Non-profit

Pacific Legal Foundation

Website:

pacificlegal.org/

Location:

Sacramento, CA

Tax ID:

94-2197343

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(3)

Budget (2019):

Revenue: $18,427,010
Expenses: $15,441,226
Assets: $65,165,262

Formation:

1973

President:

Steven D. Anderson

Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) is a libertarian public interest law firm founded in 1973 that represents clients at no charge. [1] PLF’s founders believed public interest law had drifted into supporting, rather than challenging, government authority. [2] They intended the firm to be an antidote to that drift by defending the rights of individuals and work to contain government power within constitutional limits. [3] The firm represents individuals seeking to enforce their rights against governments in five practice areas: property rights,[4] free speech,[5] economic liberty,[6] equality before the law,[7] and separation of powers. [8] In 2020, PLF had 117 active cases directly representing clients across these five areas of litigation. [9]

Pacific Legal Foundation has won 12 cases for clients whom it directly represented before the U.S. Supreme Court. [10] In one example, Palazzolo v. Rhode Island, the PLF client was Anthony Palazzolo, described by the New York Times as a “father of six” and a “former auto wrecker.” [11] Palazzolo prevailed in a decision that created a higher likelihood of access to the courts for landowners seeking to prove the value of a property has been reduced due to a government regulation. [12] In Knick v. Township of Scott, PLF represented Rose Knick, a 70-year-old single retiree who wanted access to federal courts so she could challenge the constitutionality of a local township graveyard ordinance that required her to provide public access to her farm. [13]

In the Palazzolo victory against the state of Rhode Island in 2001, Pacific Legal Foundation attorneys prevailed against future U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), who was then the Rhode Island attorney general. [14] That outcome has been followed by nearly two decades of public criticism of PLF from Whitehouse. [15] In September 2018, while questioning then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, Whitehouse. asserted that PLF had hired Palazzolo as a “prop in order to make arguments trying to direct the Court in a particular direction.” [16]  Later that day, Palazzolo’s attorney responded: “we didn’t hire Anthony. He hired us (for free).” [17] Similarly, in a 2016 speech on the floor of the Senate, Whitehouse called PLF a “creepy front group.” [18] And in a 2019 essay Whitehouse once again asserted that PLF had “handpicked the plaintiff” in Knick v. Township of Scott. [19] Recounting Whitehouse’s history of criticism, Palazzolo’s attorney wrote that Whitehouse’s disdain for right-of-center public interest litigation was “the real reason why Senator Whitehouse doesn’t like Pacific Legal Foundation.” [20]

Background

Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) is a libertarian public interest law firm based in Sacramento, California. It has additional offices in Florida, the state of Washington, and Washington, D.C. It represents clients “pro bono,” at no charge to the client. [21]

PLF was founded in 1973 by staffers of California’s then-governor (and future Republican president) Ronald Reagan. The goal of these founders was to emulate the original public interest law firms that defended constitutional rights such as free speech, civil liberties, and equal protection under law. PLF’s creators believed that by the early 1970s public interest law had drifted into a “collectivist” direction that too often supported, rather than challenged, government power. PLF’s founders expressed hope that it would be an antidote to that drift: a public interest law firm that defended individual liberty and worked to contain government authority within constitutional limits. [22]

Pacific Legal Foundation has won 12 cases for clients that it directly represented before the U.S. Supreme Court, with six of the wins occurring between 2012 and 2019. PLF portrays its success record at the nation’s highest court as comparable with that of the American Civil Liberties Union, though PLF notes that it has a smaller staff and resources than the ACLU. (In its 2019 IRS tax filing the ACLU reported $144.5 million in total expenses, versus $16.5 million total expenses reported on Pacific Legal Foundation’s 2019 IRS filing). [23] [24] [25]

Personnel

As of 2021, the Pacific Legal Foundation had more than 80 employees, including at least 35 attorneys. [26] Not including the senior leadership team, 12 other individuals were listed with the title of “senior attorney.” [27]

PLF is governed by a 19-member board of trustees. As of 2021, most of the board membership appeared to be either entrepreneurs, attorneys, or executives from small businesses, with 12 of the 19 residing in California. The board chairman was Greg M. Evans of California, whose business affiliation was as the president and general manager of Evans Management Services. [28]

In 2021, the PLF executive leadership team had four members:[29]

  • Steven D. Anderson, president and chief executive officer: Steven Anderson became president and chief executive officer of PLF in 2016. Prior to 2016 he worked for 12 years at the Institute for Justice (IJ) and before leaving was IJ’s executive vice president and chief financial officer. He received his law degree from Wake Forest University. [30]
  • James S. Burling, vice president of legal affairs: James Burling has worked as an attorney at PLF since obtaining his law degree from the University of Arizona College of Law in 1983. For more than a decade before 1983 he was an exploration geologist. [31]
  • John M. Groen, executive vice president and general counsel: John Groen began working as a PLF employee in 1987, and later left to work in the private sector and serve as a trustee on the PLF board. In 2015, he returned from private practice to return to litigation work for PLF. His law degree is from the McGeorge School of Law. [32]
  • Chad Wilcox, chief operating officer and chief financial officer: Chad Wilcox began working for PLF as the COO/CFO in 2017. Prior to employment with PLF, he worked for the Institute of Economic Affairs (a British free market think tank) and the Institute for Humane Studies. He has an M.Ed in organizational leadership from Vanderbilt University. [33]

Litigation Areas

Pacific Legal Foundation directly represents clients who allege governments have violated their constitutional rights. On behalf of these clients, PLF has sued the federal government, state governments and local governments. In 2020, PLF had 117 active cases across five primary areas of litigation. [34]

