Seizing A Choice Challenge
By Clint Bolick
So much has changed over the 13 years since Chip, Scott Bullock and I opened the doors of the Institute for Justice. From a staff of three, IJ now encompasses a staff of more than three dozen, operating in four offices from coast to coast.
And yet, the organization is still the same in crucial respects. My colleagues and I still possess the giddy optimism that anything is possible—optimism borne out of experience. IJ still exhibits an espirit de corps that surpasses any other organization I have ever seen. And just as often as you can see the midnight oil burning in IJ’s offices as we toil for liberty, so too you can hear the infectious laughter that reverberates in its walls.
It took eight years for the dream that Chip and I first sketched in the backyard of his Denver home in 1983 to become a reality. Since we opened our doors in September 1991, there hasn’t been a day that I didn’t look forward to coming to work. This place is special. Whether it’s the crackling intensity of litigation, interacting with our heroic clients, brainstorming over future case ideas, or even being on the receiving end of John Kramer’s pranks—working at IJ is a constant adrenaline rush.
To put it mildly, it takes a lot to tear me away from that. Suing bureaucrats is in my blood. In my first year of law school, I sued the president of the university for abusing taxpayer funds. Two years later, I sued the City of Davis for its $35 campaign contribution limit (shades of our Arizona Clean Elections Act lawsuit two decades later). It got even more fun once I had some idea of what I was doing. I’ll always be grateful to Chip for glimpsing something that induced him to take a chance on hiring me out of law school.
But even before I developed a love for taking on government, my first love was education. I always had planned to be a schoolteacher. It was my eye-opening experiences interning in inner-city schools and student teaching that made me realize our socialized, politicized, bureaucratized educational system is a shambles, and—sad commentary on our state of affairs—that I might be able to do more for education in the courtroom than in the classroom.
And so at IJ, we threw ourselves into the cause of school choice. To say “mission accomplished” would be a gross exaggeration. But after 12 years and 17 lawsuits, we helped produce the legal foundation from which to make educational freedom a reality.
The window of opportunity for school choice is now open, and the need among millions of schoolchildren is urgent. And so, in April I will join a new national advocacy organization, the School Choice Alliance (SCA), as president and general counsel. SCA will aggressively promote choice programs nationwide, seeking to expand the realm of the possible and take advantage of opportunities wherever they exist.
Happily, I will remain affiliated with IJ as strategic litigation counsel. We will be partners in the quest for school choice. And I will take to the School Choice Alliance the huge part of my being that was forged at IJ.
Later this year, the Hoover Institution will publish my new book, Leviathan: The Growth of Local Government and the Erosion of Liberty. Many of the stories it tells are of cases litigated by IJ. Though it wasn’t planned that way, I hope it will be a fitting send-off and expression of deep gratitude for the chance to be a part of this remarkable organization.
To my IJ colleagues, our allies and supporters: thank you for making the last dozen years possible. Something tells me we’ve only glimpsed IJ’s boundless potential.
I will miss you tremendously. But I won’t be far away.
Clint Bolick is IJ’s co-founder and its strategic litigation counsel.