“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,
the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
– Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
One of CLDEF’s highest priorities is protecting and defending the Second Amendment. Our work focuses on building on the victories achieved in the U.S. Supreme Court in the Heller (2008) and McDonald (2010) cases, and rolling back draconian gun control laws across the land. CLDEF opposes all gun registration and licensing requirements, regulation of firearms dealers, weapons bans, ammunition bans, etc.
CLDEF urges state and federal courts and agencies to apply the Second Amendment by looking to the “text, history, and tradition” of the Second Amendment as the Supreme Court identified in Heller. This standard stands in stark contrast to the judge-empowering “balancing tests” (e.g., strict scrutiny, intermediate scrutiny, rational basis) that many courts prefer to apply in cases to uphold all manner of restrictions on firearms. As Justice Scalia explained, the Founders did the balancing. It does not matter what modern federal judges think as to the wisdom of the Second Amendment.
Many politicians and liberals claim that firearms ownership should be subject to “reasonable regulation,” but we do not concede that. First, what Senator Diane Feinstein thinks is “reasonable” is somewhat different than what others may think. Second, the Second Amendment states that the right to keep and bear arms “shall not be infringed” — not that it may be reasonably regulated.
CLDEF fights to protect citizens’ rights to keep and bear all types of “arms,” including what are pejoratively described as “assault weapons,” “large capacity magazines,” and “armor piercing ammunition.” The “arms” described in the Second Amendment referred to modern military weapons of that time — which now includes all modern military weapons of this time.
Below are some of the Firearms Law matters in which CLDEF has been involved.
Today an amicus brief was filed, on our behalf, in the Tenth Circuit in support of the right of Kansas to require that persons registering to vote under the National Voter Registration Act of 1994 submit documentary proof of citizenship. The brief supported the position taken by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.
Family & Life
The U.S. Constitution was designed to protect the rights of U.S. citizens, but activist federal judges have misused the Constitution to effect social changes that they believe would be good for the country. The Supreme Court has distorted the rights guaranteed to us by the Fourteenth Amendment both to authorize the murder of unborn children and, more recently, to compel recognition of unnatural sexual coupling as if it was morally comparable to Biblically defined marriage.
CLDEF has actively worked to defend against this distortion of the Constitution to fight against the onslaught on the sanctity of life and traditional marriage.
In a recent article, we discussed what is probably Justice Clarence Thomas’ best dissent ever. Justice Thomas discusses the flawed nature of much of modern constitutional law. CLDEF’s briefs have brought this same message to the U.S. Supreme Court in dozens of briefs filed over the last 15 years.
Below are some of the Family & Life matters in which CLDEF has been involved.
Today, an amicus brief was filed, on behalf of CLDEF, in support of The Independence Institute, in its challenge to certain federal election law and Federal Election Commission regulations governing electioneering communications. Under these regulations, Section 501(c)(3) organizations must report on their broadcast issue ads which mention the name of incumbent Congressmen. The required reports include certain information on donors to the nonprofit organizations. The brief explains why these laws and regulations violate First Amendment principles of anonymity long recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Today, an amicus brief was filed, on behalf of CLDEF, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, in support of a challenge to the District of Columbia’s requirement that a person must demonstrate a “good reason” in order to obtain a permit to carry a concealed weapon. The brief noted that before Heller, the federal courts perpetuated the charade that the right of “the People” was a collective rather than an individual right. Now, the brief argued, the lower courts are perpetuating a new charade — that rights which “shall not be infringed” can indeed be infringed so long as the government strongly desires to do so, and judges believe the regulations are reasonable. The brief argued that use of such “interest-balancing” tests permits judges to come to whatever result they prefer, as this case uniquely indicates.
CLDEF has fought for strong enforcement of immigration laws in order to protect our nation from de facto invasions by foreign nations.
Below are some of the Immigration Law matters in which CLDEF has been involved.
Other Constitutional Cases
CLDEF has worked on a number of other important constitutional and statutory issues, such as misuse of the treaty power and other illegal actions of the Obama Administration.