PLF also files amicus briefs on behalf of similar clients whose cases are directly represented by other attorneys. [35]

Property Rights

Rafaeli, LLC v. Oakland County: PLF defended clients suing what it referred to as a “predatory government foreclosure” and “home equity theft.” Oakland County, Michigan, and other local governments in the state were seizing homes for unpaid taxes and keeping all proceeds. PLF client Uri Rafaeli had a home seized and sold over an unintentionally unpaid tax debt of $8.41, with all proceeds from the sale of the home reverting to the county. In July 2020, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled in favor of Rafaeli and invalidated the foreclosure theft policy. [36]

Zito v. North Carolina Coastal Resource Commission; Town of Nags Head: PLF defended a couple that was prevented from rebuilding their vacation cottage after it was destroyed by fire in 2016. Declaring the property as part of a “no-build zone,” state and local governments refused to issue building permits to replace the home. The litigation was ongoing as of May 2021. [37]

Free Speech

Kotler v. Webb: PLF’s client was a professor of First Amendment law at the University of Southern California who was a fan of the London-based Fulham Football Club. The California Department of Motor Vehicles refused the professor’s request for a vanity license plate with the letters “COYW.” The letters are the abbreviation for the Fulham team cheer, based on the club’s white jerseys: “Come on you whites!” The California DMV refused the request, asserting that the letters represented a racially offensive statement. In September 2019, the DMV settled the case and granted the license plate request. [38]

Chef Geoff’s v. The Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority: PLF represented a Virginia restauranteur, Geoff Tracy, who was not allowed to advertise the happy hours at his establishment due to a state law prohibiting advertisements promoting special drink pricing and happy hours. Because happy hours and special drink pricing were otherwise legal behavior, PLF argued on behalf of Tracy that this violated his First Amendment right to speak freely and truthfully about his business practices. In response to the litigation, Virginia amended state law to permit the advertising. [39]

Economic Liberty

Fontenot v. Hunter, Attorney General of Oklahoma: PLF’s client, a Native American woman who was a member of Virginia’s Patawomeck tribe, was an artist who sold in many states what she promoted as “American Indian-made” art and jewelry. In 2016, the state of Oklahoma enacted legislation limiting the legal use of the “American Indian-made” identification to only those artists who belong to federally recognized Native American tribes. Because PLF’s client was a member of a tribe recognized by her state, but not the federal government, she was precluded from using the identification when selling her art in Oklahoma. In March of 2019, a federal district court in Oklahoma ruled against the restriction as it applied to PLF’s client. In April 2021, the same artist, represented again by PLF, won a similar (though more limited) ruling against a similar law in the state of Missouri. [40]

Legacy Medical Transport, LLC and Phillip Truesdell v. Adam Meier, et al.: PLF’s client was Legacy Medical Transport, a family-owned non-emergency ambulance company in Ohio servicing the Ohio-Kentucky border area. The business shuttles patients from their homes to medical appointments and back. Legacy Medical was precluded from providing this service for patients needing service to or from Kentucky because that state’s Certificate of Need law artificially restricted the number of ambulance services permitted in the marketplace. The federal lawsuit filed by Legacy Medical’s owners alleged a violation of their constitutional right to make a living free of government regulations that irrationally show favoritism to one competitor over another. The case was still pending in federal court as of May 2021. [41]

Equality Before the Law

D.M. & Z.G. v. Minnesota State High School League: PLF’s client was a 16-year-old high school student who was denied the opportunity to join his school’s competitive dance team because he was a boy. On his behalf, PLF sued the Minnesota State High School League, alleging that excluding boys from competitive dance teams based on their gender was a violation of the constitution’s equal protection guarantee and the federal Title IX civil rights law. In March 2019, a federal court granted an injunction that permitted the boy to dance with the team. [42]

Robinson v. Wentzell: PLF’s clients were the families of African-American and Hispanic students seeking admission to the magnet schools run by the school district in Hartford, Connecticut. A government-mandated quota system required that 25 percent of the magnet school slots be filled by students of white or Asian descent. Maintaining the 25/75 ratio artificially restricted access for African-American and Hispanic students, whose available slots at the school were contingent upon how many white and Asian students enrolled. Insufficient interest from white and Asian families resulted in seats going unfilled by any student, despite African American and Hispanic families wanting them. [43]

The federal lawsuit asserted the quota system was a violation of the 14th Amendment’s equal protection guarantee. In response to the litigation, the state rescinded the quota and allowed the open magnet school seats to be filled by African American students. [44]

Separation of Powers

Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency: On behalf of their client, PLF attorneys won a unanimous decision at the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012 that expanded access to federal courts for landowners seeking to challenge the wetlands jurisdiction of the Environmental Protection Agency. In March 2020, the EPA rescinded a compliance order against the PLF client that had been part of the basis for the initial litigation. [45] (This case is discussed in further detail under the “Supreme Court Victories” section).

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes: On behalf of their client, PLF attorneys won a unanimous decision at the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018 that expanded access to federal courts for landowners seeking to sue federal regulatory agencies. Because of this victory, PLF’s client was able to subsequently win a lawsuit lower federal court that overturned a regulatory determination made by the Army Corps. [46] (This case is discussed in further detail under the “Supreme Court Victories” section).

