In 1989, Michael Greve and Michael McDonald founded the Center for Individual Rights, a new kind of public interest firm that would fight back against the liberal drift in constitutional law. CIR would bring original cases that took dead aim at threats to individual liberty. It was a big gamble, but it paid off in big ways. For three decades, CIR has been bringing cases that no one would touch and winning victories that no one thought possible.
From the beginning, CIR won the unwinnable. In Lamprecht v. FCC, CIR represented Thomas Lamprecht, an aspiring radio broadcaster who was denied a radio license because he was a man. CIR successfully challenged the FCC’s license program in the first case ever to invalidate a federal gender preference.
And we kept our aim high. In U.S. v. Morrison, CIR struck a blow against Congress’ power to regulate every aspect of American life. The Supreme Court ruled that Congress had no authority to create a federal tort for violence against women over and above existing state law. Morrison was a sharp rebuke to overambitious congressmen and one of the most significant federalism decisions of the decade.
In Friedrichs v. CTA, we broke new First Amendment ground. CIR challenged laws that compelled public-sector employees to subsidize unions. We came within a single vote of victory. Tragically, Justice Scalia died shortly after oral argument. But the Friedrichs strategy was picked up by other organizations. In 2018, Janus v. AFSCME got the key five votes.
CIR is not slowing down. This year, CIR won a big victory in the Ninth Circuit, which struck down a race-based voting law in Guam that would have disenfranchised most of the island in a vote to determine Guam’s relationship with the U.S. But we did more. CIR filed a motion for summary judgment on behalf of New York hearing officer, Salvatore Davi, who was suspended from his job for commenting about welfare policy on Facebook.
You can read more about CIR’s history of game-changing cases below: