Ethan W. Blevins

Attorney

Washington

Ethan Blevins joined PLF’s Pacific Northwest office in August 2014. He litigates cases involving the First Amendment, property rights, school choice, and the separation of powers.

Ethan began his trek toward liberty after moving to China in his late teens. He had grown up admiring his great uncle, who had moved to China during the communist revolution. Throughout his youth and early adulthood, Ethan believed in those faulty ideals. His time in China, where he studied martial arts full-time, started to break that spell. While there, he witnessed the poverty, corruption, and oppression that were the true legacies of communism. Over time, he became convinced that only individual liberty can bring about peace, prosperity, and human potential. Ethan sees his work at PLF as a vital front in the fight against the bitter consequences of the statism that he witnessed living abroad.

Ethan began his legal career at Duke University, where he received his JD and an LLM in International and Comparative Law. He then clerked for Justice Don Willett of the Supreme Court of Texas—a true friend to liberty. Inspired by Justice Willett’s staunch belief in individual rights, Ethan decided to devote his legal career to freedom.

Outside work, Ethan is a husband, father, and certifiable geek. He is in the process of publishing his debut novel—the first installment in a fantasy series. When he isn’t chasing around his three small children, he writes fantasy, plays nerdy games at a local gaming store, and serves in the young men’s organization of a local church congregation.

Ethan Blevins joined PLF’s Pacific Northwest office in August 2014. He litigates cases involving the First Amendment, property rights, school choice, and the separation of powers.

Ethan began his trek toward liberty after moving to China in his late teens. He had grown up admiring his great uncle, who had moved to China during the communist revolution. Throughout his youth and early adulthood, Ethan believed in those faulty ideals. His time in China, where he studied martial arts full-time, started to break that spell. While there, he witnessed the poverty, corruption, and oppression that were the true legacies of communism. Over time, he became convinced that only individual liberty can bring about peace, prosperity, and human potential. Ethan sees his work at PLF as a vital front in the fight against the bitter consequences of the statism that he witnessed living abroad.

Ethan began his legal career at Duke University, where he received his JD and an LLM in International and Comparative Law. He then clerked for Justice Don Willett of the Supreme Court of Texas—a true friend to liberty. Inspired by Justice Willett’s staunch belief in individual rights, Ethan decided to devote his legal career to freedom.

Outside work, Ethan is a husband, father, and certifiable geek. He is in the process of publishing his debut novel—the first installment in a fantasy series. When he isn’t chasing around his three small children, he writes fantasy, plays nerdy games at a local gaming store, and serves in the young men’s organization of a local church congregation.

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Personal Liberties

Elster v. City of Seattle, Washington

Seattle’s politician enrichment tax forces property owners to subsidize private political speech and violates the First Amendment

Representing Seattle residents and property owners, PLF sued to overturn Seattle’s ordinance mandating public campaign financing. Under the city’s “democracy voucher” program, each Seattle resident receives four $25 vouchers to support eligible candidates for local political office. The money to fund the voucher program is taken from the city’s property owners via a dedicated levy. The lawsuit argues that these compelled subsidies violate the First Amendment right to refrain from speaking – or funding the speech of another person.

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Personal Liberties

Shock v. City of Seattle, Washington

Seattle imposes arbitrary and unconstitutional tax on achievement

The Washington State Constitution prohibits the government from levying an income tax on targeted segments of the population; any income tax must be uniformly applied to all citizens. Nonetheless, Seattle enacted an income tax targeting those making in excess of $250,000 per year with a 2.25% tax rate, setting a 0% rate for everyone else. Promoted as a “wealth tax,” the City’s income tax punishes achievement and success, while threatening poor and middle class families who could later fall subject to new city, county, and state taxes if Seattle’s gambit succeeds. PLF represents Seattle residents in a lawsuit challenging the city’s knowing violation of the state constitution.

