Steve Simpson

Senior Attorney DC

Steve Simpson joined PLF in 2019 to head up our Separation of Powers practice group.

Steve’s career in public interest law started at the Institute for Justice in 2001, where he litigated free speech, campaign finance, and economic liberty cases. Among other high-profile cases in which Steve was involved, he was co-counsel in Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett, IJ’s successful Supreme Court challenge to Arizona’s public financing law for political campaigns. He was the lead litigator in SpeechNow.org v. FEC, a joint effort between IJ and the Institute for Free Speech that led to the creation of super PACs. And he was co-counsel in Swedenburg v. Kelly, IJ’s successful Supreme Court challenge to New York’s ban on the interstate shipping of wine.

In 2013, Steve moved into the policy arena as the Ayn Rand Institute’s director of Legal Studies, where he spent five years writing and speaking on a wide variety of legal and cultural issues. From there, he moved back into law as senior litigation counsel at the New Civil Liberties Alliance in Washington, D.C.

Steve has spoken and written on a wide variety of legal and policy issues. He has testified in Congress and briefed congressional staffers. He has been interviewed on scores of television and radio programs, including PBS News Hour, Stossel, and The Rubin Report. His writings have appeared in many publications, including The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. In 2014, Steve was a Lincoln Fellow at the Claremont Institute. He is the editor of Defending Free Speech (ARI Press, 2016).

Steve earned his law degree magna cum laude from New York Law School in 1994. Following law school, he clerked for a federal district judge in the Southern District of Florida and spent several years as a litigator at Shearman & Sterling.

When he’s not at work or spending time with his wife and three daughters, Steve can usually be found mucking around in the woods at his cabin on Shenandoah Mountain.

Goodwood Brewing Company, LLC v. Beshear

Kentucky restaurants are challenging Gov. Beshear’s never-ending emergency powers

Since the pandemic began a year ago, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear has used his emergency powers to unilaterally enact COVID-19-related policies. In February, the legislature overwhelmingly voted to rein in his authority, passing three bills to limit the governor’s use of pandemic-related emergency orders. Gov. Beshear immediately filed suit ...

Skyworks Ltd. v. Centers for Disease Control; Chambless Enterprises, LLC v. Centers for Disease Control

Fighting the CDC’s national eviction ban to restore separation of powers

In September 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) adopted an order that prohibited certain evictions for non-payment of rent. However, in its haste to enact and enforce a national eviction ban, the CDC overstepped its lawful authority by exercising legislative power reserved to Congress, and it did so at the expense of struggl ...

Ramirez et al. v. Lamont et al.

Connecticut nail salon owner fights for fair treatment under “shutdown” orders

In early March 2020, Luis Ramirez closed his Hartford, CT, nail salon, following Gov. Ned Lamont’s executive orders for statewide shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Luis and his wife, Rosiris, have since struggled to earn income and pay rent on their salon. When Luis and Rosiris thought they’d be able to reopen on May 20, they scrap ...

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September 20, 2021

The Hill: Here’s why Biden’s vaccine mandate for private employers is a horrible idea

Last week, President Biden announced that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) soon will require all private employers with more than 100 employees to require workers to become vaccinated or submit to weekly COVID-19 tests. Whatever you think of vaccines or vaccine mandates, if you care about constitutional government, you shoul ...

July 02, 2021

Five Supreme Court justices just signaled that the CDC’s eviction moratorium is unlawful. Here’s why that matters.

You may have seen the few news stories reporting that the Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to halt the CDC's eviction ban. That's true as far as it goes, but the media missed the real story, which is that five Justices on the Court signaled that they think the CDC's eviction ban is unlawful. Which ...

January 08, 2021

The Hill: Landlords should not have to work for free

Eviction bans have become one of the staple responses to the pandemic by governments across the country. Almost every state and many local governments have passed at least some sort of moratorium on evictions since the pandemic began. In early September, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) adopted a nationwide eviction ban for ...

January 07, 2021

Can they really do that? What are the limits of government during COVID-19?

Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S. in March, state governors have imposed restrictions that would have been unthinkable at this time last year. These drastic actions have left many wondering about the limits of government officials' power—and whether that power changes during times like these. The simple answer is that—there's no simple a ...

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