2021 was filled with some major wins for individual liberty. As we close the year, we want to celebrate our top 10 victories.
#10 Challenging a California law that puts gender preference above equality before the law
In June, in a unanimous opinion, the Ninth Circuit held that a shareholder of a California company has standing to sue over the state’s requirement that publicly held corporations have a minimum number of women on their boards.
Current Supreme Court precedent requires the government to provide an “exceedingly persuasive justification” for any sex-based measure. The lawsuit argues that California’s woman quota cannot meet that standard and is unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
PLF has filed a related case challenging quotas for racial minorities and other underrepresented groups.
#9 Fighting back against certificate of need laws preventing a Louisiana woman from helping special needs children and their families
In 2018, Ursula Newell-Davis started a business that provides respite services to families with special needs children—that is, teaching children basic life skills to help them thrive and stay off the streets while their parents are away at work.
Louisiana required Ursula to prove that her proposed services are “necessary.” Despite providing evidence, state health officials denied Ursula’s application and prohibited her from starting her business, preventing her from helping children who need it most.
PLF is helping her challenge this law. You can hear more about Ursula’s story from Stossel TV.
#8 Growing PLF’s Dissed podcast
This year we released seasons two and three of our Dissed podcast, which is now in the top 30 podcasts about government on Apple Podcasts.
Join our attorneys Anastasia Boden and Elizabeth Slattery as they dig deep into important dissents, both past and present, and reveal the stories behind them.
Subscribe on your podcast player so you never miss an episode!
#7 Securing a victory for free speech at the Texas polls
A Texas law banned any symbols, slogans, or similar communicative devices relating to anything on the ballot, such as a candidate, proposal, or political party, on Election Day and during early voting. The ban even extended to apparel containing political figures not on the ballot that election.
Polling places are not exempt from the First Amendment, and no one should be forced to forfeit his or her free speech rights in exchange for the right to vote. In the end, a federal court overturned the polling-place dress code.
#6 Upholding equality before the law to ensure that federal relief is about opportunity, not equity
Earlier this year, Congress enacted the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act. Proponents lauded the act as a way to promote opportunity for “working people” and to give them a “fighting chance” after the devastation wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet one provision, which provides $4 billion to farmers and ranchers solely on the basis of race, was defended on another ground: equity.
We filed several lawsuits on behalf of farmers to uphold equality before the law.
#5 Reining in the abuse of COVID emergency powers
For nearly two years, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear’s COVID emergency orders have been constantly changing. As a result, many small businesses are never entirely sure if they are in full compliance with the law. And arbitrary enforcement of these regulations has become a huge problem.
PLF worked with state legislatures to limit the governors’ powers. Gov. Beshear defied that law, so three local restaurants, Trindy’s, Goodwood Brewing Company, and Dundee Tavern, appealed to the courts, challenging the governor’s continued application of emergency orders that should have expired.
#4 Protecting property owners’ rights
In 2013, San Francisco passed a Lifetime Lease Requirement Mandate, which required property owners who convert tenancy in common (TIC) apartments into condos to offer a lifetime lease to tenants.
Peyman Pakdel had bought his San Francisco property thinking that, one day, he might live in the condo himself. After the new requirement went into effect, he offered to buy his tenant out of his lease. Not only did the tenant refuse, but he also offered to buy the property for several hundred thousand dollars below market value.
Pakdel challenged the law, but a federal district court struck down his claims that the requirement violated his property rights.
PLF represented Pakdel in his appeal, and in June, the Supreme Court ruled that the lower courts must hear Pakdel’s case. Ownership with no say over your tenants is not ownership at all, and the SCOTUS ruling will give Pakdel the opportunity to make his case and defend his property rights.
#3 Standing up against Asian-American discrimination in academia
Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJ) is the top-ranked public high school in the country. Historically, students admitted are those who have proven themselves capable of keeping up with the challenging course load.
But a new admissions policy implemented in 2021 favors racial equity over merit. It’s also aimed directly at limiting the number of Asian-American students.
In May, federal district court judge Claude Hilton issued an exciting ruling from the bench: Despite the Fairfax County School Board’s urging, Judge Hilton refused to dismiss the lawsuit.
#2 Upholding the separation of powers and protecting property rights by supporting the overturning of the CDC’s eviction ban
At the height of the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention banned landlords from evicting tenants for any reason.
The CDC cannot simply act on its own accord to impose a nationwide ban just because it thinks it knows the best policy. In our system, it is the role of Congress—and Congress alone—to decide what the law should be, and to weigh competing policy judgments.
Luckily, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision affirming what Pacific Legal Foundation has argued on behalf of landowners for nearly a year—that the CDC lacked the authority to enforce its nationwide eviction moratorium.
#1 Securing our 13th Supreme Court win
On June 23, 2021, we garnered our 13th Supreme Court win when the Justices issued a ruling in Cedar Point Nursery v. Hassid in favor of our client, Mike Fahner, founder and president of Cedar Point Nursery.
The Supreme Court affirmed that the government cannot force people to allow third parties to trespass on their property.
While Fahner did live to see this landmark win, he passed away in November. But he will forever be remembered as an American hero.
You can help us in the battles that lay ahead: Donate today and help Pacific Legal Foundation defend the Constitution and protect the rights of individual Americans.