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The First Line of Defense: Litigation for Liberty at the State Level

April 23, 2019

by Timothy Sandefur
April 23, 2019

Every American knows that the U.S. Constitution creates a powerful tool for protecting individual freedom. But what many people overlook is that the 50 state constitutions provide other potentially stronger tools for securing the blessings of liberty. The Founding Fathers’ system of federalism—an idea so ingenious that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy once likened it to splitting the atom—divides power between federal and state governments in order to protect individual liberty. It does this by creating basic federal protections for individual rights, while leaving states free to provide greater protections if they choose. 

But giving that system meaning requires eternal vigilance—and to help in that effort, the Goldwater Institute has published a new revised edition of The First Line of Defense: Litigation for Liberty at the State Level, a blueprint for working in courtrooms, legislatures, and communities nationwide to empower people to live freer, happier lives.

First Line of Defense

First published a dozen years ago, The First Line of Defense has been fully updated to reflect lessons learned and new opportunities. Since then, Goldwater has helped allies across the country to start their own litigation centers and to bring cases advancing the principles of private property rights, economic liberty, educational choice, and racial equality, among others. We’ve also founded our American Freedom Network, bringing together attorneys across the country who want to devote their pro bono hours to causes they believe in. We’re exceedingly proud of the robust litigation network that exists today—and we’re looking forward to what the next decade will bring.

Intended primarily for freedom-oriented organizations seeking to establish new litigation centers, the booklet explains the promises and pitfalls of litigation for freedom, provides tips on how to more effectively promote constitutional principles, and addresses the costs and benefits of advancing liberty in the courtroom. It offers pointers on coordinating with policy analysts, lawmakers, and administrators, to protect individual rights.

You can obtain a hard copy of The First Line of Defense by contacting the Institute, or download it now in PDF here.

Timothy Sandefur is Vice President for Litigation at the Goldwater Institute.



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