I keep trying to tell Republicans that the Founding Fathers protected the unalienable right to a jury trial for civil suits, knowing that the civil litigation process could be employed to protect the other freedoms named in the Bill of Rights and prevent excessive use of governmental power. Several recent cases underscore that historical and Constitutional reality:
1. In Redding, CA, the Bostonian Tea Party, the North State Tea Party Alliance, and local Tea Party official SuAnn Prigmore sued the Redding Municipal Library for imposing restrictions on expressive activities on library grounds. The Tea Party groups are represented by the conservative non-profit Pacific Justice Institute. Library officials didn't appreciate the Tea Party groups' distribution of the U.S. Constitution in the library breezeway during Constitution Week last September (what an irony). The library and the City Council drafted and approved a new policy restricting the distribution of such material. On May 4, a judge agreed to the plaintiffs' request for a temporary restraining order against the library, and the next hearing will be in June.
A VICTORY BY CONSERVATIVE TRIAL LAWYERS FOR THE FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHT OF FREE SPEECH, THANKS TO A CIVIL SUIT. ANYBODY WANT TO "TORT REFORM" THAT ONE?
2. Pacific Justice also won a big victory for religious freedom in February when the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the city of San Leandro, California, illegally discriminated against the Faith Fellowship Foursquare Church by denying a request to use its own property for worship services. Faith Fellowship outgrew its old location and found one building large enough, a vacant industrial building in a low-traffic part of town. The city denied rezoning and refused to allow them to move in, with city officials actually saying they preferred tax-producing entities like entertainment venues to service-oriented non-profit religious institutions (I can't believe they were that stupid). PJI and the church sued, and the trial judge dismissed the suit. But the Ninth Circuit disagreed, relying on the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA).
A VICTORY BY CONSERVATIVE TRIAL LAWYERS FOR THE FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHT TO FREELY EXERCISE RELIGION, THANKS TO A CIVIL SUIT. ANYBODY WANT TO "TORT REFORM" THAT ONE?
3. In April, the Institute for Justice, another group of conservative trial lawyers, helped a California gym that mentors at-risk kids win an eminent domain lawsuit in California against National City, California. The Court struck down National City's enormous eminent domain zone; ruled that National City violated the Due Process clause of the U.S. Constitution in failing to provide important information to the gym before an important public hearing; and mandated that a private consultant's documents used to justify the eminent domain action produces are subject to disclosure. (I discussed a federal bill aimed at helping property owners defeat abusive eminent domain actions on April 11.)
A VICTORY BY CONSERVATIVE TRIAL LAWYERS FOR THE PRIVATE PROPERTY RIGHTS, THANKS TO A CIVIL SUIT. ANYBODY WANT TO "TORT REFORM" THAT ONE?
There are scores of other cases like these every year, filed by these groups and others, such as the Alliance Defense Fund, the Rutherford Institute, and many others... just as the Founders intended. The "tort reform" movement will eventually reach harm cases, through restrictions on the filing of any lawsuit, Americans don't recognize the universality of the rights protected in our Constitution and Bill of Rights.