IJ Files Liberty-Friendly Amicus Briefs

April 1, 2000

April 2000

IJ Files Liberty-Friendly Amicus Briefs

The Institute for Justice strategically files amicus curiae (or “friend of the court”) briefs when we can offer the court a unique liberty-focused perspective that won’t otherwise be voiced. To that end, IJ recently filed two such briefs:

Protecting Freedom of Association The Institute for Justice filed an amicus curiae brief with the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberty (GLIL) in Boy Scouts of America v. James Dale. In this case, the Court will decide whether the Boy Scouts of America have a First Amendment right to exclude openly gay individuals from serving as Scoutmasters.

IJ’s brief supporting the presious freedom of association is unique because it is the only one filed on behalf of a gay organization in support of the Boy Scouts. While GLIL disagrees with the Boy Scouts’ anti-gay policy, it recognizes the vital importance of freedom of association to all Americans, including gay Americans.

Throughout this nation’s history, gay Americans have suffered when freedom of association has not been respected. In particular, government ats all levels have targeted gay political organizations, student associations and bars for harassment.

The brief therefore explains why a loss for the Boy Scouts would not be a victory for gay Americans. Diminished protection for the freedom of association, for instance, would endanger the ability of gay Americans to maintain exclusively gay organizations.

The Court will hear oral arguments in this case on April 26 and should issue its decision by the end of June.

Protecting Property Rights As more property owners resist government attempts to condemn their property for frivolous development projects, the Institute for Justice finds itself in demand for advice, assistance and amicus briefs. On March 1, we filed a brief with the Illinois Supreme Court in a case where the City of East St. Louis decided to condemn an auto shredding company and an environmentally sound landfill so that a nearby racetrack could have increased parking.

This condemnation was typical in many ways, but especially blatant in its abuse of the eminent domain power. The agency head received tickets and other perks from the track. The racetrack admitted that it could have built more parking on its own property but thought it would be cheaper to get someone else’s through eminent domain. And although it is often hard to prove that the condemnation is a source of financial benefit to the condemning agency, in this case, the agency actually charged a percentage fee of the value of the condemned property. From this single condemnation, the agency made nearly $60,000.

IJ’s brief demonstrates conclusively that this kind of fee arrangement violates due process and shows that the condemnation could not possibly have been for a “public use,” as required by the U.S. and Illinois constitutions.

Apparently, we struck a nerve, because the agency moved to strike our brief. We are confident that the Court will instead rebuff their efforts.

Subscribe to get Liberty & Law magazine direct to your mailbox!

Sign up to receive IJ's bimonthly magazine, Liberty & Law, along with breaking news updates about the Institute for Justice's fight to protect the rights of all Americans.