Institute for Justice

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The Institute for Justice (IJ) is a libertarian public interest law firm registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit and founded in 1991.[1] The IJ names its four major issues as "private property, economic liberty, free speech and school choice." It claims to have litigated almost 200 cases with a 70 percent victory rate, including four victories out of five Supreme Court cases.[1]

As reported by the Detroit Metro Times, People for the American Way described IJ as one of the litigation groups that "have eagerly sought out potential court challenges in lower-income urban communities and loudly claim the mantle of supporters of education for the disadvantaged. In the past, Clint Bolick's Institute for Justice was better known for his vehement animosity towards virtually every proposed civil rights bill. He even opposed those bills supported by Presidents Nixon and Bush. For example, he branded the 1991 Civil Rights Act as a 'quota' bill, even after it was supported by President Bush and 90 percent of the Congress."[2]

IJ was cofounded by William "Chip" Mellor, previously president of the State Policy Network-member Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy[3] and 2012 recipient of the conservative Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation's Bradley Prize.[4] IJ's other co-founder, Clint Bolick, joined the Goldwater Institute in 2007.[5] John Blundell was also a founding director.[6]

IJ is currently an "associate" member of the State Policy Network.[7]

IJ has state chapters in Arizona, Florida, Minnesota, Texas, and Washington.[1]

Koch Wiki

The Koch brothers -- David and Charles -- are the right-wing billionaire co-owners of Koch Industries. As two of the richest people in the world, they are key funders of the right-wing infrastructure, including the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the State Policy Network (SPN). In SourceWatch, key articles on the Kochs include: Koch Brothers, Koch Industries, Americans for Prosperity, American Encore, and Freedom Partners.

Ties to the Koch Brothers

According to a statement on IJ's website, "Charles Koch provided the initial seed funding that made it possible to launch the Institute in 1991. David Koch has been a generous benefactor each year of IJ’s first decade."[8]

Since its founding, IJ has received donations from a number of groups with links to the Koch brothers, including a donation of $15,000 from the Charles G. Koch Foundation in 2001 and two donations of $250,000 each from the David H. Koch Foundation in 1999 and 2001. IJ also received $716,800 from DonorsTrust and the Donors Capital Fund between 2010 and 2012.

Other organizations with links to the Kochs have worked on cases with IJ, including the Cato Institute and the Goldwater Institute.

Ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council

In 2011, Institute for Justice Executive Director Lee McGrath introduced the "Asset Forfeiture Process and Private Property Protection Act" to the Public Safety and Elections Task Force meeting at the 2011 Annual Meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in New Orleans.[9]

About ALEC
ALEC is a corporate bill mill. It is not just a lobby or a front group; it is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, corporations hand state legislators their wishlists to benefit their bottom line. Corporations fund almost all of ALEC's operations. They pay for a seat on ALEC task forces where corporate lobbyists and special interest reps vote with elected officials to approve “model” bills. Learn more at the Center for Media and Democracy's, and check out breaking news on our site.


Jane Mayer in her book Dark Money describes how the Institute for Justice began,

"By 1990, enterprising conservative and libertarian activists were wearing a path to Wichita, where they, like (Rich) Fink before them, would pitch their proposals to Charles Koch in hopes of patronage. Typical was the experience in 1991 of two former Reagon administrations lawyers, Clint Bolick, a former aide to Clarence Thomas, and William "Chip" Mellor III, in search of seed money for a new kind of aggressive, right-wing public interest law firm that would litigate against government regulations in favor of "economic liberty." Mellor recalled thinking, "Who else would give us enough money to be serious?" According to Mellor, after lower-level aides initially turned down the proposal, Charles Koch himself committed $1.5 million on the spot, but with strings attached, keeping him in control. As Mellor recalled, "He said, 'Here's what I'm going to do. I'll give you up to $500,000 a year for three years, each year, but you have to come back each year and demonstrate that you've met these milestones that you've set out to accomplish and I will evaluate it on a yearly basis, and there's no guarantees.'" The legal group, the Institute for Justice, went on to bring numerous successful cases against government regulations, including campaign-finance laws, several of which reached the Supreme Court."[10]


