Southeastern Legal Foundation

Founded in 1976, the Southeastern Legal Foundation (SLF) is an Atlanta-based public interest law firm that promotes free enterprise, economic freedom, and limited government. SLF engages in litigation and public policy advocacy in support of its principles. It describes itself as a “conservative public interest law firm and policy center dedicated to creating binding legal precedent and positive public policy change for all Americans.”

The independent website Charity Navigator gives SLF a rating of 3 out of 4 stars, including 4 out of 4 for an organizational sub-rating that measures the growth of revenue and expense.

Notable activity by SLF includes closely monitoring the U.S. Census Bureau’s ties to outside groups like ACORN. During a June 2009 interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, SLF Executive Director Shannon Goessling criticized Supreme Court nominee Sonya Sotomayor for “re-writing law to create the outcome she desires.”

SLF is developing expertise in new policy areas including traditional marriage, property rights reform, and illegal immigration. Anticipating a slew of class action lawsuits over global warming, SLF has prepared briefings and backgrounders for potential defendants and lawyers. Staff and Board members of SLF have represented the organization on the FOX News Channel, CNN, MSNBC, and countless talk radio programs.

Litigating Freedom

SLF engages in a wide array of public policy issues including tort reform, affirmative action, taxes, campaign finance reform, the national census, property rights, and unemployment. Notable past litigation by the Foundation includes the following:

  • In 2008, the Foundation filed an amicus curiae brief in the case District of Columbia v. Heller, in which a Washington, DC resident sought to overturn the city’s ban on handguns. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed with SLF and the plaintiff, overturning the ban in a landmark 5-4 decision.
  • SLF successfully defended the owner of a Philadelphia deli against discrimination charges in 2008. The owner had put up a sign requesting that patrons speak English when ordering.
  • In January 2001, former U.S. President Bill Clinton signed an agreed order of discipline, resulting in the suspension of his law license for five years. The move was based on a complaint filed by SLF and a citation issued by a federal district court judge.
  • SLF sued in 1998 to stop the Clinton administration’s use of “census sampling” in the 2000 Census. Census sampling is a procedure in which the government uses statistical methods to approximate the population and demographic makeup of the country instead of literally counting U.S. residents. In a 5-4 decision, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the Clinton administration could not use the method.

SLF also takes a role in many cases that are local to its operation in Atlanta. In total, the group was involved in 13 cases during its 2008 fiscal year, along with preparing issue briefs and backgrounders and promoting other (non-litigation) programs.


Corporate funders of SLF have included U.S. Sugar, U.S. Steel, and an assortment of oil, chemical, banking and construction companies. The Sarah Scaife Foundation, Castle Rock Foundation, and John M. Olin Foundation have also supported SLF. The Foundation encourages individual donations.