ON-Lion Letter

As 2016 began, Bradley Prize recipient William H. "Chip" Mellor retired as president of the Institute for Justice (IJ) in Arlington, Va., and became its second chairman.

"Twenty-five years ago, there was no public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the American Dream, those rights that are essential to achieving a better life for yourself and passing it on to the next generation," begins a late-December tribute to Mellor in National Review by IJ vice president for communications John E. Kramer.

"Property rights were under unbridled assault from regulatory takings and eminent domain, for the benefit of powerful private interests who wielded government power," Kramer continues.  "Economic liberty, the right to earn an honest living in the occupation of your choice, was hopelessly tied up in red tape, with all the momentum going against entrepreneurs.  Only reviled and fringe-inhabiting free-speech rights seemed to attract any legal support, while anyone who sought to speak about mainstream economic or political issues found their ability to effectively communicate cabined off by one government-imposed regulation after another.  And there was no national legal champion to advance and defend school choice.

"Then Chip Mellor opened the doors of the Institute for Justice, the national law firm for liberty," Kramer writes.

During Mellor's tenure, according to Kramer, "IJ has grown from a five-person startup to an institution with a staff of 95, half of whom are attorneys; it has litigated five U.S. Supreme Court cases; it is currently litigating 43 cases in 24 states; and it is among the less than 1 percent of nonprofits that have received Charity Navigator’s four-star rating for 14 consecutive years."

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee substantially supports IJ, which Mellor co-founded with his fellow Bradley Prize recipient Clint Bolick.

"Mellor brought to the Institute for Justice a rare combination of keen vision, unyielding adherence to principles, and a common touch that allowed him to translate esoteric, ivory-tower ideas into the language of Main Street," Kramer continues.  "His law firm would fight for the economically and politically disenfranchised and give them not only a voice in the court of public opinion but also capable and tenacious -- and free -- legal representation in the courts of law while suing only one entity:  the government.  As a result of his leadership, the ideal of freedom has become a tangible reality for one set of IJ clients after another ...."

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