IJ's website notes that in addition to litigation, it "has a legislative team working to make changes at the local and state government levels." IJ provides model legislation on its website in areas such as eminent domain, business regulation, and criminal forfeiture.[11]

The Milwaukee-based "A Job is a Right Campaign" wrote, "In pursuit of its goal of a radical laissez-faire capitalism, the Institute has initiated a number of lawsuits aimed at ending government regulation of business. While the lawsuits generally involve small businesses, often in communities of color, the goal is to set a legal precedent for the deregulation of big business in general."[2]

Documents Contained at the Anti-Environmental Archives
Documents written by or referencing this person or organization are contained in the Anti-Environmental Archive, launched by Greenpeace on Earth Day, 2015. The archive contains 3,500 documents, some 27,000 pages, covering 350 organizations and individuals. The current archive includes mainly documents collected in the late 1980s through the early 2000s by The Clearinghouse on Environmental Advocacy and Research (CLEAR), an organization that tracked the rise of the so called "Wise Use" movement in the 1990s during the Clinton presidency. Access the index to the Anti-Environmental Archives here.


Below are cases in which the Institute for Justice was involved that reached the U.S. Supreme Court.

Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus (2014)

On February 28, 2014, IJ filed an amicus brief with the Reason Foundation in the case Susan B. Anthony List et al. v. Steven Driehaus, et al.,[12] which dealt with an Ohio law that "makes it a criminal offense to make knowingly or reckless false statements about a candidate," according to Reuters.[13] Responding to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in January 2014 to hear the case, Paul Sherman, an attorney for IJ, told the Columbus Dispatch, "I think this is further evidence that the court sees serious problems with state laws that regulate electoral speech [...] They have recently shown a lot of hostility to these kinds of laws, and with very good reason."[14]

The Supreme Court unanimously reversed the judgement of two lower courts and remanded the case to the lower courts, in favor of the Susan B. Anthony List, on June 16, 2014.[15]

Arizona Free Enterprise Club Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett (2011)

IJ represented several challengers of the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Act of 1998, which provided for public financing of candidates who "agreed to limit their personal spending to $500, participate in at least one debate and return unspent money," according to the New York Times.[16] The case resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court striking down the Arizona law in a 5-4 vote, with the majority arguing that "the law violated the First Amendment rights of candidates who raise private money. Such candidates, the majority said, may be reluctant to spend money to speak if they know that it will give rise to counterspeech paid for by the government."[16]

Winn v. Garriott (2010)

Winn v. Garriott (also known as Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn) had challenged "an Arizona tax credit which provides tax credits for contributions to tuition organizations, which then use the contributions to provide scholarships for, among others, religious schools."[17]

In a 2011 decision, the US Supreme Court let the program stand, arguing that those challenging the law did not have standing to do so. The New York Times suggested that, "by closing the courthouse door to some kinds of suits that claim violations of the First Amendment’s ban on government establishment of religion, the court’s ruling in the case may be quite consequential."[18]

Kelo v. City of New London (2005)

As described by the Washington Post, the Supreme Court in Kelo v. City of New London ruled "that local governments may force property owners to sell out and make way for private economic development when officials decide it would benefit the public, even if the property is not blighted and the new project's success is not guaranteed."[19]

IJ represented the property owners in the case; IJ also helped produce a film about the case in 2014, "Little Pink House."[20]

Swedenburg v. Kelly (2005)

IJ's website states that it represented Virginia vintner Juanita Swedenburg, California vintner David Lucas, and "wine consumers" in a 2000 federal lawsuit "challenging the ban on direct interstate wine shipments in New York." According to IJ, the case dealt with "Internet commerce, free trade among the states, and regulations that hamper small businesses and the consumers they seek to serve."[21]

The case was consolidated with a similar case, Granholm v. Heald, by the Supreme Court, which held that both Michigan and New York bans on direct interstate wine sales did violate the Commerce Clause.[22]

Zelman v. Simmons-Harris (2002)

