Issues & Cases

Thanks to our donors, PLF remains in the lead as America’s legal watchdog for liberty. We’re an action organization, battling in courtrooms across the country for limited government, property rights, free enterprise, and common sense in environmental regulations.  Choose from the Litigation categories below, 


Bruner v. Zawacki: The court granted Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment

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Economic Liberty

PLF believes it is the right of every person to earn an honest living and compete freely without unreasonable government interference. The Economic Liberty Project is dedicated to challenging irrational and anti-competitive occupational licensing laws which exist not to protect the public, but serve only to protect discrete interest groups from competition.

  • Castillo v. Ingram - PLF attorneys are challenging a Nevada law that forces private investigators to get a license—and defines “private investigator” to include practically anyone who researches and publishes information, in violation of the First Amendment. Worse, the law forces investigators to maintain an office in Nevada, violating the constitutional right to do business across state lines.
  • The Crafted Keg v. Lawson - Florida is violating the U.S. Constitution by arbitrarily banning restaurants, taverns and breweries from selling or filling the most popular portable jug (or "growler") for craft beers - the half-gallon (64 ounce) growler. PLF argues that Florida's ban on half-gallon "growlers" is unconstitutional.
  • Perlman v. Mackay - Ron and Danell Perlman own a small limousine business in Reno, Nevada. Before they can expand their company, they have to ask their competitors for permission first. PLF attorneys are challenging Nevada Competitor’s Veto law on behalf of the Perlmans and Steve and Patrick Saxon, who run a moving company out of Sacramento, CA, and want to expand their thriving business into Nevada.
  • Tracie Pabst v. Montana Public Service Commission - Tracie Pabst has transported over 200,000 passengers without a single traffic violation or safety-related incident in New Mexico and Texas. She wants to provide her services in her home state of Montana, which has beautiful, but difficult terrain. Under Montana law, Tracie can be denied a license despite her qualifications---simply because her competitors don’t want to compete. PLF attorneys are representing her in her fight for economic liberty in the Big Sky state.
  • Young v. Heineman - California internet entrepreneur Leslie Young helps people advertise their homes as “for sale by owner.”  Because some of the homes were in Nebraska, that state’s real estate licensing board claims she’s practicing real estate without a license. PLF argues that the First Amendment doesn’t allow the state to force someone to get permission before publishing advertisements.


California Charter Schools Association v. LAUSD: California Supreme Court issues a favorable decision

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Education Reform

  • California Charter Schools Assocation v. Los Angeles Unified School District - The California Charter Schools Association is challenging the Los Angeles Unified School District’s non-compliance with Proposition 39. PLF filed a brief in the California Supreme Court explaining that Proposition 39 guarantees charter school students are treated fairly by requiring school districts to provide them with facilities that are “reasonably equivalent” to those enjoyed by traditional public school students. 
  • League of Women Voters v. Washington - Anti-school choice advocates are challenging the legality of Washington’s voter-approved Charter School Act.  PLF filed a brief in the Washington Supreme Court arguing that the charter school law does not offend that state’s constitution.
  • Magee v. Boyd - PLF helped defend Alabama’s statewide school choice program in the Alabama Supreme Court.  The Alabama Supreme Court ruled that the Alabama Accountability Act does not unconstitutionally interfere with state funding of religious schools, because parents make the choice about which school their child will attend.
  • McCall v. Scott - The Florida teachers’ union is challenging the statewide tax credit program that provides low-income families with choices about where their child is educated.  PLF is defending parents right to select the school that best fits their child’s needs.
  • Richardson v. North Carolina - PLF is helping defend North Carolina parents’ right to choose the school that best fits their child’s needs. The North Carolina teachers’ union brought suit challenging that state’s statewide school choice program. The case is currently before the North Carolina Supreme Court.
  • Taxpayers for Public Education v. Douglas County School District - Douglas County, Colorado adopted a school choice program that allows all students that live within the district a choice in the school that they will attend.  A collation of anti-school choice groups brought suit arguing that the school board’s policy violates the Colorado Constitution. PLF filed a brief in support of school choice families in the Colorado Supreme Court.