Supreme Court Victories

Through May of 2021, fourteen cases decided by the U.S. Supreme Court had involved clients directly represented by Pacific Legal Foundation attorneys. PLF won 12 of the cases. [47]

Knick v. Township of Scott, Pennsylvania (2019)

Knick reversed the Supreme Court’s 1985 Williamson County decision, which had prevented property owners from direct access to a federal court when claiming a takings violation under the U.S. Constitution. PLF client Rose Knick, the owner of a Pennsylvania farm containing a suspected graveyard, had been forced by a local government ordinance to open her land to public access. The Williamson County standard had prevented Knick from direct access to a federal court to defend her rights under the federal constitution. [48]

Weyerhaeuser/Markle v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (2018)

Weyerhaeuser/Markle was a ruling against a decision by federal regulators to designate 1,500 acres in Louisiana as a critical habitat for the dusky gopher frog. Federal regulators claimed the Endangered Species Act gave them the authority to impose the designation, which restricted use of the property and thus diminished its value. PLF client Edward Poitevent owned 95 percent of the property, with the remaining land owned by the Weyerhaeser timber and real estate firm. The facts of the case showed that no dusky gopher frog had been found in the state for more than 50 years. The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the government had overstepped its legal authority by imposing the critical habitat designation. [49]

Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky (2018)

Minnesota Voters Alliance was a free speech case involving PLF client Andy Cilek. A Minnesota election law prohibited voters from displaying any recognizable political opinion on their clothing while at a polling place. In 2010, Cilek wore a t-shirt with the motto “Don’t tread on me” to his polling place. He was prevented from voting for several hours because of this attire, and a poll worker threatened him with prosecution. In a 7-2 ruling the Supreme Court held that the state’s dress code violated Cilek’s First Amendment rights. [50]

National Association of Manufacturers v. Department of Defense (2018)

In National Association of Manufacturers, the Supreme Court held unanimously that landowners challenging “Waters of the United States” regulations imposed under authority of the Clean Water Act could retain a six-year window to claim harm and sue in federal court. The ruling reversed an Environmental Protection Agency attempt to shrink the window to 120 days. [51]

PLF’s clients in the case were a diverse collection of private landowners, such as ranchers and farmers. The National Association of Manufacturers, representing its membership in opposition to the EPA rule, had petitioned the Supreme Court to hear the case after conflicting lower court rulings. [52]

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes (2018)

This unanimous decision held that wetlands jurisdictional determinations made by federal agencies should be considered final orders from the perspective of the affected landowner. This allows the landowner to challenge jurisdictional determinations in federal court. Prior rulings had held that jurisdictional determinations were not final orders because a landowner could still obtain the desired use of the land through an expensive permitting process. [53]

PLF represented a family business in Minnesota that harvested peat moss for use as golf course putting greens. The Army Corps of Engineers issued a jurisdictional determination that the government had authority under the Clean Water Act to regulate the business property as a wetland. The Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling allowed the family business to directly challenge the Army Corps’ determination in a federal court. After this ruling, a lower federal court heard the case and the peat moss company prevailed. The lower court ruled their property was not subject to federal jurisdiction. [54]

St. Johns River Water Management District v. Koontz (2013)

PLF represented Coy Koontz, a Florida landowner who was seeking a permit to develop his property. As a condition for granting the permit, the St. Johns River Water Management District insisted that Koontz engage in mitigation (improving water drainage) on an unrelated parcel of property owned by the District and not contiguous with the Koontz property. The mitigation cost estimates ranged from $90,000 to $150,000. The Supreme Court ruled that the District’s conditions violated the takings clause of the U.S. Constitution and that regulators cannot require landowners to pay for work unrelated to their land as a condition for granting land use permits. [55]

Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency (2012)

PLF represented Chantell and Michael Sackett, who owned a residentially-zone half-acre lot in an existing subdivision on which they began to build a three-bedroom home. The Environmental Protection Agency deemed the property subject to wetlands regulation, ordered the land restored to its prior condition, and threatened the Sacketts with $75,000 daily fines if they did not comply. The government agency also demanded several costly permitting and other conditions as necessary before the home could be built — expenses that were estimated to exceed the value of the anticipated home. [56]

When the Sacketts attempted to sue the federal government to challenge the order, the EPA claimed there was no right to judicial review of an Agency wetlands determination. Lower federal courts upheld the EPA’s position, but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that failing to allow the Sacketts to sue violated their due process rights. According to PLF, this was the first time in 40 years that a federal court had allowed a court challenge to the EPA’s jurisdiction in this area. Eight years of litigation ensued. In March 2020, the EPA rescinded the compliance order. [57]

Rapanos v. United States (2006)

The Supreme Court ruled that federal regulators at the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers had been using an over-broad interpretation of a wetland when deciding their jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. The Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling requires regulators to prove that a wetland “alone or in combination with similarly situated lands in the region, significantly affects the chemical, physical, and biological integrity” of the waters of the United States. A mere physical connection, however small or temporary, had been the prior standard used by federal regulators to assert their jurisdiction over private land. [58]

Palazzolo v. Rhode Island (2001)

PLF represented Anthony Palazzolo, owner of a Rhode Island auto towing company. Prior to his purchasing property in Rhode Island the state had imposed environmental regulations restricting how the parcel could be developed. The state argued that Palazzolo did not have standing to challenge its regulations under the takings clause of the U.S. Constitution because he acquired title to the property after the regulation had been imposed. [59]

In a 5-4 ruling the Supreme Court ruled that the right to challenge a regulatory taking does not expire with transfer of the title to the land. The majority said that accepting Rhode Island’s position would mean that a “State would be allowed, in effect, to put an expiration date on the Takings Clause.” Ruling that this “ought not to be the rule” the Court majority opinion held that “[f]uture generations, too, have a right to challenge unreasonable limitations on the use and value of land.” [60]

Suitum v. Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (1997)