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Property Rights

Yim v. City of Seattle

Seattle smears all city landlords as bigots

Convinced that all Seattle landlords harbor racist tendencies deep in their subconscious minds, the city passed a law forbidding them from choosing their own tenants. The new first-in-time law requires landlords to rent to the first financially-qualified tenant who applies. PLF represents landlords of small rental properties in the city who rely in part on their experience and discretion in discerning with whom they want to share their homes. They are suing because the city’s law deprives them of the constitutionally-guaranteed choice to decide who to allow on their private property, and who to exclude.

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Post

By Ethan W. Blevins

Can government force you to pay for someone else’s expression?

Think on these three statements:

  1. A law forbids you from posting a sign that says, “Vote for Voldemort”
  2. A law forces you to post a sign that says, “Vote for Voldemort”
  3. A law forces you to pay for someone else’s sign that says, “Vote for Voldemort”

Should the First Amendment treat these laws differently? (more…)

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Post

By Ethan W. Blevins

Can government force you to pay for your political opponents' campaign contributions?

Last Friday, the National Review published my op-ed on PLF’s case challenging Seattle’s new-fangled campaign finance scheme Seattle’s democracy voucher program gives four $25 vouchers to each Seattle resident per election cycle They can use those vouchers to support local political campaigns The voucher money comes from the pockets of property owners through a dedicated property levy As the op-ed discusses, the First Amendment forbids government from forcing people to sponsor other people’s political views in this manner

The op-ed concludes:

We treasure the First Amendment because it upholds human dignity — the power to shape our identity by what we believe and express That dignity is sullied by

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By Ethan W. Blevins

Why the separation of powers matters for racial equality

In high school, I spent hours hunkered at a library computer playing Sid Meier’s Civilization instead of working on the school newspaper In the game, you could lead your own civilization from stone age to space age You’d guide every detail about your burgeoning society–from their religion to their labor You’d eventually cross paths with rival civilizations led by guys like Stalin, somehow attired in his Bolshevik uniform and holding a cigarette even in the Bronze Age; “Greetings from he who makes mortals tremble,” he’d say

As I toyed with the fate of millions on the clunky library PC, HL Mencken had me pinned: “The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to

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By Ethan W. Blevins

Supreme Court victory for innocent property owners

Last week, the Supreme Court scored a victory for liberty in Nelson v Colorado Until last Wednesday, a Colorado defendant exonerated of a criminal conviction had to prove their own innocence to retrieve money they paid to the state because of their invalid convictions This should strike most people as contrary to due process, and seven Supreme Court justices agreed We had written an amicus brief urging the Court to hold that the government can’t simply keep other people’s money after the state has lost its sole justification for taking the money in the first place (more…)

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By Ethan W. Blevins

In Seattle, social justice trumps fundamental rights

Yesterday, the Seattle Times ran my op-ed about our lawsuit challenging a Seattle law that forbids landlords from choosing their own tenants In Yim v City of Seattle, we argue that the city has violated due process rights and rights against uncompensated government takings

Seattle’s “first in time” rule requires landlords to offer vacant units to the first qualified applicant Landlords can set general criteria in advance, like credit history or “no smoking,” but otherwise they lack all discretion over whom they rent to The purpose of the rule is two-fold: to combat “unconscious bias” and to relieve the city of proving intentional discrimination

The

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Op-Ed

Social justice matters, but not at the expense of property rights

At the start of the year, Seattle became the first city to forbid landlords from choosing their own tenants A group of small-time landlords, represented by Pacific Legal Foundation, has sued to challenge this unconstitutional burden on basic property rights

Under Seattle’s new first-in-time rental policy, landlords must rent their property to the first qualified applicant They can no longer choose for themselves, on a nondiscriminatory basis, who will live on their property Landlords can still set general criteria — credit history, no pets, etc — but otherwise they must simply hand over their property to the first person who meets those broad qualifications

The purpose of this mandate, according to

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