People for the Ethical Treatment of Property Owners (PETPO) v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Servicee: The District Court issued a favorable decision, granting Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, on November 5, 2014.

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Environmental Regulations

PLF fights for a commonsense, science-based, balanced approach to environmental regulation. PLF challenges government hubris in the enforcement of state environmental regulations and federal laws such as the Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, and Clean Air Act to protect private property rights and reduce the ever-expanding power of government.



Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action: The U.S. Supreme Court upheld Michigan’s decision to ban governmental racial classifications.

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Equality Under the Law

PLF challenges programs covering public contracting, public education, and public employment that grant special preferences to a select few on the basis of race and sex. PLF litigates to assure a color-blind society and against attempts that undermine the Constitution’s Equal Protection guarantee and state constitutional provisions like California’s Proposition 209.

  • Abigail Fisher v. University of Texas - For over five years, PLF attorneys have supported Abigail Fisher in her challenge to the University of Texas’s race-conscious admissions and will continue to support her until her equal protection rights are vindicated.
  • Hardie v. National Collegiate Athletic Association – A high school basketball coach is challenging an NCAA rule prohibiting convicted felons from coaching in NCAA-sponsored tournaments. Plaintiff alleges that the rule is discriminatory simply because of its effect, and despite the lack of a discriminatory intent. In late August, PLF will be filing a brief in the Ninth Circuit supporting the NCAA. Oral argument has not yet been scheduled.
  • Mountain West Holding Company v. MontanaA contractor is challenging Montana’s enforcement of the Federal Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program. Under Montana’s discriminatory program, prime contractors must favor or disfavor subcontractors on the basis of their race. PLF filed a brief  in the Ninth Circuit in support of race-neutral contracting policies. Oral argument has not yet been scheduled.
  • Connerly v. State of California - Ward Connerly and the American Civil Rights Foundation are challenging the California Redistricting Commission’s race-conscious selection criteria. PLF attorneys are asking the court to hold that the statutes that require redistricting commissioners to be selected on the basis of race violate the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause.
  • Shea v. Kerry – Representing Foreign Service Officer William Shea in a challenge to the Department of State’s race-based hiring policy, PLF attorneys are asking the Court to hold that any race-based employment decision is illegal and can only be upheld in extraordinary circumstances.
  • Midwest Fence Corp. v. United States Department of Transportation  – Challenge to discriminatory public contracting programs in Illinois that require prime contractors to award subcontracts on the basis of race. PLF filed a brief in the Seventh Circuit supporting one subcontracting firm, whose low bids were rejected because of the owner’s race.



Verdugo v. Target: California Supreme Court held there is no common law duty for businesses to maintain AEDs on their property.


Free Enterprise

All Americans have the constitutional right to earn a living without unfair government interference. PLF attorneys target licensing laws and other regulations that deprive entrepreneurs from competing fairly and pursuing the American dream. PLF confronts outrageous tort liability claims and other litigious practices that threaten to kill jobs, stifle innovation, and suffocate the U.S. economy.

  • In the Matter of New York City Asbestos Litigation - A manufacturer of a non-asbestos containing product should not be liable for a plaintiff’s asbestos-related disease.
  • Genie v. Matak - Arguing that a plaintiff cannot introduce a product that would violate safety standards as evidence of a “safer alternative design."
  • Sanchez v. Valencia Holding Co., LLC - Urging California Supreme Court to uphold the freedom to enter into consumer contracts that provide for individual arbitration of disputes.



Harris v. Quinn: Victory for workers!

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Individual Rights

PLF promotes individual freedom, personal responsibility, and limited government. Specifically, PLF protects the right to free speech and association, fights unconstitutional taxes, fees, and debt, and combats the government waste, fraud, abuse, and corruption that pose a threat to liberty.

  • Friedrichs v. CTA - Several California public school teachers argue that, under the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, they cannot be compelled to pay union dues.
  • Sissel v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services– Constitutional challenge to the provision of the Federal Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) that imposes a tax on Americans who fail to buy health insurance.



St. Johns River Water Management District v. Koontz: The U.S. Supreme Court issued a favorable decision on June 25, 2013.

