IJ Conference Alumni Court Justice
IJ Conference Alumni Court Justice
By Maureen Blum
People are often surprised when they find out that non-lawyers make up a large portion of IJ's Human Action Network (HAN). Most assume IJ's nationwide network of activists is comprised exclusively of legal eagles litigating for individual liberty in the courtroom. Other HAN members who are not attorneys, however, often set the terms of the debate on policy issues in the court of public opinion and play vital roles on any litigation team.
As part of its training program, IJ conducts conferences on the strategic tactics of public interest litigation for public policy activists, thereby encouraging policy groups to champion vital legal issues that complement their own liberty-centered missions. This type of advocacy takes many forms. HAN member Jeff Flake, who was formerly the executive director of the Goldwater Institute, served as a plaintiff in IJ's successful Arizona tax credit litigation. IJ-trained Bob Williams and his Evergreen Freedom Foundation continue their litigation with an outside counsel against the Washington Education Association. And dozens of HAN members continue writing articles, issuing policy papers, or conducting studies that complement freedom-focused litigation.
To date, IJ has conducted six Policy Activist Conferences and two issue conferences-one on school choice, one on racial preferences-where we have trained 145 non-lawyer activists.
IJ's fight for the economic liberty of independent limousine operators in Las Vegas provided a great opportunity to work with the Nevada Policy Research Institute (NPRI). NPRI issued a series of articles spotlighting how the State of Nevada unconstitutionally stifles private limousine competition. NPRI's first article, which IJ disseminated through its media kit to key media across the state, generated positive local coverage. Continuing the campaign, NPRI wrote a Nevada Journal article, "Limousine Lumps," which IJ distributed during a special session of the Nevada legislature. It provided great insight from a local perspective on the political misdeeds that created the problems for independent entrepreneurs while illustrating that the current cartel was excessively costly and inefficient. IJ continues to litigate against those monopolistic laws, for which NPRI helped set the tone in the opening debate.
This summer after IJ's San Diego hairbraiding victory, we learned of a potential case involving braiding in Kansas. It wasn't the typical African American hairbraiding case that we are known to litigate; rather, it involved a seasonal braiding booth at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival, which has been taking place for the past 23 years. The Kansas Board of Cosmetology claimed that hair was being illegally braided and braiders were illegally operating without a license. Because of limited resources, IJ couldn't take the case, yet thankfully the Renaissance braiders did find counsel: IJ discussed the idea with the Kansas Public Policy Institute, a HAN organization member, and worked with it to develop a policy paper, Splitting Hairs over Cosmetology Laws. KPPI introduced the braiders' plight to interested legislators and media and have generated favorable press for their organization and the braiders, sparking a dialogue that they controlled in the court of public opinion.
Most recently, as IJ was immersed in the defense of a federal lawsuit against Cleveland's school choice program, we needed to illustrate various key facts and highlight the program's benefits. The Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions, a HAN organization, stepped into the heat of the battle. They commissioned Professor Jay P. Greene to conduct empirical research on what we believed were false stereotypes perpetrated by our opponents. His research dispelled the myth that the schools accepting voucher students are homogeneous, elite private institutions. Rather, the data illustrates that the schools in the voucher program achieve a greater degree of economic diversity and are far more integrated than their public school counterparts. Following the research, Buckeye issued the report, Choice and Community: The Racial, Economic, and Religious Context of Parental Choice in Cleveland. Now our opponents have been silenced on this point and we can proceed to the constitutional merits of the case.
Maureen Blum is IJ's director of outreach programs. The Institute's Human Action Network is comprised of all graduates of IJ's training programs.
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