How To Sue Your Governor
Over the past month of advocating for civil disobedience against the corona ban, I’ve received many requests on how a person goes about suing the government.
A wonderful and fitting article about being civilly disobedient ran at the American Institute for Economic Research entitled “Why Aren’t Americans Suing Their Way Out Of Lockdown?”
That article, by Robert E. Wright, presents a legal framework for why more lawsuits should take place. Below, I’m going to offer a framework for HOW to make that happen. If the courts were inundated with 30 million lawsuits tomorrow, it would be a great thing. I once had the joy of suing the government in a manner similar to this one. Alternately, if even just one key test case is brought before the courts successfully, as Wright describes in his piece, it could have a tremendous impact that ripples through the country.
I’m not deluding myself into thinking that the government judiciary will free America from government tyranny, but once in a while they require a tyrant to explain himself, allow a citizen to redress grievances, and occasionally act as a tool to help right wrongs.
If you think you have been harmed by the corona bans, below are some first steps that can be taken to help set that lawsuit into motion.
Step 1: Decide: Pro Se, Public Interest & Pro Bono, Or Your Own Private Attorney
“Pro se” means you represent yourself. A lot of people have a lot of fun doing that. You learn a lot about the process. Though I think it’s a great education, I’m not convinced it is right for this pressing, emergency topic.
If you decide you’d like to do this pro se, the rest of the article is irrelevant, so please get to work on that and Godspeed. May you have the greatest of success. For the rest of you, I’ll continue.
Public interest lawyers seek cases that have a benefit that goes beyond just one person. They tend to seek a grave government injustice that needs overturning. Sometimes they work free of charge to their client, or “pro bono.” I believe on this topic, there are many lawyers out there who will take a case pro bono if asked.
Many more attorneys will take this case for money. There may be a lower level of philosophical commitment in that situation and a higher level of economic commitment.
I would suggest starting by seeking a pro bono attorney and keeping track of the paid attorneys you encounter along the way with a noted interest in your specific case, in case you decide to reach back out to them and fund the case yourself.
Step 2: Keep Organized
Simple spreadsheets are good for this. Pads of paper are useful, but not great, because URLs can be long. You’ll want columns for the lawyer name, URL, phone number, dates you’ve reached out, and responses. Everything you learn during your search should end up in your spreadsheet, because having everything in one place will make the succeeding steps easier.
Step 3: Identify Potential Lawyers
During this next step, you are aiming to find a broad selection of lawyers. Like brainstorming, you are adding anyone who might take the case to your list, regardless of whatever downsides there might be to working with them. The longer the list made in this step, the better.
Are There Authors Or Legal Theorists You Like?
If you have a favorite author on this topic who has a law degree, chances are he knows other lawyers with a passion for this topic. Reach out. Ask for a referral.
Though the list is from 2011, Walter Block compiled a fantastic, exhaustive list of libertarian legal theorists toward the end of the linked post that can serve as a useful reference.
Are There Cases You Have Followed?
There might be notable public interest cases you’ve heard of. They may have taken place a few years back. See if you can find the lawyers who were involved with those cases. There could be a lawyer, whose work you respect, who knows how to use the courts to gets things done. Reach out.
Tap Your Network
You likely know lawyers personally. Tell them what you plan to do, ask them if they know anyone who might be interested. Send them a version of your letter from the step below. If you feel like a request to represent you is too bold, you can ask “Do you happen to know a lawyer who could represent me in a lawsuit against the lockdown orders” or “Might you be able to refer me to a lawyer who could represent me in a lawsuit against the lockdown orders.”
You likely know non-lawyers who know lawyers. Check with them too.
People who share your passion about this topic are probably going to be better to reach out to than those who have been on Next Door snitching on neighbors and calling for 18-month rolling lockdowns. See this.
Try to make sure that anyone you reach out to goes into your spreadsheet. Using your network is probably forty to fifty times more effective, for the average person, than reaching out cold, but you can find available lawyers through a cold process as well.
Examples Of Public Interest Lawyers Who May Take An Interest In Your Corona Case
Institute for Justice has at least one member of their staff who has taken an interest in the topic of corona bans and invites people to submit details, like the letter above to their “report abuse,” section of their website, which is the page dedicated to asking IJ for legal assistance on a matter.
The Thomas Moore Law Center focuses on family values, life, religious freedom, and calls itself “the Christian response to the ACLU.”
Southeastern Legal Foundation is a public interest law firm and policy center that advocates for limited government, individual liberty, free enterprise.
Pacific Justice Institute advocates for the defense of religious freedom, parental rights, and other civil liberties.
The Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund seeks to make sure cases get heard not only at the local level, but also at the appellate level, a useful niche for helping to combat bad policy.
Landmark Legal Foundation is a national non-profit law firm preserving constitutional values such as limited government, separation of powers, and federalism.
American Civil Liberties Union has a network of staffed offices in every state, Washington DC, and Puerto Rico. Their local affiliates can be contacted directly to see if a case is of interest.
The ACLU has at least one lawsuit seeking to overturn a corona ban. Rather than a central office determining what cases they will take, if you contact your local ACLU chapter, you can find out if they would 1.) take your case or 2.) send a referral out to their referral network.
Judicial Watch mainly uses litigation to help uncover government malfeasance. In preparation for this piece, they notified me by phone that they were not presently interested in this topic.
The James Madison Center exists to protect free expression.
The First Amendment Lawyers Association will distribute your request to their membership from their contact page.
