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American Freedom Network

Pro Bono Attorneys Protecting Rights, Preserving Freedom

Defend Liberty with the American Freedom Network

Do you want to put your legal skills and experience to practice in defense of liberty?

Attorneys with the Goldwater Institute’s American Freedom Network (AFN) work closely with the Institute on cases and projects that advance liberty around the country, on matters ranging from free speech to taxpayer rights to government transparency.

The Goldwater Institute matches cases and clients to you—attorneys uniquely positioned to help them. As part of our pro bono network, you will have the opportunity to work on issues that interest you by litigating meaningful cases in a way that makes sense for your practice. The Goldwater Institute and its attorneys are available to amplify your public interest case and provide support and assistance as necessary.

By joining our AFN, you’ll have the opportunity to make a real difference for liberty. Here some of the important areas where our AFN attorneys defend freedom:

Our Work

FEATURED STORY

VICTORY! Virginia School Board Quietly Abandons Lawsuit Against Parents

By Timothy Sandefur December 27, 2021 The Fairfax County School Board quietly asked a judge last week to dismiss the lawsuit it filed against two Virginia moms for publishing information about how the Board spends taxpayer dollars. Callie Oettinger and Debra Tisler, who are represented by Goldwater Institute attorneys, won a crucial court victory for the First Amendment and parents’ rights last month after refusing to give in to the...

Read more about the case

Ensure Government Transparency

The public has a right to government transparency, and state public record laws ensure citizens can find out what their government is up to. The Goldwater Institute is regularly engaged in public records cases with assistance from AFN attorneys.

For example, in Rhode Island and Virginia, we defended parents who were trying to learn more about what was going on in their local school districts. In both cases, public education bureaucrats sued the parents for daring to ask questions.

The National Education Association, the nation’s largest public sector teachers union, sued Rhode Island mom Nicole Solas after she filed public records requests seeking information about her daughter’s kindergarten curriculum—requests that the South Kingston School District said would cost $74,000 to fulfill.

Meanwhile, Debra Tisler and Callie Oettinger, moms in Fairfax County, Virginia, wanted to find out how their school district was spending taxpayer dollars. After legally obtaining materials that showed how much the district was paying in legal bills and removing confidential details, they posted some of the documents on a website to inform other Fairfax County families. The school district sued them, demanding that they take the documents down. Goldwater stood up for Debra and Callie’s First Amendment rights, and the Fairfax County Circuit Court ultimately ruled that the school district had tried to shut down these moms’ free speech.

Our work does not end there. The Goldwater Institute’s state public records project includes a 50-state public records guide, in addition to a requests template to assist AFN attorneys and allies working to increase government transparency.

Defend Taxpayer Rights

Federal, state, and local governments should be wise stewards of taxpayer resources. Yet far too often, the government overtaxes its citizens and then abuses taxpayer resources. With assistance from AFN attorneys, the Goldwater Institute has successfully stood up for taxpayers’ rights and helped Americans keep more of their hard-earned money.

For over a decade, we’ve been at the forefront of enforcing state constitutions’ “gift clauses,” which ensure that taxpayer money is spent on the public good, not to advance private, special interests.

In Peoria, Arizona, for instance, city officials gave away nearly $2.6 million to two private businesses, Huntington University and its landlord, who operated in Peoria for their own benefit and profit—but promised nothing in return to the public that was paying the bill. Goldwater took the city to court on behalf of taxpayers, while AFN attorneys provided amicus support in challenging this corporate welfare scheme. And in February 2021, the Arizona Supreme Court unanimously ruled in the Institute’s favor in Schires v. City of Peoria, reinforcing the state Constitution’s edict: Taxpayer dollars must be spent for the direct benefit of the public.

AFN attorneys also provided critical amicus support in a case where Goldwater defeated the largest tax increase in Arizona’s history. After the Arizona Supreme Court unanimously agreed with the Goldwater Institute and sent the case back to the trial judge to determine if Proposition 208 exceeded the state Constitution’s limits on spending and taxation, a Maricopa County judge barred enforcement of the measure.

Fight Civil Asset Forfeiture

Civil asset forfeiture allows law enforcement to take someone’s property without even accusing them of wrongdoing. Police departments can keep and profit from the property they seize even if they never charge innocent victims with a crime, and in many situations, it’s more costly than it’s worth for a citizen to fight this abuse. That’s where pro bono attorneys can have a huge impact.

In 2021, Goldwater Institute attorneys helped innocent Massachusetts grandmother Malinda Harris get her car back six years after Berkshire County police seized it without even suspecting her of a crime. Just days after Goldwater came to Malinda’s defense, the county agreed to return the vehicle.

These are just a few of the many opportunities for attorneys to contribute to the cause of liberty by performing pro bono work with the Goldwater Institute. We welcome you to join our team.

Attorney Will Wray, a member of the American Freedom Network, helped Malinda Harris (above) get her car back when it was wrongfully taken by the government under civil forfeiture laws.

Legal Training

American Freedom Network members who demonstrate a strong commitment to pro bono service through litigation, amicus briefs, research, or other projects may be invited to participate in public interest litigation and constitutional law training with Goldwater attorneys. Multi-day trainings are held each year and include seminars on substantive constitutional principles, litigation practice and strategies, advice from the bench, how to be effective in the media, and more. Continuing Legal Education credits are available (if permitted by your state). Trainings are generally by invitation only, with expenses paid; however, special inquiries are accepted. Complete the application above and note your request.

Shorter training seminars with Continuing Legal Education credits are offered at various times throughout the year, and in various locations, on topics such as Right to Earn a Living, Gift Clause, Right to Try, Public Records Laws, and more. Check back for information about upcoming seminars. To request a seminar in your area, complete the application and note your request.

Marc Victor and Howard Dworman of Attorneys for Freedom Law Firm—both members of Goldwater’s American Freedom Network—successfully defended Merita Kraja (above), whose business was wrongfully targeted during COVID-19.

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