Longtime friends of IJ are used to our victories often being hard-fought. We spend years grinding out difficult legal victories in unfriendly terrain in order to achieve the kind of principled and far-ranging victories that our clients and supporters have come to expect.
But not everything works out that way. Sometimes we win so quickly and resoundingly that we never have a chance to tell you about it.
For example, this past spring, IJ attorneys Milad Emam and Bob McNamara heard about one of the largest abuses of eminent domain that IJ had ever encountered. Even though Tennessee passed eminent domain reform in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Kelo v. New London decision, the small city of East Ridge was proposing to declare nearly all of its downtown area “blighted”—a designation that would have given the city the power to use eminent domain to take some 2,500 homes and businesses for private development. Naturally, IJ swung into action. Milad and Bob flew into town to interview potential clients, organize affected property owners, and lay the groundwork for constitutional litigation.
Why did you never read about this fight? Because after media coverage of IJ’s visit, during which we helped property owners create a formal coalition to protect their rights, the City Council not only scrapped its blight plans but also actually voted to eliminate the government agency that had drawn up the plans in the first place. Saving 2,500 homes is not bad for a week’s work—but victories that quick rarely make it into these pages.
The same is true across IJ’s other mission areas: For every win you read about in Liberty & Law, there are more standing behind it—achievements important for our long-term vision but accomplished so efficiently they never turned into full-blown cases or all-out projects.
For every win you read about in Liberty & Law, there are more standing behind it—achievements important for our long-term vision but accomplished so efficiently they never turned into full-blown cases or all-out projects.
When we saw an opportunity earlier this year to help create a uniform and freedom-friendly set of rules for traditional street vendors in California, for instance, we jumped at it: IJ’s activism team ramped up the political pressure while our strategic research program cranked out a sophisticated analysis of the proposed rules’ impact in a fraction of the time it usually takes to create a report. The result for California was a new law that empowered literally thousands of entry-level entrepreneurs in the state.
Or consider Senior Attorney Jeff Rowes’ one-man campaign to eliminate an Idaho Falls ordinance restricting job opportunities for people with past criminal convictions. Jeff sent the city a detailed three-page analysis of the law, explaining why it was unconstitutional—and the officials immediately repealed it.
Meanwhile, the IJ Clinic on Entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago Law School helped client Haji Healing Salon move into its first brick-and-mortar location in 2018. That means the Clinic and its students took a business that started in their client’s living room and helped turn it into a real live storefront in less than a year.
As you can tell from the other articles in this issue, 2018 was a year filled with victories both big and small, slow and quick. But each of them matters—to us, to our clients, and to the future of freedom. We look forward to many more of them in 2019.