Liberty Justice Center
The Liberty Justice Center is a nonprofit public interest litigation center that uses “strategic, precedent-setting litigation to revitalize constitutional restraints on government power and protections for individual rights.” It is affiliated with the Illinois Policy Institute, a nonprofit research organization “working to make Illinois the first in economic outlook and job creation.”
Led by Senior Attorney Jacob H. Huebert, the Center focuses on advancing liberty in several key areas, including:
- Economic liberty: The Center fights to prevent government from placing unreasonable restrictions on an individual’s right to start a business or enter an occupation.
- Private property rights: The Center believes private property rights are “essential to a free and prosperous society.” As such, the Center opposes government attempts to seize private property for illegitimate purposes.
- Free speech: The Center advocates against unreasonable limits on entrepreneurs’ ability to promote their businesses. In addition, the Center fights against laws that deny free and equal opportunity to participate in the political process.
- Enforcing constitutional limits on government power: The Center opposes the use of taxpayer funds to support special interest groups.
Fighting for Food Trucks
In August 2012, the Center filed a lawsuit on behalf of James Nuccio and Gabriel Wiesen, food truck operators in Chicago who founded Beavers Donuts. Nuccio and Wiesen were prohibited from expanding their business into nearby Evanston due to a city ordinance that only allows owners of existing brick-and-mortar restaurants to operate food trucks within city limits.
The Center has petitioned the Cook County Circuit Court to strike down Evanston’s ordinance, claiming, “That restriction doesn’t serve any legitimate health or safety purpose but serves only to protect certain established business owners from creative competition.” Reporting on the lawsuit, New York Magazine’s Grub Street site opined, “But Evanston has its own quirky protectionist rules—and now one food truck is fighting them.” James Mulcahy of Zagat.com wrote, “Who knew mobile eateries would be so controversial—we don’t know about you, but all we want is a donut.” WBEZ Chicago, the local NPR affiliate, also covered the case after the Center filed suit. The case is ongoing.
Lowering Barriers to Entry
In February 2012, the Center filed a lawsuit on behalf of Julie Crowe, an Illinois resident who wanted to start a vehicle-for-hire service that caters to young female customers. The city manager barred Crowe from opening her business after deciding her business was somehow not “desirable” and not “in the public interest.”
The Center contended that the city manager’s decision is not based on any legitimate purpose, serving only to “protect and enrich the owners of existing taxi and vehicle-for-hire businesses” from competition. The case generated news coverage from several local media outlets, including CBS-Peoria, WJBC, and WEEK-TV, Peoria’s NBC affiliate.
On August 28, 2013, LJC proved victorious, with the circuit court judge granting summary judgment in favor of Crowe, noting “several instances in which Plaintiff’s right to procedural due process was violated.”
Protecting Political Speech
In July 2012, the Center filed a lawsuit with the U.S. District Court in Chicago challenging the constitutionality of Illinois’ campaign finance law, which places restrictions on political campaign contributions. The Center claimed the law violates the First Amendment and equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. Moreover, the Center contended that the state’s campaign finance law created a “special set of rules” for political parties while infringing on the rights of individuals to participate in the political process.
Dan Proft, chairman of Illinois Liberty PAC, the plaintiff in the case, said:
Party bosses should have to live under the same laws they impose on the rest of us. This law is a scheme to further consolidate power in the hands of party bosses by limiting the participation and free speech rights of 13 million Illinoisans. Everyone who wants to participate in the political process in Illinois should be treated equally.
On March 3, 2014, a district court judge partially granted a motion to dismiss the suit.