One of my favorite organizations is the Institute For Justice. It is an extremely successful organization that fights against the powers of the government in areas where there are little other organizations doing so. For example, there is the licensing fight – an especially discriminatory and arbitrary arm of the government that gets little attention – where the District of Columbia government threatened hairbraider Pamela Ferrell and her husband Talib-Din Uqdah with fines and jail time for practicing their craft without an unnecessary government license. The license would have been expensive, and worse, unnecessary, as the barbers license had no class for hair braiding – a predominantly African American practice. The Institute for Justice took the case and won! See more here.[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2tjTheDqQrw&feature=youtu.be]
Then there is the case of the El Paso governments war on taco trucks. Prodded by restaurants afraid of the competition, the El Paso government tried to ban taco trucks in the area. So the Institute for Justice stepped in.[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1YlXcORhUs&feature=player_embedded]
It also fought against the state of Arizona in its attempt to regulate eyebrow threading.[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MpsqEB5q7TA&feature=player_embedded]
Then there is the case of Atlanta’s war against street vendors.[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1XDLN14yDUg]
But a case that has hit close to home is the Institute for Justice’s recent victory against the city of National City on eminent domain. The Liberator today explains:
The Institute for Justice has obtained a victory in the long running dispute between National City and the Community Youth Athletic Center, which was designated as blighted in order to allow seizure of the gym by the city so that an influential developer can build luxury condos…National City took the route of declaring the area “blighted” by paying a private consultant to produce a report allegedly proving the blight. However, they then refused to provide the details of the report.“. . .the Court also held that when the government retains a private consultant to perform government functions—in this case, documenting the existence of alleged “blight” in National City—documents that the private consultant produces are public records subject to disclosure under the California Public Records Act. The Court also set a clear standard for what government agencies have to do in searching the records of their private consultants in response to a Public Records Act request.”
National City, for readers unfamiliar with the area, is one of San Diego’s low income neighborhood. The Barragan family have run the gym primarily as an alternative outlet for gangmembers who want a way out of the gang. The gym has been successful and the residents of National City hold the gym and the family in high regard (to read a moving article on how a 2006 tragedy to the Barragan family was dealt with by the community, see here). But this didn’t matter to the greedy politicians who cared more about money than doing whats right. Luckily for the Barragan family and the community of National City, the Institute for Justice stepped in.[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8pB_TmpSjJI]
The Institute for Justice doesn’t stop there, it also helps fight for school choice, property rights, and other cases involving economic liberty.There are three things that make the Institute for Justice unique: first, it helps those who need help the most. Mostly the poor and recent immigrants. How could a poor immigrant from Africa trying to make a living hair braiding have paid for a lawyer on her own? Or the taco truck owners? Or the Barragan family in the low income neighborhood of National City? Second, it targets laws that primarily harm the poor and minority. Third, it has a strong winning record. Few other organizations could say the same.