Liberty Counsel filed a lawsuit on behalf of Maryville Baptist Church in Louisville and its pastor Jack Roberts against Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear for the singling out of his church in a particularly brutal enforcement of the corona lockdown, as other businesses nearby had full parking lots and few restrictions. Liberty Counsel is currently representing pastors in more than 30 states.
The Alliance for Defending Freedom had a recent victory in Kansas with a federal judge ruling to protect churches from a corona ban and Tyson Langhofer of the organization pointing out “Public safety is important, but so is following the Constitution.”
The Center for American Liberty, is a legal advocacy organization, that is fighting the California lockdown orders on several front, including filing a lawsuit against Gov. Gavin Newsom last week for prohibiting in-person church services, as well as representing an organizer of a San Diego protest against the lockdown.
In Ohio, 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, is bringing a lawsuit on behalf of bridal shop owner Tanya Rutner Hartman, against Ohio Health Director Dr. Amy Acton In US District Court, challenging the constitutionality of ordering her business closed for being non-essential.
The 1851 Center is “A non-profit, non-partisan law firm dedicated to protecting the constitutional rights of Ohioans from government.” The state you live in may have a similar state-specific organization.
Arizona’s Goldwater Institute takes on litigation in Arizona and across the country and has a network of lawyers, the American Freedom Network, for cases that the Goldwater Institute does not take on.
If you are at a loss in identifying a state specific organization, the State Policy Network Membership Directory, may be a good starting place. In that directory, almost every organization designates a contact person as well as listing an email and phone number for reaching them. Keep in mind that not all members show a strong interest in litigating and, naturally, not all organizations who will take an interest in this topic are included in their membership list. Many other organizations exist, this is merely a subset.
Tap THEIR Referral Network
Every group on the list above has attorneys in their orbit who care deeply about the topics that those groups focus on. If they don’t have someone on staff who wants to work with you, they may be willing to send out information about your request to their network. That email to the network can be very effective in finding a lawyer. Keep this in mind.
If in response to a referral request, they say “Contact your local bar association,” that is lawyer speak for “Take a hike, we’re not interested.” Don’t take that personally.
“Cold Call” Lawyers
Open a search engine, enter your jurisdiction and “public interest law” and go from there. You will find many options and will likely get a response from anywhere between 1-out-of-10 and 1-out-of-50 lawyers who you reach out to. Some will have email addresses that you can easily find, others will be more likely to have contact forms that go directly to their intake coordinator.
Step 4: Create A Form Letter That Says Enough, But Not Too Much
Until a lawyer represents you, there’s no need to tell them your deepest secrets on this topic. Keep the form letter short and to the point: you are seeking representation, you see clear precedent, are they interested?
If you’d like a template, something like this might work:
Dear First name Last name,
I’m looking for a pro bono attorney to represent me on a public interest case regarding the Covid-19 order in my state, (insert State).
The New York Supreme Court has previously ruled against widespread quarantines, establishing a clear precedent in the 1856 New York Supreme Court case The People vs. Peter W. Roff, mentioned by a think tank fellow recently in this linked article. I wonder if there may be other meaningful precedent on this topic.
Would you be willing to represent me?
If you would not, can you recommend someone who might want to?
First name Last name
Step 5: Follow Through
For some people, though quite unlikely, it will take just one hour of work to identify an eager lawyer, for others it may take ten hours of work.
In either case, you can get most of that work done today. You can sit down, and agree that by the three-hour mark, you will have sent 10 emails out to lawyers. In some situations, you might not follow up for a week. But in this situation, as you find every minute and every inch of your personal liberty important to you, you resolve that you will give them two days to respond and will go right down that list with a follow up email 48 hours from now.
Step 6: Speak Ideally To A Few Lawyers
Since time is of the essence, I recognize why it may not make sense to speak to a few lawyers, but to instead go with the first excited lawyer you encounter.
Every lawyer is going to have a different take on your case. You want to take notes about everything a lawyer says to you about the case, so that you can bounce ideas off others you speak to.
Most cases don’t see the light of day because it is so genuinely difficult to find representation. Many legitimate cases go unheard. It really is a matter of you keeping organized and diligently following through. The corona bans are illegal and unconstitutional. They are executive and bureaucratic over-reach. Many lawyers out there will happily take on a case like yours.
Step 7: Choose A Lawyer
Read online reviews. Ask the prospective lawyer questions. This lawyer is doing you a favor – without them there is no case. But you are also doing them a favor – without you there is no case. So you are going to want someone who you think will work well with you and who will be a good teammate. In all likelihood they will want you to not participate in much and to mostly be a name on a document.
Will you want regular check ins? Will you want to see the legal drafts and be able to comment? What do they need from you to make this a success? What is their motivation for getting involved? Are they committed to the idea? Are they diligent? Are they knowledgeable about this specific topic? Do they have a record of past successes?
Step 8: Focus On Your Next Instance Of Civil Disobedience
Your lawyer is now going to do almost all the work. Time for you to get out there and find another front to push on. If it is inspiration on that front that you seek, here are 14 ideas on how to be civilly disobedient. Here are 24 ways others are being civilly disobedient.
The most important thing is that you get the ball rolling today.
Good luck with this. I’d love to hear how things go for you. Feel free to reach out with additional questions.
Article published with permission from Allan Stevo
Allan Stevo [send him mail] writes about international politics and culture from a free market perspective at 52 Weeks in Slovakia (www.52inSk.com). He is the author of How to Win America, The Bitcoin Manifesto, and numerous other books.