It has been 10 years since IJ announced that the cavalry was coming to Arizona in the form of the Institute for Justice’s first-ever state chapter—an institution that would be dedicated to vindicating the rights of Arizonans under the Arizona and federal constitutions. Ever since the chapter opened its doors in October 2001, it has been leading the fight for individual liberty in Arizona.
From the beginning, the Arizona Chapter litigated like it had something to prove, kicking things off with one of IJ’s most important victories: preventing the town of Mesa from using eminent domain to take Randy Bailey’s brake shop. That decision by Arizona’s Court of Appeals now protects the property of all Arizonans from local and state governments. To cap it off, Randy became a national media sensation after journalistic legend Mike Wallace interviewed him for a feature on CBS News’ 60 Minutes.
IJ-AZ followed that success with other quick victories striking down warrantless searches in Yuma and deregulating African hairbraiders. Essence Farmer, IJ-AZ’s successful hairbraiding client, is currently preparing to open her second braiding salon. If not for IJ-AZ’s help, Essence would have closed her doors back in 2003.
Equally impressive as these early wins is IJ-AZ’s uncanny ability to wipe bad laws off the books without even having to file a lawsuit, thus avoiding the courts entirely. Illustrating that the pen is often mightier than the gavel, Tim Keller, IJ-AZ’s executive director, has on eight different occasions used “litigation by letterhead”—that is, letters threatening bureaucrats with a lawsuit—to warn off the government and protect the rights of individuals. Considering the cost differential between one letter and a full-blown lawsuit, Tim is perhaps the most efficient lawyer at the Institute for Justice.
Tim has been fighting and winning path-breaking battles for every one of the chapter’s first 10 years, having started at IJ-AZ fresh off of a clerkship to become the chapter’s first staff attorney and then the chapter’s executive director. He has litigated cases in every one of IJ’s pillar areas and was involved in both of IJ’s victorious cases in the U.S. Supreme Court this past term, Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn and Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett. In addition to the letterhead victories, the chapter has litigated another 17 cases, winning more than 80 percent of them. Pretty impressive for an outfit that only takes cases where the odds and the law are stacked against it.
The first of IJ’s state chapters, Arizona has served as a cornerstone and a model for the Institute for Justice’s entire state chapters project, which now also boasts chapters in Florida, Minnesota, Texas and Washington. IJ-AZ will continue to lead the charge for liberty in Arizona for the next 10 years and beyond.
Deborah Simpson is IJ’s managing vice president.