Below are some of the Other Constitutional Cases in which CLDEF has been involved.
Searches and Seizure
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
– Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
The Fourth Amendment was put into the Bill of Rights to protect one’s private property interests in his “person, houses, papers, and effects.” Any government intrusion upon such property is per se “unreasonable,” unless the government has a superior property interest in the person or things to be searched or seized.
Thus, even if the government has probable cause and a warrant, a search or seizure of property is unreasonable unless the government can show that the thing to be seized is: (i) the fruit of a crime; (ii) the instrumentality of a crime; or (iii) contraband. If the only interest of the government is to obtain “evidence,” that would be an impermissible (“unreasonable”) seizure. For many years, this was the law of the land, known as the “mere evidence rule.”
Additionally, even if the government may search for and seize such property, it must first establish to the satisfaction of a member of the judicial branch that there is probable cause, supported by a sworn affidavit, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the property to be seized. The warrant requirement ensured that the government was not engaging in an unjustified search, but required an affidavit of someone with personal knowledge of the presence of one of the three types of property that could be seized. Should the affidavit be false, the person who signed it could be sued for trespass, as could the government officials wrongfully carrying out the search.
All aspects of the Fourth Amendment have been eroded during the Twentieth Century, to the point that the government now asserts the right to search and seize: (i) on many occasions, without any warrant; (ii) on other occasions with a warrant from someone other than a judge; and (iii) on all occasions, seeking anything whatsoever it wants if it has a warrant. The mere evidence rule has been abandoned. The warrant requirement is riddled with exceptions. And the property basis of the Fourth Amendment has been undermined by an atextual standard known as “reasonable expectation of privacy.” The first legal writing in America about a right of privacy did not occur until the 1890’s, and thus it could not be said that the Founders were referring to privacy in crafting the Fourth Amendment.
CLDEF focuses on restoring the original understanding of the Fourth Amendment. The first breakthrough occurred when the position advanced in CLDEF’s amicus curiae brief in United States v. Jones, was largely adopted by the U.S. Supreme Court — bringing back the property basis of Fourth Amendment.
These important Fourth Amendment principles were set out in a 2013 Law Review article by CLDEF lawyers Herbert W. Titus and William J. Olson, entitled
“U.S. v. Jones: Reviving the Property Foundation of the Fourth Amendment,” published in the Case Western Reserve University School of Law Journal of Law, Technology & the Internet.
Below are some of the Searches and Seizures matters in which CLDEF has been involved.
Today, an amicus brief was filed on behalf of CLDEF in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit supporting the right of a Maryland resident to purchase and possess firearms despite a prior conviction. Hamilton had been convicted of a non-violent felony in Virginia and served his sentence. Later, Virginia restored his civil rights, and then a Virginia Court specifically restored his firearms rights.
Today an amicus brief was filed on behalf of CLDEF in the U.S. Supreme Court supporting the challenge filed by Texas and 25 other states to the Obama Administration’s DAPA amnesty program. (An earlier amisuc brief was filed in support of Texas in this case in the Fifth Circuit, where Texas prevailed.) The brief explains why the Executive Branch had no authority (through DAPA or otherwise) to grant unilaterally “lawful presence” to approximately 4 million illegal aliens. It also explains that such unilateral Executive Action violates the federal separation of powers. Lastly, it explains why the sovereign States have the right to seek federal judicial review of such unlawful and unconstitutional executive actions as they constitute a constitutional “controversy” that must be decided by federal courts in accordance with Article III, Section 2, and that the traditional rules of standing do not apply.
Today, a third amicus brief was filed on behalf of CLDEF opposing NSA’s program of “Upstream” Internet surveillance of Americans. This brief urges the Fourth Circuit to reverse the decision of the District Court in Maryland which found that neither Wikimedia Foundation — which runs Wikipedia — nor the other plaintiffs in the case, had standing to challenge that surveillance.
