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Law

Alcohol & Tobacco
January 23, 2017
Lawsuit Challenging Federal Cigar Regulations Moves Forward
Trade organizations representing cigar manufacturers and vendors are suing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) over a regulatory expansion the agency enacted in 2016.
Criminal Justice
January 21, 2017
Indiana Lawmaker Proposes Curtailing Government ‘Policing for Profit’
The Indiana General Assembly is considering reforming its laws permitting governments to take ownership of people’s cash and property without first proving they were used in the commission of a crime.
Economy
January 17, 2017
Arkansas Taxicab Owner Beats City Hall in Anti-Monopoly Case
A Pulaski County, Arkansas judge ruled in favor of a small business owner in December 2016, finding lawmakers in Little Rock violated the state’s constitution by restricting the number of taxicab companies allowed to operate in the city.
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Law
January 13, 2017
PRESS RELEASE: Heartland Institute Experts React to U.S. House Passing the REINS Act
"The REINS Act helps restore the proper balance of power by requiring Congress to approve all new major regulations, thereby increasing accountability and transparency in the federal regulatory process." - David Applegate
Law
December 28, 2016
Heartland Institute Expert Reacts to Ohio’s Civil Asset Forfeiture Bill
Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) yesterday signed into law House Bill 347, which would require law enforcement agencies to seek a criminal conviction before a person’s property is forfeited over to the government.
Economy
December 21, 2016
Chicago Homeowners Challenge City’s Airbnb Law
A group of Chicago, Illinois homeowners is challenging a new law that imposes city taxes on individuals using Airbnb and other peer-to-peer economy companies that match homeowners with people seeking short-term housing.
 

The Issue

In 1770, John Adams, one of colonial Massachusetts’ most influential lawyers and patriots, stood before a packed courthouse full of his friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors and ardently defended a group of British soldiers falsely accused of committing murder at what would forever be known as the Boston Massacre.

Amidst the cries of treason and calls for hanging, Adams declared to the crowd, “The law no passion can disturb. … It does not enjoin that which pleases a weak, frail man, but, without any regard to persons, commands that which is good and punishes evil in all, whether rich or poor, high or low.”

Adams’ brave defense of the principle of equality and fairness under the law led to a favorable and just ruling for his very unpopular clients, but its real impact would stand the test of time and forever be remembered as a hallmark of the ideal American system of justice.

Unfortunately, many local, state, and national government officials have moved away from this principle and have instead chosen to enact laws or apply existing law in a way that gives advantages to certain special interests and powerful people. Rather than enhance liberty, many of today’s laws are used as tools of tyranny and manipulation.

This problem has been made evident in recent years by so-called “patent trolls” – companies and individuals who stockpile patents for the sole purpose of suing legitimate businesses. Patent trolls rarely produce goods or services of their own, but they are very successful at getting defendants to settle out of court for large sums of money in order to avoid even-costlier court expenses.

When well-intentioned laws are taken advantage of to produce non-market-based profits, thereby punishing and disincentivizing legitimate businesses looking to see goods or services, innovation dissipates and consumers’ costs rise.

Another area where laws have frequently been abused is in tort law. Tort law exists to provide relief to individuals, groups, and businesses that have suffered from non-criminal damages unjustly caused by others. Tort law is important in a free society because it ensures people respect the property and lives of others, even when they don’t commit criminal acts.

While many have fairly used tort law to recover damages, a growing trend in tort law is for courts to award substantial – and in some cases unjustified – awards to plaintiffs seeking restitution. This problem was infamously put on display in Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants, when a customer was initially awarded $2.86 million for damages caused by a self-inflicted coffee spill. Stella Liebeck, the 79-year-old plaintiff, successfully argued the coffee was unreasonably hot and that McDonald’s should be punished for its allegedly dangerous coffee.

Our Stance

In a nation that values personal liberty and freedom for all, laws must be unbiased, applied fairly, and must encourage people to act freely. Laws that favor one class of people over another, punish too severely, or unnecessarily restrict personal liberties should be abandoned or altered.

Featured Subtopics

Copyright, trademark, patent in a colorful image
Intellectual property laws should reward those who develop new inventions and ideas while also recognizing the significant benefits these advancements have to society. Patent and copyright reforms must be made to weed out frivolous claims and lawsuits, and lawmakers and government agencies should not pick winners and losers by creating rules that favor certain copyright claims or industries over others.
A judge sitting behind her bench
The judicial branch is an essential and vital part of a well-functioning democratic republic, but judges must not stray beyond the powers granted to them under the U.S. Constitution and state constitutions. Judicial interpretation should always be limited to the original intent and expressly written language provided in laws and constitutions.
Scales of justice
Tort reform should be enacted at the state level. Federal tort reform would raise hundreds of legal issues of unprecedented complexity. Resolving them would delay damage recoveries in valid cases while the overburdened judicial system struggled to decide each issue individually.

Additional Subtopics

  • Arbitration
  • Constitutional Reform
  • Criminal Justice
  • Jury Reform
  • Medical Malpractice
  • Technology

Videos

Title: The Use of State Power to Silence Patriots with Eric O'Keefe
Description: Conservatives engaged in Wisconsin political debates have endured pre-dawn home raids, dozens of subpoenas and a smear campaign conducted by Milwaukee District Attorney John Chisholm and his allies. O’Keefe led the effort to terminate the assault by defying a secrecy order and taking the story to the Wall Street Journal. He then organized several lawsuits against the prosecution team. Recently O’Keefe has engaged in reviewing Republican party history and rules. He will be happy to take questions about the Wisconsin fights and the Republican party nomination process.
Recent Releases
  • Property Rights in 21st-Century America
  • The Use of State Power to Silence Patriots with Eric O'Keefe

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