My daughter hates waiting for surprises (she gets it this her father). My son—the same child who still can’t distinguish between webinars and live video conferences, which I wrote about in a previous Journal—loves riddles. Here’s a real life brain-teaser, along with the answer, to satisfy the assorted cravings of our freedom-loving partners:
Q: How many COVID lawsuits have been filed challenging constitutional rights?
I’ll tell you how I know. For the last six months, American Juris Link has been working to catalogue every complaint challenging emergency orders related to the pandemic. Read below to learn more. By the way, this week’s family favorite from the book of riddles: Where does the President keep his armies? In his sleevies.
— Carrie Ann Donnell, President & Founder of American Juris Link
Equipping Lawyers with Legal Research During the Emergency
Lawyers who litigate for liberty could have been suffocated by the sheer volume of constitutional lawsuits related to the pandemic. They also could have unknowingly duplicated legal research at allied law centers across the country. Anticipating that COVID lawsuits would be widely and urgently needed among our allies, American Juris Link partnered with Ballotpedia to catalogue every public interest case that challenged emergency orders related to the pandemic. Here are four of the top ways our partners have used our database:
Evaluate the merits of bringing constitutional challenges to mask ordinances;
Survey the landscape of cases that challenge bans on tenant evictions;
Add case cites to pending lawsuits that challenge Executive orders; and
Develop legislative recommendations for limiting state emergency powers.
A comprehensive, searchable database of COVID litigation will soon be published on Ballotpedia’s website. In the meantime, contact us for access to specific cases, trends, and analysis of COVID litigation.
Connecting Lawyers with Local Counsel to Support COVID Lawsuits
Constitutional lawyers have succeeded in rapidly drafting briefs when a governor’s emergency order threatens fundamental rights. However, a judge can’t read those briefs unless the lawyer is licensed to file them in court. There is rarely time for a constitutional lawyer to obtain a bar license for each new court where they want to file a brief. That’s why American Juris Link regularly helps them secure local counsel to file their legal documents. In the last few months, American Juris Link secured local counsel to support the COVID-related lawsuits below:
D.C. – NAACP v. DeVos is the third case in a series of lawsuits defending that federal funding in the CARES Act, which was authorized for schools in response to the pandemic, be fairly allocated to public and private schools and not disproportionately distributed to district schools. We secured local counsel for Libby Sobic at Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty. Libby filed the brief on behalf of 43 different school choice groups, including several recruited by American Juris Link.
Without local counsel, the court would decide these cases without the unique perspectives and sophisticated legal arguments of constitutional lawyers. With our deep network, American Juris Link swiftly secured local counsel for these COVID cases, ensuring that no deadline would pass without a judge considering arguments from lawyers who stand for freedom and the rule of law.
Fundamental Rights in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
Uniting Lawyers, Clients, and Supporters to Fight Quotas
Instead of viewing the sexes equally under the law, the State of California treats females differently from males. The State imposes women quotas on boards of directors for certain companies, perpetuating the myth that women cannot become leaders without an artificial advantage. Last year, when Anastasia Boden at Pacific Legal Foundation asked us for help finding the right client to file an equal protection lawsuit, we connected him with Creighton Meland, a shareholder at a company subject to the sex quota. This year, the district court dismissed their case on procedural grounds, but PLF appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court.
Circuit courts can be persuaded by a chorus of unified voices spoken through amicus briefs. Knowing this, Anastasia’s colleague Daniel Ortner called on us to help drive amicus briefs. We identified supporters like the Independent Women’s Law Center and Goldwater Institute, whose lawyers filed amicus briefs in PLF’s case.
We also urged The Philanthropy Roundtable to file a brief, drawing on their experience fighting sex quotas on nonprofit boards. However, the Roundtable needed a lawyer to represent them. We paired them with Tom McCarthy, a partner at a boutique law firm with remarkable experience. Tom filed an amicus brief on behalf of the Roundtable; the appeal is still pending.
