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Timothy Sandefur

About Timothy Sandefur

Timothy Sandefur is a Principal Attorney at the Pacific Legal Foundation, where he is the lead attorney in the Foundation’s Economic Liberty Project, devoted to promoting constitutional protection for the freedom of business owners and entrepreneurs. He also litigates against the abuse of eminent domain, having defended property owners in courts across the country, and blogs regularly on the Foundation's PLF Liberty Blog. He is the author of two books, Cornerstone of Liberty: Property Rights in 21st Century America (Cato Institute, 2006) and The Right to Earn A Living: Economic Freedom And The Law (Cato Institute, 2010), as well as some 40 scholarly articles on subjects ranging from eminent domain and economic liberty to copyright, evolution and creationism, and the legal issues of slavery and the Civil War. His articles have appeared in National Review, Liberty, The Claremont Review of Books, Forbes Online, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Times, and other places. He is an adjunct professor of law at the McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, and an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute. Sandefur is a graduate of Chapman University School of Law and Hillsdale College.
15 Nov, 2013

“War on the Little Guy”–and his right to earn a living

Author |News|0 Comments

Tune in to Fox News Channel Saturday at 9pm to see John Stossel’s special “War on The Little Guy,” which features my lawsuit on behalf of Kentucky entrepreneur Raleigh Bruner. He’s the guy who wants to run a moving company…only to discover that if you want to run a moving company in Kentucky, you first have […]

23 Oct, 2013

Fourth Circuit: don’t bother us with the facts

Author |Circuit Court|0 Comments

This morning the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decided the case of Colon Health Centers v. Hazel, a case challenging the constitutionality of Virginia’s “Certificate of Need” or CON law for clinics that want to buy medical equipment to help screen people for cancer. The trial court had thrown that case out before hearing any […]

15 Aug, 2013

PLF urges court to end Kentucky’s unconstitutional mover cartel

Author |Circuit Court|0 Comments

Today, Pacific Legal Foundation attorneys filed a motion in Kentucky Federal District Court asking Judge Danny Reeves to strike down the Bluegrass States’ anti-competition law for moving companies. Representing entrepreneur Raleigh Bruner and his company, Wildcat Moving, we’ve argued that the state’s licensing law for movers violates the Fourteenth Amendment, which forbids government from arbitrarily depriving […]

15 Jun, 2013

Kentucky federal judge bars state from enforcing its anti-competition law

Author |Circuit Court|0 Comments

(PLF attorney Timothy Sandefur (L) and client Raleigh Bruner (R)
outside the Federal Court building in Lexington, Ky. yesterday)

Thursday afternoon, U.S. District Court Judge Danny Reeves issued an order blocking the state from enforcing its Competitor’s Veto law for moving companies, at least until he has the opportunity to decide whether that law is constitutional. That decision came after Pacific Legal Foundation lawyers filed an emergency motion to block the state from prosecuting our client, Raleigh Bruner, in state court under the very same law he’s challenging in the federal court. In an extremely questionable move, state lawyers filed an identical lawsuit in state court, using Bruner’s federal case as the basis for asking a state judge to shut down his business, and filed a motion for an injunction in the state court on Friday, which have blocked Bruner’s federal lawsuit from going forward. Judge Reeves’s decision makes clear that he will not allow the state to subvert federal civil rights protections in this way.


6 Mar, 2013

PLF urges Fourth Circuit: give business owners the chance to prove their cases

Author |Circuit Court|0 Comments

Under legal precedents established in the 1930s, business owners who want to defend their constitutional right to earn a living against unreasonable government interference face a very difficult task. They must overcome the “rational basis test,” a legal theory that says the judge must presume that the law is constitutional and the business owner is forced to “disprove every rational basis for the law.” That’s very hard to do—it requires you to prove a negative, for one thing, and since the courts will uphold the law even on a legal theory that the legislature didn’t have in mind when it wrote the law, this test even requires you to concoct an indefinite number of speculative justifications for the law and then disprove them all.

Needless to say, business owners rarely win under this unfair “test.” But it is possible. […]

11 Dec, 2012

When is a desert a “water of the United States”?

Author |Liberty|0 Comments

When the government says so.

5 Dec, 2012

Will the courts enforce the Origination Clause against Obamacare?

Author |Healthcare|1 Comment

The Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto writes that Pacific Legal Foundation’s challenge to Obamacare is unlikely to succeed. Assuming that Obamacare’s monetary exaction for not buying insurance is a tax, as the Supreme Court called it in its June opinion, still not all taxes are “bills for raising revenue,” which the Constitution requires to be generated by the […]

19 Oct, 2012

Pacific Legal Foundation urges Supreme Court to give business owners their day in court

Author |Liberty|0 Comments

Today, we filed this petition for certiorari with the United States Supreme Court, asking the justices to review a case that severely restricts Americans’ right to challenge the constitutionality of laws. The case, Hettinga v. United States, began when Arizona dairy owners Hein and Ellen Hettinga sued over a federal law that targeted their business alone, in order to force them to stop charging low prices for milk. They argued that this law violated the Constitution by singling them out for disfavored treatment in a manner that wasn’t “rationally related to a legitimate government interest.”

That phrase is important because that “rational relationship” test is the test judges use to evaluate the constitutionality of laws that restrict the rights of business owners, property owners, and most other people—in fact, this test is applicable to all but a few constitutional cases. (Those that involve “fundamental” rights or “suspect” classifications are treated differently.)

But the Hettingas’ case took a turn when the federal government filed a motion to dismiss, and stated in its brief that the law at issue was “rational.” The government introduced no facts or testimony to support that assertion—it just claimed it. And that, the trial court said, was enough. It ruled that under the “rational relationship” test, a court can throw a case out whenever the government simply claims, prior to any evidence or fact-finding, that a law is rational. The Hettingas appealed, but three judges of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that dismissal, declaring that the trial judge was allowed to “draw[] factual conclusions at the pleading stage,” and that if “the government provide[s] an explanation that is…only rational on its face,” a court can dismiss case without hearing any evidence.

Now, we’re asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case, to decide whether the “rational relationship” test goes that far. […]

4 Oct, 2012

Challenging America’s most anti-competitive licensing law

Author |Liberty|0 Comments

I filed a lawsuit this morning challenging the constitutionality of what may be the nation’s most restrictive “Certificiate of Necessity” law. You can read about the case at PLF Liberty Blog.

13 Sep, 2012

Akhil Amar on Lochner

Author |Books|0 Comments

I am a great admirer of Akhil Reed Amar’s books The Bill of Rights and America’s Constitution. In fact, all PLF law clerks receive a copy of the latter as part of their assigned reading materials. Amar’s excellence as an expositor of the Constitution lies not just in his familiarity with the source materials of […]