IJ Delivers Victories with Litigation by Letterhead

April 1, 2022

You don’t always have to file a lawsuit or pass a bill to bring change. Sometimes it just takes a good old-fashioned letter. At IJ, we like to send letters—which we affectionately call “nastygrams”—to government agencies to persuade them to stop abusing people’s rights . . . or else. Sent on IJ letterhead, and often accompanied by a press release, these letters are a time-efficient way to pressure government officials to do the right thing.

Just in the past few months, four of our sternly worded nastygrams have hit the mark. The city of Watertown, South Dakota, for instance, shut down Debra Gagne’s taxi company mere days before Christmas under an unfair permit scheme designed to protect existing taxi companies from competition. We sent the city a letter and alerted the local TV stations, which broadcast the story that night. The next day, the city allowed Debra to reopen permanently. Debra cried tears of happiness when we told her the good news.

Similarly, letters from IJ were all it took to persuade Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, and Norwalk, Connecticut, to lift their bans on selling homemade foods. A stern letter also stopped Kentucky’s perplexing and oddly specific ban on selling homemade bagels. Now cottage food producers can sell homemade foods to support their families in all three places.

Some government officials think they can get away with imposing arbitrary laws and crushing small businesses. They think twice when a letter from IJ lands on their desks. And if they don’t take heed, an IJ lawsuit may be next.

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