In a unanimous decision the Supreme Court held that landowners did not need to attempt a sale of their development rights before seeking to prove in court that a regulation imposed on the land’s development rights had harmed the property’s value and constituted a violation of the takings clause of the U.S. Constitution. [61]

Keller v. State Bar of California (1990)

In a unanimous decision the Supreme Court held that attorney bar associations, as regulatory bodies for the legal profession, were violating the free speech rights of members when they compelled member attorneys to pay dues that were subsequently used for political purposes. [62]

Nollan v. California Coastal Commission (1987)

PLF represented Marilyn and Patrick Nollan, owners of an oceanfront lot who desired to replace a small one-story home on the property with a larger two-story residence. As a condition of granting the building permit the California Coastal Commission required them to surrender one-third of their land to the government. The state agency argued the larger home would impose a “psychological barrier” to the public’s view of the ocean. A 5-4 majority of the Supreme Court ruled that government must prove a more convincing public purpose before demanding ownership of private property. The majority opinion accused the state of attempting an “out-and-out plan of extortion” against the Nollans. [63]

Finances

Pacific Legal Foundation’s IRS filings for the year ending June 30, 2020, show nearly $16.6 million total revenue, with nearly $13.8 million from contributions and grants and $2.2 million from investment income. PLF reported total net assets of nearly $60.3 million, which included $54.9 million in investment securities assets. [64]

PLF reported total expenses of $16.5 million for the year ending June 2020. [65]

In describing the sources of its donations, PLF states that individuals contribute 63 percent, foundations another 31 percent, and that 6 percent is contributed by small businesses and other organizations. PLF does not accept voluntary contributions from governments. [66]

The recordkeeping service FoundationSearch shows nearly $2 million in donations from 86 different foundations to PLF for 2018. All but five of the foundations contributed $100,000 or less. Grants of $5,000 or less comprised 48 of the 86 foundation donors shown in the database. [67]

FoundationSearch shows PLF’s largest foundation donor for tax year 2018 was $313,865 from the Fidelity Investments Charitable Gift Fund, a donor-advised fund. A donor-advised fund manages charitable accounts through which donors can distribute gifts to charities of their choice while receiving immediate tax benefits. Many of the largest, such as Fidelity, exist to serve the clients of a large investment firm, rather than a particular charitable cause or ideological agenda. Fidelity is the largest such fund in the United States. [68]

Virgin Islands Subpoena Controversy

In March 2016, U.S. Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude Earl Walker sent a subpoena to ExxonMobil demanding communications between the energy firm and more than 100 organizations, individuals, and universities. The attorney general believed that these communications would show intent by ExxonMobil and some of the named organizations and individuals to mislead the public regarding climate policy and science. The justification for the subpoena was the attorney general’s suspicion that the suspected conduct by Exxon Mobil might have been in civil violation of the U.S. Virgin Islands version of the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). The federal RICO law was originally created as a criminal and civil law tool to prosecute and defund organized crime bosses and their organizations. [69] [70]

Pacific Legal Foundation was one of the organizations listed in the subpoena. A Washington Times report revealed that PLF and 68 other “academic institutions and free market think tanks” included in the subpoena were also listed on the “#ExxonSecrets” website hosted by Greenpeace. The newspaper asserted the possibility that the attorney general had directly cribbed from the left-wing climate policy’s website because the subpoena’s listing and the Greenpeace list were “in virtually the same order.” [71]

Speaking for PLF in a May 2016 report in the Washington Times, vice president of legal affairs James Burling told the newspaper that the attorney general’s subpoena was “unprofessional, irresponsible and reckless” because it used “unverified screed from a Greenpeace site as the basis for his subpoena, putting the listed entities into the cross-hairs of a politically driven investigation.” [72]

Burling elaborated in a blog post for PLF the next day, saying the subpoena was a “politically motivated fishing expedition of the first order,” as evidenced by the fact that PLF was not involved in climate policy: “We are not scientists and have never taken a position on the global warming debate. In fact, we have never taken a position on whether there is even a debate here.” [emphasis in original][73]

ExxonMobil fought the subpoena, which it declared “unreasonably burdensome and intrusive.” The U.S. Virgin Islands’ attorney general withdrew the legal demand in June 2016. [74]

Conflict with Sheldon Whitehouse

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) has been a frequent critic of PLF.

“Creepy Front Groups” Allegation

In a May 2016 speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate, Whitehouse accused the Pacific Legal Foundation of being one of six “creepy front groups” that had received funding from ExxonMobil in 2014 to promote “anti-scientific climate positions.” As proof for this allegation, Whitehouse quoted from a PLF legal petition in a 2013 case challenging the legal authority of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate carbon dioxide emissions. In the single sentence quote selected by Whitehouse, the PLF lawyer stated that carbon dioxide was “a ubiquitous natural substance essential to life on Earth.” [75] [76]

A poster placed behind Whitehouse by a senate aide as he was speaking asserted that ExxonMobil had given $10,000 to PLF. The poster did not allege a quid pro quo between the $10,000 contribution and PLF’s decision to argue that carbon dioxide was a natural substance that makes life possible. The Pacific Legal Foundation’s tax filing for 2014 showed total grants and contributions of $12,965,856 and net assets of $44,565,295. [77] [78]

In a response, Pacific Legal Foundation attorney James Burling noted that the facts about carbon dioxide in the quote selected by Whitehouse were “completely true and not a single scientist on the planet would deny it.” Burling also criticized Whitehouse for ignoring the very next sentence in the petition, which read as follows: “Certain prominent scientific organizations have concluded that atmospheric emissions of carbon dioxide from manmade sources contribute to global climate change.” Burling argued this context was critical because “nowhere in the petition do we raise any doubt about the science of global warming” [emphasis in original] or “even mention that others have cast any doubt on the science.” [79]