As described by the Berkley Center at Georgetown University, in the case Zellman v. Simmons-Harris, "the Supreme Court upheld an Ohio law that provided tuition assistance to low-income students living in Cincinnati who chose to attend private schools, and academic support for students whose parents chose to keep them in public schools," and held that the law did not violate the Establishment Clause even if tuition aid was used for a religious school.[23]

In a statement on its website, IJ describes the court's ruling in the case as having "removed the federal Constitution from the legal arsenal of teachers' unions and other school choice opponents and opened the door to full vindication of Brown's promise of equal educational opportunity for all."[24]

IJ joined a brief filed by the Cato Institute, along with the Goldwater Institute and the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice.[25]


IJ has highlighted the central role of the Koch brothers in its founding by presenting its "Cornerstone Award" to them:

"Charles Koch provided the initial seed funding that made it possible to launch the Institute in 1991. David Koch has been a generous benefactor each year of IJ’s first decade. We are deeply grateful for their support and the commitment to liberty it represents. Thank you, Charles and David!"[26]

Based on data collected by Media Matters,[27] other major funders of IJ include the Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation, the Sarah Mellon Scaife Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation.

In 2014, the most recent year for which data is available, the biggest donors to IJ were:[28]

In 2012, the biggest donors to IJ were:[29]


Senior Staff

As of June 2016:[30]

  • Scott G. Bullock, President and General Counsel
  • Steven Anderson, Executive Vice President
  • Dana Berliner, Senior Vice President and Litigation Director
  • Bert Gall, Senior Attorney
  • Deborah Simpson, Chief Operating Officer
  • William H. Mellor, Chairman and Founding General Counsel
  • John E. Kramer, Vice President for Communications
  • Beth Stevens, Vice President for Development
  • Melanie Hildreth, Vice President for External Relations
  • Paul Avelar, Senior Attorney
  • Michael Bindas, Senior Attorney
  • Tim Keller, Managing Attorney of the Institute for Justice Arizona Office
  • Dick Komer, Senior Attorney
  • William R. Maurer, Managing Attorney of the Institute for Justice Washington Office
  • Lee McGrath, Legislative Counsel and Managing Attorney of the Institute for Justice Minnesota Office
  • Robert McNamara, Senior Attorney
  • Matt Miller, Managing Attorney of the Institute for Justice Texas Office
  • Clark Neily, Senior Attorney
  • Justin Pearson, Managing Attorney of the Institute for Justice Florida Office
  • Jeff Rowes, Senior Attorney
  • Anthony Sanders, Senior Attorney
  • Paul Sherman, Senior Attorney
  • additional staff and attorneys listed at

Former Staff

  • Scott G. Bullock, Senior Attorney
  • Brian Montgomery, Director of Finance & Administration
  • Clint Bolick, Vice President & National Director of State Chapters

Board of Directors

As of June 2016:[31]

  • Chip Mellor (chairman): Chairman and Founding General Counsel, Institute for Justice
  • Scott G. Bullock: President and General Counsel, Institute for Justice
  • Arthur Dantchik: Managing Director, Susquehanna Investment Group
  • Bob Gelfond: CEO and Founder, MagiQ Technologies, Inc.
  • David Kennedy: President Emeritus, Earhart Foundation
  • Kenneth N. Levy: Mountain Lakes, NJ
  • Robert A. Levy: Chairman, Cato Institute
  • Jim Lintott: Principal, Freedom Management Group LLC
  • Stephen Modzelewski: Managing Member, Maple Engine LLC
  • Mary E. Stiefel: Miami, FL
  • Abigail Thernstrom: Adjunct Scholar, American Enterprise Institute; former Vice Chair, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and former Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute

Former Boardmembers

Contact Information

Institute for Justice
901 N. Glebe Road
Suite 900
Arlington, VA 22203
Phone: 703.682.9320
Fax: 703.682.9321

