Deep Dive Podcast


Hear about the cases, issues, and tactics advancing the fight for freedom—directly from the people on the front lines. Deep Dive with the Institute for Justice explores the legal theories, strategies, and methods IJ uses to bring about real world change, expanding individual liberty and ending abuses of government power. In each episode, host Melanie Hildreth talks with litigators, researchers, and activists to give listeners an in-depth, inside look at cutting-edge legal and policy issues—and how they affect the lives of ordinary Americans everywhere.


  • February 24, 2021

    Uses (and Misuses) of Amicus Briefs | (A Deep Dive Best Of)

    The Whys, Whens, and Hows of Being a Friend of the Court

    IJ Senior Attorneys Robert McNamara and Paul Sherman discuss amicus briefs: what they are, where they came from, and how IJ—and others—use them for maximum impact. For more Deep Dive episodes click here. Download this as an MP3.

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  • February 8, 2021

    Censorship, Dangerous Speech, and Monopolies

    Why a modern day Fairness Doctrine isn’t the solution, what Section 230 really does, and what the current debate has to do with free speech, property rights, and even shopping malls in the 1980s

    Big technology companies like Google, Twitter, and Facebook have come under scrutiny for the ways they are—and are not—controlling speech on their platforms. In today’s show, we talk with two IJ senior attorneys about some of the most common concerns people have about these companies, from free speech considerations to the ways they supposedly act…

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  • January 29, 2021

    Security Guards Assault Innocent Vet at the VA—and Claim Immunity

    An outrageous decision from the 5th Circuit threatens his rights—and those of everyone in three states

    What should have been a routine dental appointment at his local VA took a frightening turn for 70-year-old Jose Oliva when security guards tackled him and threw him to the ground, injuring and humiliating him. When he sought to hold them accountable for their outrageous behavior, he found that the law protected those who abused…

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  • January 12, 2021

    This Is What Happens When States Abolish Civil Forfeiture

    Research shows that policing for profit is a big problem—but it’s one that states can fix

    In 2015, New Mexico abolished a controversial practice known as civil forfeiture. Critics of the reform claimed it would be a gift to criminals, increasing crime and making it harder for police to do their jobs. In this episode, we talk about what things look like in New Mexico now, five years post-reform. We also…

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  • January 4, 2021

    Qualified Immunity: Are Government Officials Above the Law? (A Deep Dive Best Of)

    How Government Officials Can Blow Up Your House with Grenades—and Get Away With It by Claiming Immunity

    Over the past several months, a national spotlight has been on the doctrine of qualified immunity. Although much of the recent focus has been on police misconduct, immunity shields all governmental workers: from city council members to code inspectors to IRS agents to cops on the beat. That’s more than 20 million people employed by local, state,…

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  • December 28, 2020

    Property Rights and Homeless Shelters—What Has the Supreme Court Said?

    How one local government board is trying to stop people from helping the homeless—and what the law says about whether they can

    The Catherine H. Barber Memorial Homeless Shelter is the only option for people experiencing temporary homelessness in all of Wilkes County, North Carolina. It’s been serving the community there for more than 30 years, and its record is exemplary. But when the shelter tried to apply for a permit for a new building in an…

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  • December 22, 2020

    When Can the Government Lock You in Your House? (A Deep Dive Best Of)

    Revisiting “Quarantines and the Constitution”

    With new lockdowns happening all over the country and internationally, we want to revisit the government’s use of police power. Just what does your state have the power to do to protect public health and safety—and when and how can it exercise that power? (Episode originally aired on 04/03/20.) Click here for more Deep Dive…

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  • December 7, 2020

    City Officials Threw an Elderly Woman in Jail for Criticizing Them—Then Claimed Immunity

    How one Texas town retaliated against a citizen for trying to improve her community

    Special investigators, trumped up charges, and a night in jail. What happened to Sylvia Gonzalez is truly outrageous—and the local government’s reaction to her efforts to hold them accountable is even worse. In this episode, hear Sylvia’s story and the latest in her fight to ensure what happened to her doesn’t happen to anyone else.…

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  • November 13, 2020

    Can the Government Require Warning Labels for Veggie Burgers?