Palazzolo Case

Prior to becoming a U.S. Senator, Whitehouse was the attorney general of Rhode Island. In 2001 he unsuccessfully represented the state before the Supreme Court in Palazzolo v. Rhode Island. The Pacific Legal Foundation represented Anthony Palazzolo, described by the New York Times as a “father of six” and a “former auto wrecker.” Anthony Palazzolo prevailed in a decision that created a higher likelihood of access to the courts for landowners seeking to prove the value of a property has been reduced due to a government regulation. [80] [81]

Since his election to the Senate, Whitehouse has repeatedly referenced the case and criticized PLF for becoming involved in it. In a September 5, 2018, confirmation hearing for then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, Whitehouse referenced the Palazzolo decision when he questioned Kavanaugh about PLF. [82]

Whitehouse began: “You will often see briefs brought by groups like for instance, the Pacific Legal Foundation. Are you familiar with that group?”[83]

“I’ll take your description,” replied Kavanaugh. [84]

Whitehouse continued:[85]

“They get money from right wing conservative and corporate interests and they look for cases around the country that they believe they can use to bring arguments before the Court. I argued against them in the Supreme Court at one point, they came all the way across the country to the shores of Winnapaug Pond, Rhode Island, to hire a client whose case they could take to the Supreme Court with a purpose to make a point… and it causes me to think that sometimes the true party in interest is actually not the named party before the Court  but rather the legal group that has hired the client and brought them to the Court more or less as a prop in order to make arguments trying to direct the Court in a particular direction.” [86]

Later that day, the Pacific Legal Foundation lawyer who represented Palazzolo responded in a blog post: “Of course, we didn’t hire Anthony. He hired us (for free) because after nearly forty years of trying to use his property, he understood we were the only hope he had left after he lost at the Rhode Island Supreme Court.” [87]

The PLF lawyer also noted that “most of our donations come from regular people, not large “dark money” corporate donors that the Senator likes to rail against” and that the mission of public interest litigation “is about representing the Anthony Palazzolos of the world against government that has forgotten its mission is to protect the rights of the people.” [88]

Recounting Whitehouse’s history of criticism, Palazzolo’s lawyer asserted that a disdain for public interest litigation was “the real reason why Senator Whitehouse doesn’t like Pacific Legal Foundation.” [89]

Whitehouse resurrected his Palazzolo criticism again in July 2019, following the Supreme Court’s Knick v. Township of Scott decision, another case in which PLF successfully represented a small landowner. In an essay for The National Law Journal, Whitehouse referenced “the Pacific Legal Foundation, which handpicked the plaintiff in Knick.” The essay did not mention the name of the plaintiff—Rose Knick—and portrayed the decision in her favor as “a massive victory for the partisan donor interests seeking to control our courts.” [90]

At the time of the decision, Rose Knick was a 70-year-old single retiree resisting a local township graveyard ordinance that required her to provide public access to her farm. [91]

