with volunteer lawyers, including HAN members. State chapters help us create symbiotic relationships with free-market policy organizations, which can give us ideas for lawsuits and provide research to bolster successful litigation. As for lawyers, IJ typically has used volunteers primarily as pro bono local counsel. But our state chapters provide an opportunity to refer entire cases to volunteers with IJ support on litigation, media and outreach. Over time, our goal is to have half our state chapter cases litigated by volunteer lawyers—and that makes the IJ-trained network of HAN attorneys more important than ever.

Last month, IJ’s Board of Directors approved new chapters in North Carolina, which we plan to open in Raleigh in January 2003, and Washington state, which we plan to open in Seattle in February. We are building on strong relationships with policy and legal organizations in both regions: the John Locke Foundation, the Pacific Legal Foundation, the Washington Policy Center, and Evergreen Freedom Foundation. We hope to work closely with HAN lawyers and policy activists in all three states.

Each chapter will have an executive director, a staff attorney and a support staffer, with support from our development, media, outreach and administration teams in our Washington, D.C., headquarters. With support from volunteers and allies in each state, we hope to leverage our limited state chapter resources. With luck and your help, the bureaucrats will think our state chapters are much bigger than they are!

IJ’s state chapters are a logical extension of our training and outreach programs. They give us the chance to use more volunteer talent—and to coordinate more closely with our sister organizations in the policy arena—than ever before.

Our goal is to emulate the success of the ACLU, whose scope and influence are (for better or worse) ubiquitous in American society. As of February 2003, IJ will have offices in five cities from coast to coast, transforming IJ from a national litigation center into a truly nationwide one. We remain focused on our core mission, with new tools at our disposal.

As we open our new state chapters and begin prospecting for more, the role of the Human Action Network is central. We look forward to your ideas, your energy and your partnership with IJ!

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