Erica Smith Ewing serves as a senior attorney with the Institute for Justice. She joined the Institute in August 2011 and her work focuses on economic liberty, educational choice, free speech, and property rights.
Erica’s economic liberty work includes fighting for “food freedom,” which is the right of people to buy and sell the food of their choice. Erica has special expertise in cottage food laws, which allow people to sell food made in their home kitchen instead of paying tens of thousands of dollars to rent commercial kitchen space and apply for burdensome commercial food licenses.Erica successfully sued Wisconsin, New Jersey, North Dakota, and Minnesota to protect the rights of cottage food producers. Erica also advises legislatures nationwide on cottage food reform and has helped several states improve their laws, including Kentucky, Maryland, Nebraska, New Mexico, West Virginia, and Wyoming. Erica also successfully sued in Washington to lift local restrictions on using “little free pantries” to feed the homeless. Erica’s food freedom work has been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, CBS This Morning, NPR’s Morning Edition and in the New York Times and Bon Appétit.
Erica’s economic liberty work also fights unfair employment barriers for those with a criminal record. For instance, Erica recently challenged Pennsylvania’s requirement that would-be cosmetologists prove that they have “good moral character” before they can get a license to work. The court struck the law down as a violation of equal protection.
Erica protects the right of families to choose the education that best meets their children’s needs. Most recently, Erica and her colleague Dick Komer were lead counsel in the U.S. Supreme Court case, Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, where the Court held that the government violates the Free Exercise Clause when it excludes religious schools and the families who want to attend them from a school choice program. Erica was also lead counsel in Asociación de Maestros v. Departamento de Educación, where she successfully defended the constitutionality of Puerto Rico’s school voucher program at the territory’s supreme court. Likewise, Erica helped protect Georgia and New Hampshire’s tax-credit scholarship programs before each state’s supreme court.
Erica’s free speech work focuses on protecting commercial signs, political protest signs, and murals. She has successfully defended a family’s right to use signs to advertise its gym, a cowboy bar’s right to advertise using a mural,a video game store’s right to advertise using a 9-foot inflatable Mario, and a veteran-owned business’ right to protest the illegal taking of its land.
Before joining IJ in 2011, Erica served as a law clerk for the Honorable Terrence Boyle of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. Erica received her law degree cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 2010. Erica received her undergraduate degree summa cum laude from Stony Brook University’s Honors College in 2007. Erica is originally from Bay Shore, NY and she is married to Scott Ewing.