    Why the First Amendment should protect the way companies talk about their products

    In 2020, debates about veggie burgers and almond milk may sound like small potatoes. But controversies about how the government can regulate the way that companies talk about these foods and other products actually have important implications for free speech. In this episode of Deep Dive, we talk about what the debate is, and why…

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  • October 16, 2020

    Law for Non-Lawyers: Precedent

    Learn the Basics of Constitutional Law

    Most people think they know what “precedent” means in the law, but the concept is actually more complicated than most realize! Precedent is ancient, but when senators are grilling judicial nominees about precedent, are they actually using the concept in a much more modern way? In today’s episode, we discuss the kinds of cases that…

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  • September 29, 2020

    California Says These Firefighters Can’t Work—and the Reason Makes No Sense

    How a so-called collateral consequence law means California keeps experienced firefighters from earning a living fighting fires

    Wildfires are raging across the West, and California is grappling with a record-breaking season. Why, then, does the state tell qualified firefighters that they can’t earn a living fighting fires? The state’s irrational law barring people like IJ’s client Dario Gurrola from working isn’t the only one of its kind on the books. Learn more…

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  • September 8, 2020

    How Federal Agents Can Legally Take Your Money at the Airport

    The simple trick the feds use to take hundreds of millions of dollars from travelers

    Law enforcement agencies routinely seize currency from travelers at airports using civil forfeiture—a legal process that allows agencies to take and keep property without ever charging owners with a crime, let alone securing a conviction. In this episode, we discuss the real stories of victims of this abusive practice, the new IJ report—”Jetway Robbery?”—that shows just…

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  • August 20, 2020

    Did the Supreme Court Just Say States Have to Fund Religion?

    Unpacking the Court’s Espinoza ruling

    When it handed down Espinoza v. MT Dept. of Revenue this summer, the U.S. Supreme Court added one more facet to a year that has already upended the status quo when it comes to education. In this episode, we discuss where the Espinoza case came from, what the ruling means, and what it really does…

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  • August 13, 2020

    It’s Time to Fund Students, Not Systems

    Why the future of education is student-centered

    With an increasing number of parents desperately seeking educational alternatives for the upcoming school year, teachers’ unions and school districts are doubling down on the status quo. Worse, in many places they are moving to take away options that had been available to parents for years. It has never been more clear that the time…

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  • August 6, 2020

    Can the Government Put Cameras on Your Property Without a Warrant?

    Why the 4th Amendment Doesn’t Protect You Like You Think It Does

    Decades ago, the U.S. Supreme Court created the so-called Open Fields Doctrine. The result was an exception to 4th Amendment restrictions on the government’s ability to snoop on Americans. With a new case in Tennessee, IJ is pushing forward a strategy to restore those limits and protect basic property rights. Learn more about the state…

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  • July 13, 2020

    Court Strips Elderly Woman of Her Home and Ruins Her Life

    A tree falls on an elderly woman’s home—and a court run without due process or oversight takes everything from her

    After a tree fell on her house, IJ client Sarah Hohenberg’s journey through Memphis’ Environmental Court left her bankrupt, homeless, stripped of her possessions, and a fugitive from the law. We discuss how this happened—and how IJ’s new lawsuit aims to end this kind of abuse. Click here for additional Deep Dive episodes Download this…

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  • June 18, 2020

    Why Won’t the Supreme Court Hold Police Accountable?

    What’s next in the fight against qualified immunity

    This term the U.S. Supreme Court closely considered eight different petitions dealing with the controversial doctrine of qualified immunity. Ultimately, it denied them all. In this episode, we talk about what the Court’s decision means for IJ’s fight for police and government accountability—and where we go from here. Click here for additional Deep Dive episodes…

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  • May 21, 2020

    Can the Government Throw You Out of Work? (Not in Some States!)

