Economic liberty—the right to earn a living in the occupation of your choice without unnecessary government interference—is at the heart of the American Dream. Unfortunately, too many entrepreneurs find that this dream is under constant attack by unreasonable licensing, permitting and other requirements. Worse, these requirements are often enacted at the request of politically powerful groups for the unconstitutional purpose of limiting competition. The mission of IJ’s economic liberty practice is to remove these barriers by persuading state and federal judges to take entrepreneurs’ constitutional rights seriously.

  • IJ has filed well over 100 economic liberty cases since we opened our doors in 1991. We have won the vast majority of these cases, through either courtroom victories or legislative changes sparked by our lawsuits.
  • IJ has won landmark economic liberty cases in courtrooms throughout the nation. These include two historic wins at the U.S. Supreme Court, three major wins at state supreme courts, and dozens of other wins in appellate and trial courts around the country.
  • We have published three separate editions of IJ’s field-defining License to Work, a 50-state study of occupational licensing laws. We have also published numerous other crucial, oft-cited reports, covering everything from transportation to cottage food.
  • IJ’s legislative team has obtained meaningful reforms in most state legislatures to remove barriers to entrepreneurship, and IJ’s activism team has experienced similar success in convincing cities around the nation to enact economic liberty reforms.
  • Our communications team continues to shine a light on the stories of our hard-working clients who simply want to be allowed to compete. IJ routinely wins in the court of public opinion, including through earned media coverage, our op-eds in national publications, and our award-winning videos.

IJ’s ability to achieve previously unheard-of wins for small-business owners has attracted national attention. For example, in 2013, the Los Angeles Times pointed to “a growing trend of successful ‘economic liberty’ cases championed by the Institute for Justice.” These victories have vindicated the rights of thousands of different entrepreneurs in roles as varied as day-care providers, food truck owners and wine makers. Our clients have ranged from entrepreneurs trying to support their families to immigrants pursuing the American dream to people with criminal histories doing their best to get back on their feet. Regardless of the occupation and the person, the rule of law IJ seeks is the same.

Through strategic litigation, research and public advocacy, IJ demonstrates not only that economic liberty is morally and practically important but that the right to economic liberty has a genuine basis in the text, history and original public meaning of the U.S. Constitution and should be rigorously enforced in our nation’s courts.

In addition to IJ’s litigation efforts, our attorneys and strategic research team continue to publish a wide variety of reports on issues relating to economic liberty. These reports have measured the scope and scale of occupational licensing barriers to entrepreneurship, examined the justifications for local and state restrictions on entrepreneurship, and even documented how private interests manage to strategically use the power of government to squelch competition.  Academics and journalists across the country have cited these studies, helping to drive the public debate on the importance of economic liberty.

Through strategic litigation, research and public advocacy, IJ demonstrates not only that economic liberty is morally and practically important but that the right to economic liberty has a genuine basis in the text, history and original public meaning of the U.S. Constitution and state constitutions and should be rigorously enforced in our nation’s courts. The precedents we set through our work and the victories we achieve have already paved and will continue to pave the way for thousands of hard-working men and women to enter the workforce and provide for themselves and their families through honest enterprise.

Backgrounder

Economic Liberty Cases

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