Building Coalitions with Attorneys General to Protect Political Speech
Legal disclaimers for campaign ads must be short and simple enough to inform voters of information without being overly burdensome or irrelevant. Yet the disclaimers required in San Francisco, California took the breath away from Todd David, along with his right to political speech. Mr. David, who formed a committee Yes on Prop B, planned to run 15-second and 6- second video ads in favor of a ballot initiative to improve the city’s emergency response facilities. The city’s required disclosures would have added an enormous 28 seconds to the ads, rendering them unaffordable and Mr. David effectively speechless. The lengthy disclosures contained information that was irrelevant to the campaign and other information that was already publicly available. Legal Director Allen Dickerson at the Institute for Free Speech represents Mr. David’s committee in the Ninth Circuit Court.
Because circuit courts in ballot measure cases are influenced by the opinions of Attorneys General, who enforce campaign laws, Allen called American Juris Link to recruit an Attorney General in favor of political speech. We called our friend Oramel Skinner, Solicitor General for the State of Arizona. He filed a brief with Attorney General Mark Brnovich encouraging the court to eliminate San Francisco’s onerous disclaimer requirement. The court will hear arguments on Friday, September 18.
Vindicating Property Rights in the States Yet Again
Local governments across the U.S. can strip owners of the entire value of their home to satisfy relatively small and sometimes trivial tax debts. The Town of Bedford in New Hampshire seized a $300,000 property to cover a $90,000 lien owed by Richard Polonsky, who was recovering from a tumor on his spine when he missed his tax payment. In Michigan, Oakland County took a $24,500 home because of $8.41 in tax debt owed by Uri Rafaeli, a retired 83-year-old engineer.
With help from American Juris Link, lawyers like Christina Martin at Pacific Legal Foundation defend the rights of property owners in court. When Christina needed a local lawyer to help her file a brief last fall to support Mr. Polonsky, we connected her with an experienced litigator under the court’s tight deadline, which was right after Thanksgiving. As regular Journal readers already know, the New Hampshire Supreme Court agreed with Christina, and Mr. Polonsky’s property was returned. What readers might not have heard yet is Christina won again. She represented Mr. Rafaeli before the Michigan Supreme Court, which ruled he had the same right to property. The Polonsky case (cited by the Michigan court) proved to be a key precedent that helped persuade the justices.
After the U.S. Supreme Court decided the landmark case of Janus v. AFSCME, public-sector workers began exercising their right to stop labor unions from deducting fees from their paychecks. However, many unions accurately anticipated a threat to their money and power, and strained to lessen the blow. The labor union at Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department countered the threat by continuing to take fees from workers unless they completed a form within a specific 20-day period set by the union in October. With this cover, the union repeatedly denied the requests of officers like Melodie DePierro, who wanted to resign her union membership.
National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation offered to represent Officer DePierro in court but couldn’t file a lawsuit without help from a lawyer practicing in the Nevada district court. National Right to Work attorney A.J. Valencia called us for help, and we secured an ally in Las Vegas to serve as local counsel in the case. They filed the lawsuit in August.
American Juris Link’s President Receives Award from Business Journal
American Juris Link’s Founder and President Carrie Ann Donnell was honored as one of Phoenix Business Journal’s 40 Under 40. Get to know more about Carrie Ann’s future plans, first job, and walking pace in the Phoenix Business Journal.
American Juris Link Welcomes Elliot Engstrom
Elliot Engstrom joined American Juris Link as Legal Director. Elliot worked as a public interest lawyer at the Civitas Institute and law clerk at the Goldwater Institute. He spent several years working on the inside as a lawyer for Cleveland County, North Carolina, where he still lives with his wife and young children. Elliot helps liberty-minded lawyers secure local counsel, build partnerships, and share resources to advance freedom and the rule of law. Connect with him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Job Opportunities in Public Interest Law
Executive Director – Washington Legal Foundation (D.C.)
Legal Director – Institute for Free Speech (D.C. or Virtual)
Senior Litigation Counsel – Washington Legal Foundation (D.C.)
Policy Director – Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WI or Virtual in the midwest)
Research Analyst – Pacific Legal Foundation (VA, CA, FL, or Virtual)