July 5, 2018

The struggle for liberty and justice must be renewed for each generation

By James S. Burling Vice President for Litigation

The struggle for liberty is old, yet it must be continually renewed—because the struggle is never-ending.

As the world moves slowly, fitfully, and yet inexorably toward a state of increased liberty, we must always recall Ronald Reagan’s words: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.”

Different generations have had to employ different means of creating and defending liberty. Great philosophers like John Locke provided the intellectual ammunition to the warriors for liberty in the 17th century. The Revolutionary generation set down stirring principles and a constitutional framework. The generation that followed the Civil War extended those principles to even more Americans, especially through the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

In pursuing our work to protect liberty and limit government, PLF relies on the Fourteenth Amendment every day. When we protect Chef Geoff’s right to truthfully promote his happy hour specials, we’re vindicating the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process guarantee of free speech without absurd government restrictions. Ditto when we defend in the Supreme Court Minnesota voters’ freedom to wear harmless political apparel to the polling place.

We rely on the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of legal equality when we challenge Hartford, Connecticut’s, policy forbidding “too many” minority children from enrolling in the city’s best magnet schools. This includes LaShawn Robinson, one of eight Hartford parents who are fighting for their children to receive the best education.

All of our nation’s history and its struggles for freedom can be distilled in a single phone call—the type of call PLF receives day in and day out: “All we ever wanted to do was start our own moving company, but we can’t do that because other moving companies don’t want competition,” or, heartbreakingly: “My child cannot go to a great nearby school because he is black.”

These are small stories of individuals. But these are huge stories of our national identity because they embody what liberty means to more than 325 million Americans alive today.

Instead of acquiescing to the tendency of liberty to shrink from government power, we use the courts and the independent judiciary to rein in the excesses of government and the regulatory state. We sue for the farmer. We sue for the trucker. And we sue for the child trying to go to school. The struggle continues. We stand in awe of the sacrifices of those who preceded us, and we sue on their behalf, on behalf of 325 million others, and on behalf of those who will follow.

This article is an excerpt from PLF’s quarterly publication, Sword&Scales. To receive the digital magazine, subscribe here.

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