Attorney Scott Bullock Looks Back on 10 Years of Fighting for Liberty
By Scott Bullock
Working at a place like the Institute for Justice is the very reason why I went to law school. Of course, IJ did not exist at that time, but I was determined to make a career out of defending individual rights. I worked at the Cato Institute the summer after my first year of law school and then with Clint at another law firm he headed before co-founding IJ.
I was hooked.
IJ opened its doors the year I graduated from law school, and they haven’t been able to get rid of me since.
It’s been a wonderful, rewarding experience watching IJ grow from essentially Chip, Clint, myself, a few support staff and a couple of cases to the size and influence of the organization we now have in place.
Although IJ is located in Washington, we are not really of Washington. Our focus is primarily on vindicating the rights of ordinary citizens throughout the country. Defending property owners faced with abusive eminent domain actions has taken me from the Mississippi Delta to coastal Connecticut and back home to Pittsburgh. I’ve gone to such completely out-of-the-way places as Lebanon, Tennessee, to defend the economic liberties of a barber and back to Washington to challenge the federal government’s attempt to regulate the Internet and computer software.
All readers of Liberty & Law know about the Institute’s defense of entrepreneurs, but probably few know about the spirit of entrepreneurship IJ encourages in its own lawyers and staff. Early on, IJ lawyers are not only given significant responsibilities for their own cases, but they are also actively encouraged to seek out case opportunities. For example, I thought we should get involved in fighting civil forfeiture laws from a property rights perspective and immediately had the support of the rest of the staff. I think everyone at IJ has had a similar experience.
“IJ lawyers are not only given significant responsibilities for their own cases, but they are also actively encouraged to seek out case opportunities.”
IJ has also been particularly effective in spreading the word about the importance of individual liberty. And in this area, we started off small as well. Chip and Clint love to tease me about my first-ever quote, which appeared in Beef Magazine. (The reverse side of the article featured an advertisement for a de-worming pill for cattle.) Now we have national recognition as a leading voice defending constitutional rights against out-of-control governments.
The Institute is populated by individualists, but that does not stop us from having a great sense of team spirit and loyalty to one another and to the cause of freedom. We not only tolerate, but (for the most part) revel in each other’s differences and outright quirks. (And if anyone wants to hear my pretty dead-on accurate impressions of Chip and Clint, along with such libertarian luminaries as David Boaz, Roger Pilon and Richard Epstein, just ask!)
There is nothing else in the law I would rather do than what we do here. So for the next decade, I’m either going to be continuing to fight the good fight at IJ or do something completely outside of the law. But my saxophone playing must get much, much better before I venture down that path.
Scott Bullock is an Institute for Justice senior attorney.