Robust analysis of the law has been part of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy since our founding 32 years ago. But analysis alone is insufficient to change policy. In our first two decades we conducted research, analyzed legislation, wrote policy documents, filed legal briefs in cases brought by others and defended our free speech rights when the state’s largest public sector union tried to silence us with a lawsuit.
We advanced free-market policies in many ways even as proponents of the very opposite ideas gained ground of their own. The lesson was that legal thought combined with our research was not always sufficient to reverse government overreach and end abuses. So 10 years ago we expanded our capacity by establishing a public interest law firm to advance individual liberty and the rule of law in Michigan. The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation was born.
Those favoring larger and more expansive and intrusive government had long used the courts to win key decisions that set precedents increasing the government’s power over our lives. For too long, proponents of freedom stayed on the sidelines. While there were and are other great free-market legal groups, we needed one specific to Michigan, where strategic litigation guided by the Mackinac Center philosophy would secure the liberties of our state’s residents, workers, students, taxpayers and entrepreneurs.
In a video announcing our launch, I said: “The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation is exactly what’s needed by citizens in Michigan for whom government is not protecting their rights but actually keeping them from exercising their rights. It’s designed to help property owners who are finding out-of-control environmental agencies or regulatory agencies. It’s designed to help workers who find that they’ve been dragooned into a union. It’s designed to help taxpayers, who, for reasons that may not make legal sense, find that they’re paying higher taxes than they should have to pay.”
That was true then and it is true now. And the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation has had amazing success under the direction of Vice President for Legal Affairs Patrick Wright. We’ve represented dozens of clients in lawsuits that helped them, and ultimately protected the rights of hundreds of thousands of others. In just one example, as a result of helping everyday citizens, 100,000 people are now free from unjust union dues and fees, saving them well over $100 million.
Whether it’s educators, home caregivers, day care workers, vacation home owners, college students or everyday citizens — in cases large and small, we’ve advanced freedom through the legal system. Along the way we’ve become the state’s foremost defender of government transparency by suing officials who try to prevent public access to public documents.
We could say our work is possible only because of our supporters but that would reduce our supporters’ role to writing checks. Our supporters don’t just give generously, their shoulders are to the wheel, beside ours, in courage, commitment, vision, boldness and steadfast resolution to see justice done on behalf of our clients. Because of them we can accept tough cases for liberty and see them through, at no charge to our clients, often when they have nowhere else to turn. And we’ve only just begun.
Joseph G. Lehman