References

  1. “History.” Pacific Legal Foundation. Accessed May 19, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/history/ ^
  2. “History.” Pacific Legal Foundation. Accessed May 19, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/history/ ^
  3. “History.” Pacific Legal Foundation. Accessed May 19, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/history/ ^
  4. “What we fight for: Property rights.” Pacific Legal Foundation. Accessed May 19, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/property-rights/ ^
  5. “What We Fight For: FREE SPEECH.” Pacific Legal Foundation. Accessed May 19, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/free-speech-and-association/ ^
  6. “What We Fight For: ECONOMIC LIBERTY.” Pacific Legal Foundation. Accessed May 19, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/economic-liberty/ ^
  7. “What We Fight For: EQUALITY BEFORE THE LAW.” Pacific Legal Foundation. Accessed May 19, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/equality-before-the-law/ ^
  8. “What We Fight For: SEPARATION OF POWERS.” Pacific Legal Foundation. Accessed May 19, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/separation-of-powers/ ^
  9. “About: FIGHT BACK AND WIN.” Pacific Legal Foundation. Accessed May 18, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/about/ ^
  10. “About: Fight Back and Win.” Pacific Legal Foundation. Accessed May 19, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/about/ ^
  11. Goldberg, Carey. “A Property Rights Case Tests Wetland Curbs.” New York Times. February 17, 2001. Accessed May 10, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2001/02/17/us/a-property-rights-case-tests-wetland-curbs.html ^
  12. Burrus, Trevor. “The Takings Clause Has No Expiration Date.” Cato Institute. July 9, 2013. Accessed May 10, 2021. https://www.cato.org/blog/takings-clause-has-no-expiration-date-0 ^
  13. Hoekstra, Kathy. “Ms. Knick goes to Washington. Again.” Pacific Legal Foundation. January 17, 2019. Accessed May 17, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/ms-knick-goes-to-washington-again/ ^
  14. Goldberg, Carey. “A Property Rights Case Tests Wetland Curbs.” New York Times. February 17, 2001. Accessed May 10, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2001/02/17/us/a-property-rights-case-tests-wetland-curbs.html ^
  15. Burling, James. “Public interest litigation, Senator Whitehouse, and the Kavanaugh hearings.” Pacific Legal Foundation. September 5, 2018. Accessed May 17, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/public-interest-litigation-senator-whitehouse-and-the-kavanaugh-hearings/ ^
  16. Burling, James. “Public interest litigation, Senator Whitehouse, and the Kavanaugh hearings.” Pacific Legal Foundation. September 5, 2018. Accessed May 17, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/public-interest-litigation-senator-whitehouse-and-the-kavanaugh-hearings/ ^
  17. Burling, James. “Public interest litigation, Senator Whitehouse, and the Kavanaugh hearings.” Pacific Legal Foundation. September 5, 2018. Accessed May 17, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/public-interest-litigation-senator-whitehouse-and-the-kavanaugh-hearings/ ^
  18. “Senate Floor Proceedings: May 17, 2016.” United States Senate. Video: May 17, 2016. (Whitehouse speech begins at 9-hour mark). Accessed May 10, 2021. http://floor.senate.gov/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=1943 ^
  19. Whitehouse, Sheldon. “’KNICK’-PICKING: WHY A RECENT SCOTUS RULING SIGNALS A NEW DAY.” U.S. Senate (reproduced from The National Law Journal). July 1, 2019. Accessed May 17, 2021. https://www.whitehouse.senate.gov/news/op-eds/knick-picking-why-a-recent-scotus-ruling-signals-a-new-day ^
  20. Burling, James. “Public interest litigation, Senator Whitehouse, and the Kavanaugh hearings.” Pacific Legal Foundation. September 5, 2018. Accessed May 17, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/public-interest-litigation-senator-whitehouse-and-the-kavanaugh-hearings/ ^
  21. “History.” Pacific Legal Foundation. Accessed May 19, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/history/ ^
  22. “History.” Pacific Legal Foundation. Accessed May 19, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/history/ ^
  23. “About: Fight Back and Win.” Pacific Legal Foundation. Accessed May 19, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/about/ ^
  24. Pacific Legal Foundation. 2019 IRS Form 990. Accessed May 18, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/2019-2020-irs-form-990.pdf.pdf ^
  25. American Civil Liberties Union. 2019 IRS Form 990. Accessed May 19, 2021. https://www.aclu.org/sites/default/files/field_document/2019_aclu_form_990_public_disclosure_copy.pdf ^
  26. “About: Fight Back and Win.” Pacific Legal Foundation. Accessed May 19, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/about/ ^
  27. “About: Staff.” Pacific Legal Foundation. Accessed May 19, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/staff/ ^
  28. “About: Board of Trustees.” Pacific Legal Foundation. Accessed May 19, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/board-of-trustees/ ^
  29. “About: Staff.” Pacific Legal Foundation. Accessed May 19, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/staff/ ^
  30. “Steven D. Anderson.” Pacific Legal Foundation. Accessed May 19, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/staff/steven-anderson/ ^
  31. “James S. Burling.” Pacific Legal Foundation. Accessed May 19, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/staff/james-burling/ ^
  32. “John M. Groen.” Pacific Legal Foundation. Accessed May 19, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/staff/john-groen/ ^
  33. “Chad Wilcox.” Pacific Legal Foundation. Accessed May 19, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/staff/chad-wilcox/ ^
  34. “About: FIGHT BACK AND WIN.” Pacific Legal Foundation. Accessed May 18, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/about/ ^
  35. “About: FIGHT BACK AND WIN.” Pacific Legal Foundation. Accessed May 18, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/about/ ^
  36. “Rafaeli, LLC v. Oakland County.” Pacific Legal Foundation. Accessed May 18, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/case/rafaeli-llc-v-oakland-county/ ^
  37. “Zito v. North Carolina Coastal Resource Commission; Town of Nags Head.” Pacific Legal Foundation. Accessed May 18, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/case/zito-v-north-carolina-coastal-resource-commission-town-of-nags-head/ ^
  38. “Kotler v. Webb.” Pacific Legal Foundation. Accessed May 18, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/case/kotler-v-webb/ ^
  39. “Chef Geoff’s v. The Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority.” Pacific Legal Foundation. Accessed May 18, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/case/chef-geoffs-and-geoff-tracy-v-jeffrey-painter/ ^
  40. Trotter, Caleb. “Court takes steps to allow Native American artist to truthfully advertise her work.” Pacific Legal Foundation. April 23, 2021. Accessed May 18, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/court-allows-native-american-artist-truthfully-advertise-work/  ^
  41. “Legacy Medical Transport, LLC and Phillip Truesdell v. Adam Meier, et al.” Pacific Legal Foundation. Accessed May 18, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/case/legacy-medical-transport-v-adam-meier/ ^
  42. “D.M. & Z.G. v. Minnesota State High School League.” Pacific Legal Foundation. Accessed May 18, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/case/d-m-z-g-v-minnesota-state-high-school-league/ ^
  43. “Robinson v. Wentzell.” Pacific Legal Foundation. Accessed May 18, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/case/robinson-v-wentzell/ ^
  44. “Robinson v. Wentzell.” Pacific Legal Foundation. Accessed May 18, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/case/robinson-v-wentzell/ ^
  45. “Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency.” Pacific Legal Foundation. Accessed May 18, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/case/sackett-v-environmental-protection-agency/ ^
  46. “U.S. Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes.” Pacific Legal Foundation. Accessed May 18, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/case/u-s-army-corps-of-engineers-v-hawkes/ ^
  47. “PLF at the Supreme Court.” Pacific Legal Foundation. Accessed May 17, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/plf-at-the-supreme-court/ ^
  48. “KNICK V. TOWNSHIP OF SCOTT, PENNSYLVANIA.” Pacific Legal Foundation. Accessed May 17, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/case/knick-v-scott-township-pennsylvania/ ^
  49. “Weyerhaeuser/Markle v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.” Pacific Legal Foundation. Accessed May 17, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/case/markle-v-u-s-fish-and-wildlife-service/ ^
  50. “Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky.” Pacific Legal Foundation. Accessed May 17, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/case/minnesota-voters-alliance-v-mansky/ ^
  51. “National Association of Manufactures v. Department of Defense.” Pacific Legal Foundation. Accessed May 17, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/case/waters-of-the-united-states/ ^
