Erica Smith Ewing

Senior Attorney

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 MorningCBS 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 gyma 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.

More recently, Erica has been focusing on protecting property rights, and has brought several lawsuits against burdensome local ordinances and zoning codes. All too often, local laws arbitrarily restrict people from having home businesses or even businesses in commercial zones.  These local laws can even prevent people from living in private homes on their own property.  Erica has a special interest in fighting for people’s right to live in small or tiny homes on private land.  Her most recent lawsuits on these issues are still pending.

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.

Erica Smith's Cases

Other Property Rights Abuses | Private Property

Georgia Nonprofit Fights City’s Ban on Small Homes

Tiny House Hand Up is a nonprofit that builds affordable tiny homes for people in Calhoun, Georgia. But the city of Calhoun’s unconstitutional ban on building tiny homes has prevented THHU from helping people in…

Economic Liberty | Food Freedom

North Dakota Food Freedom

Five North Dakotans teamed up with IJ to sue the Department of Health for illegally passing regulations on selling homemade baked goods. Now, North Dakota is again one of the best states in the country…

Cosmetology | Economic Liberty | Fresh Start | Occupational Licensing

Law Denies Women Right to Work Because of Irrelevant Criminal Convictions

A Pennsylvania law prevented Amanda and Courtney from earning an honest living because of unrelated criminal records. After IJ stepped in to defend their rights, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court ruled this law was unconstitutional.

Educational Choice | Publicly Funded Scholarships

Puerto Rico School Choice

In March 2018, the Puerto Rican legislature enacted the Free School Selection Program, which gives needy families scholarships so that they can send their children to the school of their choice. A teachers’ union immediately…

Commercial Speech | First Amendment | Sign Codes

Video game store sues to protect its inflatable Mario sign

The town of Orange Park, Florida banned Scott Fisher from putting an inflatable blow-up of the video game character Mario in front of his video game store. IJ and Scott challenged the town’s law that…

Cosmetology | Economic Liberty | Hair Braiding | Occupational Licensing

Untangling Entrepreneurs from Arkansas' African Braiding Laws

Hair braiding is a simple and safe practice that the government has no business regulating. But in Arkansas, braiders may not sell their services unless they complete 1,500 hours of government-mandated cosmetology training, not one…

Educational Choice | Tax Credit Scholarships

Georgia School Choice

Georgia’s school choice program gives thousands of parents an opportunity to find a school that best fits their children’s needs without using a single cent of state funds.

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Erica Smith's Amicus Briefs

Erica Smith's News, Articles & Publications

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