Who ever thought IJ could change the world with such a small group of lawyers? We did.
But thanks to the Institute’s Human Action Network—the graduates of our training programs for law students, undergrads and practicing attorneys—we don’t have to do it alone. Our success in the past year and cases fought in the U.S. Supreme Court have been born from a partnership with our many friends in the freedom movement and IJ’s active pro bono network.
From the outset, we believed that equipping others with the tools to practice IJ-style public interest law was essential to securing the transformation of American jurisprudence. That’s why in the summer of 1992 we convened our first summer law student conference at Georgetown University, a tradition that continues today.
Every year since then a new class of advocates for liberty has graduated from our seminars and become part of our Human Action Network. And every year we have been inspired by the passion and talent of our students. As one journalist who studied our model noted years ago, “With money, media contacts, a heartfelt ideology and long-term strategy, [IJ is] poised to remain in the spotlight. . . . And they are building their army. They currently conduct an annual training session for . . . law students and lawyers on their litigation and public relations tactics.”
Just a few summers later, our “army” of HAN members now tops 700 and is increasing every year.
Many HAN members have already achieved extraordinary professional success as lawyers, professors, law clerks, and, yes, even in government. A growing number are making time to bring IJ-style lawsuits, help with IJ’s cases, and write articles and organize events furthering IJ’s mission.
From Robin Brooks-Rigolosi’s recent victory for free speech in New York, Michael D. Dean’s work defending 4th Amendment rights in Wisconsin, and Heath Weisberg’s battle against eminent domain abuse in New York City to the many HAN members (see sidebar) who have helped with amicus briefs, legal research, and grassroots support, their efforts demonstrate that talent plus a passion for liberty—properly channeled—can make a real impact.
That’s exactly what we envisioned 13 years ago when we launched the Institute for Justice, and it is even more true today as we embark on a year of U.S. and state supreme court battles, new cases and the continued fight for freedom.
To all our fellow litigators for liberty, in our HAN network and beyond, we offer a sincere thank you and look forward to many more battles fought together.
Chip Mellor is IJ’s president and general counsel.