State Chapters

398 S Mill Avenue Ste 301
Tempe, AZ 85281
Phone: (480) 557-8300
Fax: (480) 557-8305

527 Marquette Avenue Ste 1600
Minneapolis, MN 55402
Phone: (612) 435-3451
Fax: (612) 435-5875

816 Congress Ave, Suite 960
Austin, TX 78701-2475
Phone: (512) 480-5936
Fax: (512) 480-5937

Washington (State):[35]
101 Yesler Way Ste 603
Seattle, WA 98104
Phone: (206) 341-9300
Fax: (206) 341-9311

Articles and Resources

Related SourceWatch Articles

External Articles


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Institute for Justice, About, organizational website, accessed June 25, 2014.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Curt Guyette, "You don’t know Dick," Metro Times, October 4, 2006. Accessed June 25, 2014.
  3. Institute for Justice, William H. Mellor, biographical page, accessed June 25, 2014.
  4. Bradley Prizes, William H. Mellor, biographical page, accessed June 25, 2014.
  5. Goldwater Institute, Clint Bolick, organizational biography, accessed June 25, 2014.
  6. LSE Hayek Society, Capitalism, organizational website, archived from January 2003. (Scroll down to see the section on John Blundell).
  7. State Policy Network, Directory, State Policy Network, 2016.
  8. Institute for Justice, IJ Thanks Its Cornerstone Supporters, organizational website, accessed June 25, 2014.
  9. American Legislative Exchange Council, "Public Safety and Elections Task Force Meeting," agenda and meeting materials, August 4, 2011, on file with CMD
  10. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named dm
  11. Institute for Justice, Legislation, organizational website, accessed June 25, 2014.
  12. SCOTUSblog, Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus, case page, accessed June 25, 2014.
  13. Lawrence Hurley, "U.S. justices revive challenge to Ohio election law on false statements," Reuters, June 16, 2014. Accessed June 25, 2014.
  14. Jack Torry, "Justices to weigh Ohio campaign-speech law," Columbus Dispatch, January 11, 2014. Accessed June 25, 2014.
  15. U.S. Supreme Court, Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus, SCOTUSblog, accessed August 2014.
  16. 16.0 16.1 Adam Liptak, "Justices Strike Down Arizona Campaign Finance Law," New York Times, June 27, 2011. Accessed June 25, 2014.
  17. SCOTUSblog, Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn, case file, accessed June 25, 2014.
  18. Adam Liptak, "Supreme Court Allows Tax Credit for Religious Tuition," New York Times, April 4, 2011. Accessed June 25, 2014.
  19. Charles Lane, "Justices Affirm Property Seizures," Washington Post, June 24, 2005. Accessed June 25, 2014.
  20. Ilya Somin, "A forthcoming film about Kelo v. City of New London," 'Washington Post, June 23, 2014. Accessed June 25, 2014.
  21. Institute for Justice, Swedenburg v. Kelly, case description, accessed June 25, 2014.
  22. Justice Anthony Kennedy, Granholm, Governor of Michigan, et al. v. Heald et al., Supreme Court opinion, May 16, 2005. Accessed June 25, 2014.
  23. Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, & World Affairs, Georgetown University, Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, case summary, accessed June 25, 2014.
  24. Institute for Justice, Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, case description, accessed June 25, 2014.
  25. Erik S. Jaffe, Cato Institute, Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, legal brief, June 1, 2001. Accessed June 25, 2014.
  26. Institute for Justice, IJ Thanks Its Cornerstone Supporters, organizational website, accessed June 25, 2014.
  27. American Bridge 21st Century Foundation, Top Supporters of Institute for Justice,, accessed June 25, 2014.
  28. Conservative Transparency Project, 2014 Supporters of Institute for Justice, Media Matters, accessed June 2, 2016.
  29. Conservative Transparency Project, Top Supporters of Institute for Justice, 2012, Media Matters, accessed June 25, 2014.
  30. Institute for Justice, Staff, organizational website, accessed June 2, 2016.
  31. Institute for Justice, Board, organizational website, accessed June 2016.
  32. Arizona. Institute for Justice. Retrieved on 2010-05-04.
  33. Minnesota. Institute for Justice. Retrieved on 2010-05-04.
  34. Texas. Institute for Justice. Retrieved on 2010-05-04.
  35. Washington. Institute for Justice. Retrieved on 2010-05-04.