  52. “National Association of Manufactures v. Department of Defense.” Pacific Legal Foundation. Accessed May 17, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/case/waters-of-the-united-states/ ^
  53. “U.S. Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes.” Pacific Legal Foundation. Accessed May 18, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/case/u-s-army-corps-of-engineers-v-hawkes/ ^
  54. “U.S. Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes.” Pacific Legal Foundation. Accessed May 18, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/case/u-s-army-corps-of-engineers-v-hawkes/ ^
  55. “St. Johns River Water Management District v. Koontz.” Pacific Legal Foundation. Accessed May 18, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/case/st-johns-river-water-management-district-v-koontz/ ^
  56. “Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency.” Pacific Legal Foundation. Accessed May 18, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/case/sackett-v-environmental-protection-agency/ ^
  57. “Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency.” Pacific Legal Foundation. Accessed May 18, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/case/sackett-v-environmental-protection-agency/ ^
  58. “Supreme Court Requires “Significant Nexus” to Navigable Waters for Jurisdiction under Clean Water Act §404.” Goodwin/Proctor LLP. July 5, 2006. Accessed May 18, 2021. https://www.goodwinlaw.com/~/media/Files/Publications/Newsletters/Environmental%20and%20Energy%20Advisory/2006/Supreme_Court_Requires_Significant_Nexus_to_Navigable_Waters_for_Jurisdiction_under_Clean_Water_Ac.pdf ^
  59. “Palazzolo v. Rhode Island.” Oyez. Accessed May 18, 2021. https://www.oyez.org/cases/2000/99-2047 ^
  60. “Palazzolo v. Rhode Island.” Oyez. Accessed May 18, 2021. https://www.oyez.org/cases/2000/99-2047 ^
  61. “Suitum v. Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.” Oyez. Accessed May 18, 2021. https://www.oyez.org/cases/1996/96-243 ^
  62. “Keller v. State Bar of California.” CaseBriefs. Accessed May 18, 2021. https://www.casebriefs.com/blog/law/constitutional-law/constitutional-law-keyed-to-cohen/protection-of-penumbral-first-amendment-rights/keller-v-state-bar-of-california/ ^
  63. Burling, James. “Governments violate our property rights a lot, but the plaintiffs in these Supreme Court cases fought back.” Pacific Legal Foundation. June 14, 2019. Accessed May 18, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/governments-violate-our-property-rights-a-lot-but-these-supreme-court-cases-fought-back/ ^
  64. Pacific Legal Foundation. 2019 IRS Form 990. Accessed May 18, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/2019-2020-irs-form-990.pdf.pdf ^
  65. Pacific Legal Foundation. 2019 IRS Form 990. Accessed May 18, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/2019-2020-irs-form-990.pdf.pdf ^
  66. “About: Financials.” Pacific Legal Foundation. Accessed May 18, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/financials/ ^
  67. “Grant Visualizer: Pacific Legal Foundation.” Foundation Search. Accessed March 8, 2021. www.foundationsearch.com ^
  68. “Grant Visualizer: Pacific Legal Foundation.” Foundation Search. Accessed March 8, 2021. www.foundationsearch.com ^
  69. Richardson, Valerie. “Exxon climate change dissent subpoena sweeps up more than 100 U.S. institutions.” Washington Times. May 3, 2016. Accessed May 20, 2021. https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/may/3/virgin-islands-ag-subpoenas-exxon-communications/ ^
  70. “Subpoena: In Re Investigations of Violations of the Criminally Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.” United States Virgin Islands Department of Justice letter to Exxon Mobil. March 15, 2016. Accessed May 20, 2021. http://media.washtimes.com.s3.amazonaws.com/media/misc/2016/05/03/U_S__subpoena_file.pdf ^
  71. Richardson, Valerie. “Exxon climate change dissent subpoena sweeps up more than 100 U.S. institutions.” Washington Times. May 3, 2016. Accessed May 20, 2021. https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/may/3/virgin-islands-ag-subpoenas-exxon-communications/ ^
  72. Richardson, Valerie. “Exxon climate change dissent subpoena sweeps up more than 100 U.S. institutions.” Washington Times. May 3, 2016. Accessed May 20, 2021. https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/may/3/virgin-islands-ag-subpoenas-exxon-communications/ ^
  73. Burling, James. “PLF a target in the Virgin Islands subpoena imbroglio.” Pacific Legal Foundation. May 4, 2016. Accessed May 20, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/plf-a-target-in-the-virgin-island-subpoena/ ^
  74. Wade, Terry. “U.S. Virgin Islands to withdraw subpoena in climate probe into Exxon.” Reuters. June 29,2016. Accessed May 20, 2021. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-exxon-mobil-climatechange/u-s-virgin-islands-to-withdraw-subpoena-in-climate-probe-into-exxon-idUSKCN0ZF2ZP ^
  75. “Senate Floor Proceedings: May 17, 2016.” United States Senate. Video: May 17, 2016. (Whitehouse speech begins at 9-hour mark). Accessed May 10, 2021. http://floor.senate.gov/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=1943 ^
  76. Burling, James. “Ubiquitous misstatements in the United States Senate.” Pacific Legal Foundation. May 27, 2016. Accessed May 10, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/ubiquitous-misstatements-in-the-united-states-senate/ ^
  77. Pacific Legal Foundation. 2014 IRS Form 990. Accessed May 10, 2021. Accessed May 10, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/2014-IRS-Form-990.pdf ^
  78. “Senate Floor Proceedings: May 17, 2016.” United States Senate. Video: May 17, 2016. (Whitehouse speech begins at 9-hour mark). Accessed May 10, 2021. http://floor.senate.gov/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=1943 ^
  79. Burling, James. “Ubiquitous misstatements in the United States Senate.” Pacific Legal Foundation. May 27, 2016. Accessed May 10, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/ubiquitous-misstatements-in-the-united-states-senate/ ^
  80. Goldberg, Carey. “A Property Rights Case Tests Wetland Curbs.” New York Times. February 17, 2001. Accessed May 10, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2001/02/17/us/a-property-rights-case-tests-wetland-curbs.html ^
  81. Burrus, Trevor. “The Takings Clause Has No Expiration Date.” Cato Institute. July 9, 2013. Accessed May 10, 2021. https://www.cato.org/blog/takings-clause-has-no-expiration-date-0 ^
  82. Burling, James. “Public interest litigation, Senator Whitehouse, and the Kavanaugh hearings.” Pacific Legal Foundation. September 5, 2018. Accessed May 17, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/public-interest-litigation-senator-whitehouse-and-the-kavanaugh-hearings/ ^
  83. Burling, James. “Public interest litigation, Senator Whitehouse, and the Kavanaugh hearings.” Pacific Legal Foundation. September 5, 2018. Accessed May 17, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/public-interest-litigation-senator-whitehouse-and-the-kavanaugh-hearings/ ^
  84. Burling, James. “Public interest litigation, Senator Whitehouse, and the Kavanaugh hearings.” Pacific Legal Foundation. September 5, 2018. Accessed May 17, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/public-interest-litigation-senator-whitehouse-and-the-kavanaugh-hearings/ ^
  85. Burling, James. “Public interest litigation, Senator Whitehouse, and the Kavanaugh hearings.” Pacific Legal Foundation. September 5, 2018. Accessed May 17, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/public-interest-litigation-senator-whitehouse-and-the-kavanaugh-hearings/ ^
  86. Burling, James. “Public interest litigation, Senator Whitehouse, and the Kavanaugh hearings.” Pacific Legal Foundation. September 5, 2018. Accessed May 17, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/public-interest-litigation-senator-whitehouse-and-the-kavanaugh-hearings/ ^
  87. Burling, James. “Public interest litigation, Senator Whitehouse, and the Kavanaugh hearings.” Pacific Legal Foundation. September 5, 2018. Accessed May 17, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/public-interest-litigation-senator-whitehouse-and-the-kavanaugh-hearings/ ^
  88. Burling, James. “Public interest litigation, Senator Whitehouse, and the Kavanaugh hearings.” Pacific Legal Foundation. September 5, 2018. Accessed May 17, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/public-interest-litigation-senator-whitehouse-and-the-kavanaugh-hearings/ ^
  89. Burling, James. “Public interest litigation, Senator Whitehouse, and the Kavanaugh hearings.” Pacific Legal Foundation. September 5, 2018. Accessed May 17, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/public-interest-litigation-senator-whitehouse-and-the-kavanaugh-hearings/ ^
  90. Whitehouse, Sheldon. “’KNICK’-PICKING: WHY A RECENT SCOTUS RULING SIGNALS A NEW DAY.” U.S. Senate (reproduced from The National Law Journal). July 1, 2019. Accessed May 17, 2021. https://www.whitehouse.senate.gov/news/op-eds/knick-picking-why-a-recent-scotus-ruling-signals-a-new-day ^
  91. Hoekstra, Kathy. “Ms. Knick goes to Washington. Again.” Pacific Legal Foundation. January 17, 2019. Accessed May 17, 2021. https://pacificlegal.org/ms-knick-goes-to-washington-again/ ^
  See an error? Let us know!

Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: June - May
  • Tax Exemption Received: June 1, 1973

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2019 Jun Form 990 $18,427,010 $15,441,226 $65,165,262 $3,630,432 N $13,608,144 $700,180 $1,198,141 $1,365,442 PDF
    2018 Jun Form 990 $13,803,393 $6,780,401 $59,855,289 $1,317,984 Y $13,337,074 $469,566 $0 $321,683 PDF
    2017 Dec Form 990 $13,377,243 $11,668,784 $53,327,855 $1,300,586 N $10,159,026 $2,356,239 $709,586 $648,928 PDF
    2016 Dec Form 990 $10,778,138 $10,583,155 $47,864,523 $1,612,643 N $9,783,403 $167,147 $763,041 $592,852
    2015 Dec Form 990 $11,092,499 $9,479,232 $46,568,452 $2,312,828 N $10,101,218 $186,827 $839,090 $490,575 PDF
    2014 Dec Form 990 $15,941,662 $8,299,598 $46,820,505 $2,255,210 N $12,965,856 $194,174 $841,474 $483,302 PDF
    2013 Dec Form 990 $10,597,359 $8,226,431 $40,213,807 $1,999,010 N $9,012,249 $510,905 $798,295 $524,308 PDF
    2012 Dec Form 990 $9,436,205 $7,932,363 $35,587,509 $2,162,066 N $8,715,408 $9,725 $726,600 $532,015 PDF
    2011 Dec Form 990 $14,064,780 $8,038,664 $31,901,170 $1,922,228 N $13,415,871 $103,441 $596,032 $455,339 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Pacific Legal Foundation

    930 G ST
    Sacramento, CA 95814-1802