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Bringing Justice to the People: A Book Review

by Charles Mitchell
October 13, 2004

There are many perks to being an intern at The Heritage Foundation. But I'd have to say that getting a free copy of Bringing Justice to the People was one of the biggest.

On one of my very last days on the job, Heritage staffer Kate Pomeroy came by the Townhall.com suite with an advance copy of the book. I think I surprised Kate and my co-workers a good bit by jumping out of my chair and immediately volunteering to review Bringing Justice to the People.

Having the privilege of reviewing this book for Townhall.com carries with it a sizable amount of déjà vu for me. The summer before I worked at Townhall, I was an intern at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, whose then-CEO, Thor Halvorssen, wrote one chapter of the book. Ever since I heard about that, I had been waiting to read the book. And I wasn't disappointed.

Bringing Justice to the People is a masterful work on a crucial topic. Each chapter (like the one my former boss penned) is written by an expert - specifically, a bigwig at a non-profit that advocates for the specific freedom in question. Hence the book is not just written by some self-appointed expert pontificating on a movement from afar; it comes quite literally from the battlefield straight to your bookshelf.

The themes of these essays are laid out by two tremendous men who happen to be Heritage scholars: Ed Meese and Lee Edwards. Meese, of course, was President Reagan's attorney general, so he knows a little something about the law, and Edwards is the pre-eminent historian of the conservative movement. Meese's foreword does an excellent job explaining the principles behind the freedom-based public interest law movement, and Edwards' first chapter places the movement firmly into the tradition of the larger conservative cause.

Though slender, Bringing Justice to the People delves into all the crucial areas of the movement: property rights, religious liberty, freedom of speech, education, freedom of association, equal treatment under law, and the list goes on. What's more, despite the obvious brilliance and incredible involvement of many of the chapters' authors, the language of the book is still accessible to the average citizen. Unlike many works on legal matters, this book does not bog the reader down with scads of incomprehensible case citations and lawyerly jargon. Rather, it lays out the key issues about which lovers of liberty ought to be concerned, and explains how organizations such as the Alliance Defense Fund, Institute for Justice, Pacific Legal Foundation, Center for Individual Rights, National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, and so many others are making a difference.

Of course, this reviewer is strongly partial to Halvorssen's chapter on the horrors perpetuated on college campuses in the forms of speech codes. But there is something in this book to appeal to all tastes. It is a veritable smorgasbord of efforts to preserve liberty, and as Meese's introduction says, to preserve the values embodied in our Constitution and Declaration of Independence against activist judges, deep-pocketed liberal groups, and their ilk.

The freedom-based public interest law movement, this book is quick to note, is up against substantial opposition. Judicial activists have proven relentless, and the left-of-center legal groups are well-funded and certainly passionate. But the groups profiled in Bringing Justice to the People are winning some tremendous victories by giving the people what they want: justice, fairness, and adherence to the constitutional and liberty-minded principles that have made this country great.

Charles Mitchell, a 2004 summer intern for Townhall.com, is a conservative activist and editor at Bucknell University as well as vice chairman of Young Conservatives of Pennsylvania.


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