    Revitalizing Legal Protections for the Right to Earn a Living

    With more Americans out of work than any time in recorded history, whether or not they will be able to earn a living is top of mind for many people. All too often, however, courts turn a blind eye to laws and rules that arbitrarily and unnecessarily shut people out of work. Recent state supreme…

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  • April 30, 2020

    Current Legal Challenges to COVID-19 Rules

    As the coronavirus pandemic upends life and work, we dig into the latest virus-related legal developments.

    We’ve all been watching the unprecedented situation with COVID-19 play out. At IJ, we have a particular interest in what’s happening in the law. This episode discusses the kinds of constitutional litigation we’re seeing, as well as legal avenues that can help make life better now and those that lend themselves to longer term strategic…

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  • April 3, 2020

    When Can the Government Lock You in Your House? Quarantines and the Constitution

    IJ Attorneys Discuss States’ Police Powers

    As we all deal with the many changes in day to day life brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, have you ever wondered just what the government has the power to do to protect public health and safety—and when and how can it exercise that power? In today’s episode, we discuss government police power and…

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  • March 6, 2020

    How Government Officials Can Blow Up Your House with Grenades—and Get Away With It by Claiming Immunity

    IJ’s new project on immunity and accountability, and why it is so important

    Listeners of the podcast who have also listened to IJ’s Short Circuit podcast are probably familiar with the concept of “qualified immunity.” In this episode, we talk about what the term means and how it came to be, as well as what it looks like in practice and why changes to immunity doctrines are essential…

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  • December 16, 2019

    Stories from IJ’s Front Lines

    A Conversation with IJ President Scott Bullock About the Cases and Clients that Helped Shape IJ

    Before he was IJ’s president, Scott Bullock spent 25 years as an IJ attorney. In this episode, he recounts his years in the trenches as a litigator, and the ways his cases and clients helped make him and IJ what they are today. For more Deep Dive episodes click here. Download this episode as an…

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  • November 22, 2019

    Zoning, Excessive Fines and Other Hot Issues in the Law

    And Why Judges Should Engage with Them

    We talk with the director of IJ’s Center for Judicial Engagement about a few of the issues the legal community is buzzing about at the moment. For more Deep Dive episodes click here. Download this episode as an MP3.

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  • November 14, 2019

    Law for Non-Lawyers – Due Process and Equal Protection

    Learn the Basics of Constitutional Law

    This discussion is a continuation of our foray into law for non-lawyers. Many people are familiar with the concepts of “due process” and “equal protection,” but where are they found in the Constitution, and what do they look like in practice? For more Deep Dive episodes click here. Download this as an MP3.

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  • October 29, 2019

    Law for Non-Lawyers – Standards of Review

    Why do property, economic, and other vital liberties get only “rational basis” review?

    What does it mean when courts apply “strict scrutiny” in their review of a law? Why do property, economic, and other vital liberties get only “rational basis” review? And why do these things matter to a constitutional litigator? Learn all this and more in today’s Deep Dive with the Institute for Justice. For more Deep…

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  • September 17, 2019

    Previewing IJ’s Next Case at the United States Supreme Court

    What Blaine Amendments Have To Do with Educational Choice

    Supreme Court Case on Montana school Choice

    Never heard the term “Blaine Amendments” before? The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to hear IJ’s educational choice case Ezpinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue is likely to change that. In today’s Deep Dive IJ Senior Attorney Tim Keller and IJ Attorney Erica Smith describe what Blaine Amendments are, why they matter to parents who simply…

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  • August 27, 2019

    District Works: Improving a City From the Ground Up

    How IJ is Changing the Landscape for Entrepreneurs in Washington, D.C.

    When IJ Associate Director of Activism Brooke Fallon started talking to entrepreneurs in Washington, D.C., about their experience doing business in the District, she got an earful about the burdens and challenges they face just trying to get off the ground. The result of those conversations was District Works, an IJ-led project and coalition of…

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  • August 27, 2019

    Uses (and Misuses) of Amicus Briefs

    The Whys, Whens, and Hows of Being a Friend of the Court

    IJ Senior Attorneys Robert McNamara and Paul Sherman discuss amicus briefs: what they are, where they came from, and how IJ—and others—use them for maximum impact.

    [Read more]

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