Conservative Spotlight: Pacific Legal Foundation

The Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) has been, as it says, “rescuing liberty from the grasp of government” since March 3, 1973. “On that day, Pacific Legal Foundation was established, turning the voices that wouldn’t be heard into the voices that couldn’t be silenced. Since then, PLF has filled the void and has proven itself as a potent representative in the courts for Americans who have grown weary of overregulation by big government, over-indulgence by the courts, and excessive interference in the American way of life,” says the group.

“We litigate these issues, which is often easier than trying to get Congress to do something about them,” said Pacific Legal President Michael Grob in a recent interview. “You have to get one house to pass it, then the other house, then the President has to sign it, and then it has to be implemented by the bureaucracy.”

“Pacific Legal Foundation is America’s trusted champion of constitutional rights, fighting and winning decisive actions in the courts of law and the court of public opinion to rescue liberty from the grasp of government power,” says PLF. “Our nation is founded on the ideal of a free and ordered society where liberty is nurtured by the rule of law. Our Constitution enshrines this principle, and our traditions as a free people burden us with a moral obligation to act now to preserve our heritage of freedom for future generations. Through PLF individuals resist what Thomas Jefferson called the natural progress of things: for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.”

Grob was managing partner of Sacramento’s Kronick, Moskovitz, Tiedemann and Girard law firm before replacing Bob Best as president of PLF earlier this year. “It is a great privilege for me to undertake leadership of the largest, most prestigious legal defender of individual and economic freedom in the country,” said Grob at the time. “PLF’s legal accomplishments over the past 30 years are extraordinary and historic, and have been of benefit to all Americans. I’m honored to be working with an exceptional group of professionals and look forward to continuing the PLF tradition.”

In the interview, Grob cited some of the recent successes of PLF: fighting race and sex preferences in government and reining in the feds’ drive to classify hatchery salmon as a different species from wild salmon even though they are the same species.

“The Endangered Species Act provides for species and sub-species,” said M. David Stirling, PLF vice president. A federal district court ruled that the government could not reclassify hatchery salmon as a different species in Alsea Valley Alliance v. Evans, and even the very liberal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to take the government’s appeal in the case. “The hatchery fish have existed since the early 1900s,” said Stirling. “There are not that many pure wild salmon left… They cut off an unnecessary fin in the hatchery to tell them apart from the wild salmon.”

Stirling says that the ESA is not just about endangered species. “Environmentalists are seeking more and more ways to prevent people from using their land,” he said. “One of the best ways they have to do that is by finding an endangered species and designating critical habitat. . . . If you’ve done any research into what the environmentalist movement is about, it’s about returning the land to the wild.”

This year, PLF has struck a blow against racism and improper sexism, getting the California courts to uphold Proposition 209, the ballot initiative that banned preferences in the state government and its subdivisions. Two cases were decided together. “PLF filed the Coral Construction lawsuit in September 2000, and the Schram Construction suit in June 2003. These lawsuits challenge San Francisco’s public contracting program that calculates bids submitted by minority- and women-owned businesses at 10% lower than the bid price,” says the group. A state trial court sided with PLF.

“We at Pacific Legal take on cases in which the government is encroaching on individual liberty,” said Stirling. PLF has carved out another niche for itself by opposing the use of bonds to finance California’s preposterous budget deficit. According to the state constitution, said Stirling, “general obligation bonds are supposed to be used only for brick-and-mortar projects such as bridges and roads.” He said that the ballot initiative in California for funding stem-cell research doesn’t qualify, either. But Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R.) doesn’t want PLF to challenge the use of bonds for deficit financing because he used bonds to “balance” California’s budget, decimated by the Democratic legislature and former Gov. Gray Davis (D.). “The governor doesn’t want us to file suit against his arrangement,” said Stirling. PLF hasn’t decided yet.


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