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Property Rights

The right to own, use and protect private property is the most fundamental of all civil rights Americans enjoy. PLF has earned a national reputation for fighting and winning major property rights victories, including several at the U.S. Supreme Court. PLF challenges regulatory shakedowns, illegal zoning practices, eminent domain, and coastal land rights abuses.

  • Beach and Bluff Conservancy v. City of Solana Beach -  Fighting to vindicate property owners’ rights under the Coastal Act and the Constitution.
  • Daniel and Maria Levin v. City and County of San Francisco - Challenging the City of San Francisco’s onerous tenant relocation ordinance requiring landlords to subsidize tenants’ rent for two years just to take property off the rental market as an unconstitutional taking under the Fifth Amendment.
  • Kentner v. City of Sanibel - Urging the United States Supreme Court to review the 11th Circuit’s bizarre holding that the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment does not protect property rights.
  • Lynch v. California Coastal Commission - Fighting to vindicate property owners’ rights under the Coastal Act and the Constitution to protect property from erosion and to replace structures destroyed by natural disasters.
  • Sansotta v. Town of Nags Head - Challenging Town’s declaration that private cottages are a nuisance merely because of their location on the beach and the Town’s refusal to issue repair permits as an unconstitutional taking under the Fifth Amendment.
  • St. Johns River Water Management District v. Koontz - Vindicating property owners’ constitutional right not to have private property, including money, extorted from them during the permitting process.


Landmark Supreme Court Victories

Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) is one of the most active and effective public interest legal organizations in filings before the Supreme Court of the United States. PLF has had an unprecedented seven wins in its last seven direct appearances before the High Court for its clients, including two in the last two years.

The following cases illustrate PLF’s caseload, both direct and amicus cases before the High Court:

Horne v. U.S. Department of Agriculture
Issue: Are the USDA’s raisin market regulations, which require raisin growers to either divert a portion of their crop from the open market to a USDA reserve or face monetary assessments and fines, an unconstitutional taking?

Status: PLF filed an amicus brief in support of the Hornes, Fresno area raisin growers who refused to turn over a portion of their crop. The Supreme Court granted Horne's petition for writ of certiorari on January 16, 2015. PLF has filed an amicus brief and oral argument is scheduled for April 22, 2015.

Kentner v. City of Sanibel
Issue: The City of Sanibel, Florida, enacted an ordinance that prohibits new construction of docks and accessory piers within an area fronting San Carlos Bay. The petioners — owners of waterfront property — challenged the ordinance, claiming that the outright ban on new docks violates substantive due process. The Eleventh Circuit ruled against David and Susan Kentner.

Status: PLF attorneys directly represent the Kentners and several other property owners in challenging the ordinance as a violation of their property rights under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Supreme Court denied the Kentners' petition for writ of certiorari on January 12, 2015

Liberty Coins, LLC, et al. v. David Goodman, et al.
Issue: Liberty Coins, a precious metal dealer, argues that the First Amendment protects its right to advertise and solicit for customers, and that a state may not forbid such advertisements and solicitations because the lawfully operating dealer has not complied with nonmandatory onerous licensing requirements.

Status: PLF attorneys directly represent the petitioner in claiming that advertisement of the otherwise lawful activity of purchasing precious metals is protected speech under the First Amendment, and a licensing requirement that restricts such advertising is a content-based restriction on speech subject to strict scrutiny. The Supreme Court denied the Kentners' petition for writ of certiorari on January 12, 2015.

North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners v. FTC
Issue: Should a board, consisting entirely of practicing dentists, enjoy the complete immunity from prosecution under antitrust laws? PLF’s amicus brief will argue that a regulatory entity that is made up of active members of the industry who have direct conflict of interest and who are not supervised by the state cannot enjoy complete immunity. The Federal Trade Commission initiated antitrust proceedings against the Board of Dental Examiners when it began taking action against unlicensed persons offering teeth-whitening services.

