IJ’s First 30 Years

In 2021, the Institute for Justice marked its 30th anniversary litigating to limit the size and scope of government power and to ensure that all Americans have the right to control their own destinies as free and responsible members of society. IJ has litigated more than 300 cases, including 10 before the U.S. Supreme Court. Here is an overview of what we’ve achieved thanks to your support.

September 3, 1991

IJ opens with Chip Mellor, Clint Bolick, Scott Bullock, and two other staff members.

IJ files first lawsuit, Uqdah v. Board of Cosmetology, challenging D.C.’s oppressive cosmetology regime.

November 1, 1991
August 16, 1992

IJ hosts first annual Law Student Conference.

IJ breaks open Denver’s taxi monopoly; Freedom Cabs still serve the city.

June 2, 1994
June 30, 1996

IJ publishes first “city study” examining over-regulation of New York City businesses.

Syndicated columnist George F. Will first refers to IJ as “a merry band of libertarian litigators.”

August 3, 1997
June 10, 1998

Wisconsin Supreme Court upholds Milwaukee’s school choice program in IJ-litigated case.

IJ Clinic on Entrepreneurship opens at the University of Chicago Law School.

September 11, 1998
June 21, 1999

IJ represents online publishers; victory extends First Amendment protections to the internet.

IJ earns landmark Zelman Supreme Court victory; Cleveland’s school choice program is constitutional.

June 27, 2002
December 6, 2002

IJ economic liberty victory in Craigmiles breaks up Tennessee’s casket-selling cartel; first federal appellate decision since the New Deal striking down an occupational licensing law under the 14th Amendment.

IJ releases Public Power, Private Gain, which documents nationwide abuse of eminent domain; Mike Wallace features the report on 60 Minutes.

April 23, 2003
May 16, 2005

IJ’s Swedenburg U.S. Supreme Court victory strikes down laws forbidding direct interstate shipping of wine to consumers.

U.S. Supreme Court issues infamous Kelo ruling, gutting private property protections. Within one week, IJ launches “Hands Off My Home” Campaign to protect private property.

June 23, 2005
June 7, 2006

IJ launches Strategic Research department to enhance IJ litigation with impeccable research—a first of its kind in public interest law.

IJ launches the Center for Judicial Engagement, urging courts to strike down laws that exceed government’s limited powers.

January 24, 2011
June 27, 2011

U.S. Supreme Court declares matching funds provision of Arizona’s “Clean Elections” Act unconstitutional and cites IJ strategic research showing how matching funds chilled political speech.

IJ wins Flynn v. Holder in the 9th Circuit; compensation for most bone marrow donors allowed.

December 1, 2011
January 24, 2013

IJ protects the Motel Caswell from local and federal government efforts to take it through civil forfeiture.

IJ scores a victory for the monks of Saint Joseph Abbey; Louisiana had barred them from selling their caskets to compete with funeral homes.

March 20, 2013
March 26, 2013

IJ wins Meredith v. Daniels when the Indiana Supreme Court upholds the Choice Scholarship Program as constitutional.

IJ takes on structuring laws through which the government can take the entire bank accounts of innocent people; feds return everything they seized from IJ client.

January 15, 2015
June 26, 2015

In the landmark Patel ruling, the Texas Supreme Court strikes down arbitrary and excessive government-imposed requirements on eyebrow threaders represented by IJ.

In a major First Amendment victory for IJ, a federal court rules Kentucky’s Board of Examiners of Psychology can’t censor a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist.

September 30, 2015
January 1, 2016

After 25 years as IJ’s one and only president, Chip Mellor is elevated to IJ Board Chairman, succeeding Dave Kennedy, who had held that post since IJ’s founding. IJ’s very first employee—IJ Senior Attorney Scott Bullock—takes over as IJ’s new President & General Counsel.

The movie Little Pink House—based on IJ’s fight to save Susette Kelo’s home—hits the big screen.

March 19, 2018
February 27, 2018

IJ victory clears the way for Wisconsin home bakers to sell their goods to consumers.

IJ dismantles Philadelphia’s forfeiture machine; ensures due process and establishes $3 million compensation fund for victims of city’s forfeiture practices.

September 18, 2018
February 20, 2019

IJ earns landmark unanimous U.S. Supreme Court victory in Timbs; Court rules states cannot impose excessive fines.

IJ 4th Amendment Project Cover

IJ launches our Project on Immunity and Accountability to tackle qualified immunity and other unfounded doctrines that make it very difficult to hold government officers and agents accountable, even when they egregiously violate the Constitution.

January 2020
March 25, 2020

In midst of the pandemic, IJ Clinic on Entrepreneurship creates free website to help connect small businesses with consumers and provides important legal information for small businesses operating during the crisis.

IJ earns landmark Espinoza U.S. Supreme Court victory, which allows parents to select religiously affiliated schools and effectively strikes down the bigoted Blaine Amendments in state constitutions.

June 30, 2020
July 2, 2021

U.S. Supreme Court agrees to hear IJ’s Maine school choice case, which will be argued in the coming term.

For the 20th year in a row, IJ earns Charity Navigator’s top 4-star rating, which puts the Institute for Justice in the highest 1% of the more than 9,000 nonprofits ranked each year by Charity Navigator.

August 2, 2021
September 3, 2021

The Institute for Justice marks its 30th anniversary with a staff of 139, a budget of nearly $33 million, offices in Virginia, Florida, Illinois, Minnesota, Texas, Arizona and Washington state, and a clear mission-driven vision for its future to limit the size and scope of government power.