About Pacific Legal Foundation
Who is Pacific Legal Foundation? We are a group of individuals united in our belief that personal liberty is essential to a thriving and prosperous society. We use bold and innovative strategies to challenge burdensome laws in courts and legislatures across the country, and in the hearts and minds of the American public.
Governments at all levels undermine liberty by passing laws that interfere with peoples’ right to freely associate and express themselves, acquire and use property, or earn an honest living. It is daunting for the average person to defend those rights against the government, with its power and access to substantial resources. That’s where we step in. Thanks to our donors’ support, we represent all our clients for free.
We are ambitious—we are willing to take on even the most challenging cases to defend liberty and justice for all. And we’re great at what we do. We’ve secured 9 victories in our last 11 cases before the Supreme Court.
We believe that a freer world is a better world.
Pacific Legal Foundation litigates nationwide to secure all Americans’ inalienable rights to live responsibly and productively in their pursuit of happiness. PLF combines strategic and principled litigation, communications, and research to achieve landmark court victories enforcing the Constitution’s guarantee of individual liberty.
PLF preserves and advances the American ideals of individualism and liberty, establishing a rule of law under which every person is secure in their inalienable rights to live responsibly and productively in pursuit of happiness.
A society cannot flourish and individuals cannot advance their private interests without individual rights to create and productively use property. PLF litigates in several areas of law to secure property rights as the foundation of liberty.
At PLF, we: secure the right to the productive and ordinary use of land; prevent governments from taking property; fight unconstitutional or unlawful regulatory requirements; promote balance in environmental laws; and stop unreasonable searches and seizures.
The liberty protected by the Constitution encompasses your right to be free in the enjoyment of all of your abilities in the pursuit of happiness, including the right to express yourself in thought and action, to pursue the occupation of your choice, to live where you want, and to pursue the best education for you and your children.
At PLF, we: vindicate freedom of speech and association; defend the right to earn a living; support freedom in education; and uphold equal protection of the law, including freedom from racial discrimination.See Cases
The Constitution establishes a separation of powers and express guarantees of due process. The fight for liberty is often a matter of ensuring that those who govern us do not exceed their constitutionally limited authority when enacting and enforcing the law.
At PLF, we: fight to end the modern administrative state, including limiting judicial deference to legislative and administrative judgments; restore separation of powers against improper delegation of authority to bureaucrats; define the limited scope of federal power under the Commerce Clause; revive the doctrine of enumerated powers; and ensure due process of law.See Cases
Pacific Legal Foundation was founded in 1973 by members of then-Governor Ronald Reagan’s staff as the first public interest law firm dedicated to the principles of individual rights and limited government. Early public interest law firms had achieved heroic work defending particular individual rights, such as the rights to free speech and equal protection under the law. In the 1960s and early 70s, however, the public interest law movement took a notably statist and collectivist turn. The nation needed an effective legal advocate inspired by the American ideals of individualism and liberty to enforce real constitutional limits on government power. PLF was created to lead the fight.
While we began with our first office in Sacramento, California, we soon after opened our doors in Washington, D.C. To complement our national approach to litigation, over the years we’ve had a physical presence from Alaska to Florida, where we have worked tirelessly on behalf of vulnerable individuals and small businesses whose rights are threatened by overreaching legislative and executive power. In courtrooms throughout the country, we’ve represented thousands of individuals who simply sought to live responsibly and productively in pursuit of happiness.
We routinely punch above our weight, serving as a force-multiplier for our supporters’ investment in our work. We’ve brought 11 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court between 1979 and 2017, and have won nine—a record unmatched by any other organization of our kind. In 1987 we secured a victory in Nollan v. California Coastal Commission, taught today as a landmark case in the property law classes of every American law school. After Nollan we marched back to the Court to win eight consecutive victories, putting government in its proper place. A divided U.S. Supreme Court dealt a blow to property rights in Murr v. Wisconsin (2017), but we are returning to the Court later this year with Washington Cattlemen’s Association v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Over the past four decades, we’ve learned what it takes to litigate the right cases with the right arguments at the right time to establish the most broad-based precedent in our three major areas of constitutional focus: property rights, personal liberties, and procedural guarantees.
Even with our successes, we understand that liberty tends to yield when left unguarded—which is why we continue to innovate and lead the freedom-based public interest legal movement that we created.