December 24, 2020
Threats to our constitutional rights are far too common, and at the Goldwater Institute, we’re ready to step in when Americans’ rights are being violated. 2020 definitely didn’t slow us down—we were still fighting for people’s rights in court, even when we had to do so by Zoom instead of in a physical courtroom.
We were able to keep up the fast pace of litigating for liberty thanks to our Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation, a first-of-its-kind litigation center housed in a state-based free market think tank. And working from coast to coast, we spent 2020 litigating cases and filing briefs to defend everything from free speech and property rights to school choice and equal protection under the law. Below are just a few of our wins for liberty in 2020.
We stood up for Illinoisans’ right to defend themselves. D’Andre Bradley, a veteran of the U.S. Marines, had been allowed to defend his country, but under Illinois’ law, he was not allowed to defend his home. That’s because Illinois is one of just two states that require residents to obtain a license before they can possess any firearm—and the state wasn’t living up to its promise of sending applicants their licenses within 30 days. And that was a clear denial of his Second Amendment rights.
In July, Goldwater took the state of Illinois to court to ensure that the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Chicago-area residents like D’Andre would be respected. Thanks to our lawsuit, the state finally gave D’Andre his license. But it shouldn’t take an army of lawyers to get what you’re entitled to under the Constitution—and that’s why we’re continuing the fight in court until we’ve secured that right for every Illinois citizen.
We stopped government theft in Tucson. Tucson handyman Kevin McBride was literally left stranded by the government, thanks to Arizona’s civil asset forfeiture scheme. Back in May, Kevin’s girlfriend took his Jeep to a convenience store to buy him a cold drink. When she didn’t return, he went looking for her, and when he arrived, his Jeep was being loaded onto a wrecker by the police.
Why? It turned out that the District Attorney was holding his Jeep as evidence of a $25 crime they said Kevin’s girlfriend committed—the alleged sale of three grams of marijuana. And even though Kevin had done nothing wrong, the government was keeping his Jeep. To make matters worse, Kevin needed the Jeep to do his work as a handyman, so that effectively put him out of work, too.
That is, until the Goldwater Institute stepped in. In August, we threatened to sue the government, but before we even had to step foot in court, the government gave the Jeep back.
We scored a free speech win for a Florida high school student. In September, Tyler Maxwell—a Florida high school senior and supporter of President Trump—drove to school with a new item in the bed of his pickup truck: a large red, white, and blue elephant statue with the word “TRUMP” painted on it. During his first period class, a school administrator pulled Maxwell out of class and told him that he had to take the elephant home immediately. When he brought the elephant back to school the next day, school officials demanded that he relinquish his parking permit until he removed the elephant.
Goldwater stood up to protect Tyler’s First Amendment rights—we filed a lawsuit on his behalf, so he would be able to speak as all other members of his school community could. And the court sided with free speech: It declared that the school violated Tyler’s First Amendment right when it revoked his parking pass, ordering the school to allow him to continue to bring the elephant to school.
For more information about these cases and others that we’re working on, please visit our litigation page.