Today an amicus brief was filed on behalf of CLDEF in the U.S. Supreme Court urging the High Court to reverse decisions from the Supreme Court of North Dakota and Minnesota which authorized police to force drivers to submit to warrantless blood and breath tests. The brief urges the Court to apply to principles of its prior decisions in United States v. Jones, and Florida v. Jardines, which re-established the property basis of the Fourth Amendment. The brief opposes reliance on the modern notion that the Fourth Amendment only protected a nontextual “expectation of privacy” — a false notion on which the two state supreme courts relied.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
– First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
The Conservative Legal Defense and Education Fund believes that the First Amendment’s directive that “Congress shall make no law…” provides the clearest standard for the protection of the liberties listed therein. Judges take away from these liberties when they use “judge-empowering” tests to determine whether those liberties are more important than governmental interests. Unsurprisingly, judges frequently consider those governmental interests — essentially the judge’s idea of “the common good” — more important than the abridgement of the individual liberties the Founders desired to protect, thus erasing the jurisdictional barriers erected by the several guarantees of the First Amendment.
Below are some of the Freedoms of Speech and Press/Free Exercise of Religion matters in which CLDEF has been involved.
Today an amicus brief was filed on behalf of CLDEF in the U.S. Supreme Court defending a Christian-owned pharmacy from attack by the Washington State Pharmacy Quality Assurance Commission due to that pharmacy’s refusal to stock and sell abortifacient drugs. Although the Pharmacy Commission is a government agency, its steps were largely directed by Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest.
Today, an amicus brief was filed on behalf of CLDEF in the U.S. Supreme Court supporting two Texas laws requiring that abortions be performed only at certain types of facilities by physicians with hospital admission privileges. The brief set out why the pro-abortion petitioners, and the Obama Administration as amicus curiae, misrepresent to the Court its own abortion jurisprudence. However, even more importantly, the brief explains why Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided.
Today, an amicus brief was filed on behalf of CLDEF, the Free Speech Defense and Education Fund, the Free Speech Coalition and other nonprofits in the Ninth Circuit, attacking a new interpretation of law by the the California Attorney General. Under this new interpretation, as a per-condition to soliciting contributions in California, each charity must provide provide the Attorney General with its IRS Form 990 Schedule B which identifies the charity’s largest donors.
There is no provision in the U.S. Constitution which authorizes the federal government to have any role in healthcare, but that certainly has not discouraged the Obama Administration from attempting a federal takeover of healthcare with Obamacare.
Further, the lack of Constitutional authority has not discouraged the Federal Trade Commission, often working with the Food and Drug Administration, and even the Securities Exchange Commission, from attempting to narrow the healthcare choices of the American public.
Healthcare choices are personal choices. There are a variety of schools of medicine, and each American should have the right to decide for himself which type of treatment he would desire. However, with billions of dollars at stake, establishment medical interests, led by the pharmaceutical industry, have worked for decades to convince those in government to restrict the choices available to Americans to those that enrich the clients of the lobbyists.
CLDEF has filed many briefs against Obamacare, and has worked to support the right of each American to make his own healthcare choices.
Below are some of the Healthcare matters in which CLDEF has been involved.
“No person shall be … deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.”
– Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
For most of the history of our nation, the government did not claim the right to seize personal property of its citizens — unless the government had a superior right to that property. In recent years, the government has assumed a power that had been developed by Oriental Potentates — the right to seize the property of those accused of crimes — even before conviction.
Giving the government the power to seize a person’s assets unconnected with a crime is bad enough after conviction. It is much worse when government seizes a person’s assets before trial, as now permitted by several federal laws. One of the benefits to the government of a pre-trial seizure is that a defendant is robbed of his ability to resist the will of federal prosecutors. A defendant is unable to hire defense counsel of his choice, and is forced to rely on already overburdened federal defenders, often leading to plea bargains, even when the defendant is not guilty. CLDEF is fighting against this dangerous power of pre-trial seziure.
Additionally, CLDEF has argued that the TSA’s intrusive body scanners constituted a warrantless search and violate citizens’ rights, including his right to travel as protected by the Fifth Amendment.
Below are some of the Asset Forfeiture matters in which CLDEF has been involved.