Status: The U.S. Supreme Court granted the petition for writ of certiorari on May 3, 2014. PLF's amicus brief on the merits was filed with the U.S. Supreme Court on August 6, 2014, in support of Federal Trade Commission.  Oral argument was held on October 14, 2014 and the U.S Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Federal Trade Comission in a 6-3 decision on February 25, 2015. The decision rejects the North Carolina board's argument that it enjoyed immunity from the Federal Trade Commission filing charges.

Spokeo v. Robbins
Issue: Standing to sue for damages requires real injury. Spokeo, Inc., runs a website that collects and publishes consumer “credit estimates.” Thomas Robins, an unemployed man, sued Spokeo in federal court for willful violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, alleging that Spokeo published false information. The trial court held that Spokeo’s statutory violations did not cause Robins anything other than speculative harm, and that he, therefore, lacked standing under Article III of the Constitution which requires that there be a “case or controversy.” The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, however, holding that it would assume that any plaintiff who alleged a willful statutory violation had suffered an injury caused by that violation. As amicus in support of Spokeo’s petition for certiorari, PLF argues that standing to sue for damages requires real injury.

Status: PLF attorneys filed an amicus brief on June 2, 2014.  On October 6th, the Court asked the Solicitor General's office to file a brief.

Stewart & Jasper Orchards v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Issue: Representing several California farmers, PLF attorneys are challenging the biological opinion (BiOp) by federal agencies used to restrict water deliveries from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in order to protect the Delta smelt, a small fish listed under the Endangered Species Act. In 2012, PLF previously sought Supreme Court review of the case on a Commerce Clause challenge because smelt are in intrastate species, but the High Court denied cert. With a recent adverse ruling at the Ninth Circuit on the biological opinion, it sets up reconsideration of the Supreme Court’s TVA v. Hill decision, relied on by the Ninth Circuit to uphold the smelt BiOp. In TVA v. Hill, the court held that the protection of every endangered species is the highest priority of the federal government, regardless of the cost. The result has been a heavy-handed, top-down bureaucracy that frustrates human interests and species conservation.

Status: On July 23, 2014, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied rehearing before the entire court, leaving an adverse ruling from March in place. PLF attorneys filed a petition for certiorari on September 30, 2014. The petition was denied on January 12, 2015.

Texas Department of Housing v. Inclusive Communities Project, Inc. 
Issue: The Texas Department of Housing was sued over its allocation of federal tax credits to developers of affordable housing projects. The Department was sued under the Federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) because it approved more tax credits for projects that would be located in minority neighborhoods than non-minority neighborhoods. The lawsuit alleges that, although the Department followed state and federal law, it created a disparate impact on minorities by providing more tax credits in minority neighborhoods.

Status: PLF attorneys filed an amicus brief on June 16, 2014, arguing that disparate impact claims are not cognizable under the FHA. Oral argument was held January 21, 2015 and is awaiting decision.

Utility Air Regulatory Group v. Environmental Protection Agency
Issue: Here, the Supreme Court took up six challenges to one of the EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations — this one applying to the regulation of millions of “stationary sources” such as apartment houses, malls, hotels, as well as power plants and factories. At issue here was whether EPA had properly established standards for carbon dioxide before applying them nationwide.

Status: PLF attorneys filed PLF's amicus brief on December 13, 2013, and the Court issued a mixed decision on June 23, 2014. In a nutshell, the Court held that the regulations could not apply to facilities that are not already regulated under the Clean Air Act. Thus, the Court threw out the application of the new regulations to apartments, office buildings, malls and the like, but kept them in place for power plants and large factories. It is estimated the decision saved Americans $147 billion in new permitting costs.

Yates v. United States 
Issue: The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case of Florida commercial fisherman John Yates to determine if the federal government lawfully charged him with violating the Sarbanes-Oxley Act when a member of his fishing crew allegedly threw three undersized fish overboard after being cited at sea by a state fish and wildlife officer for having 72 undersized fish in his catch. PLF argues that it was an abuse of the government’s power to charge Yates with violating a federal financial crimes and record-keeping law, which carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.

Status: PLF's amicus brief on the merits was filed with the U.S. Supreme Court on July 7, 2014. Oral argument was held November 5, 2014 and the U.S Supreme Court ruled in favor of Captain John Yates in a 5-4 decision on February 25, 2015.


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