Libertarian History/Philosophy

Libertarian Lawyer Clint Bolick Appointed to Arizona Supreme Court

Gov. Doug Ducey makes his first appointment to the state's highest court.


Courtesty of Arizona Governor's Office

Earlier today Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced the appointment of longtime libertarian litigator Clint Bolick to the Arizona Supreme Court. "Clint is nationally renowned and respected as a constitutional law scholar and as a champion of liberty," Ducey stated. "He brings extensive experience and expertise, an unwavering regard for the rule of law and a firm commitment to the state and citizens of Arizona. I'm confident Clint will serve impartially and honorably in this important role." Bolick is Ducey's first appointment to the state's highest court.

Bolick is a veteran litigator whose long record includes arguing and winning cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, the Arizona Supreme Court, and various state and federal courts. In 1991, along with William H. "Chip" Mellor, Bolick co-founded the Institute for Justice, a national public interest law firm. In 2007 Bolick joined the Goldwater Institute in Phoenix, Arizona, where he most recently served as vice president for strategic litigation.

It's no exaggeration to describe Clint Bolick as one of the central figures behind the rise and success of today's libertarian legal movement. Bolick's legal theories and litigation strategies—some of which were crafted decades ago—are used in courtrooms around the country. His training and mentoring of numerous young lawyers, meanwhile, including top litigators who now work at places like the Institute for Justice, the Goldwater Institute, and the Pacific Legal Foundation, pays dividends with every legal victory. When it comes to libertarian legal activism, Bolick's fingerprints are everywhere.

In my recent book, Overruled: The Long War for Control of the U.S. Supreme Court, I told Bolick's story in greater detail (including the key role that Clarence Thomas played in his career). Here's a brief excerpt from that chapter:

A self-described "really nerdy kid," Clint Bolick initially wanted to pursue a career in Republican politics until he "fell in love" with constitutional law after reading about the civil rights movement during his senior year in college. "Seeing cases like Brown v. Board of Education really made me realize that one can achieve pretty radical change in the courts without having to compromise on principles," he later explained. "You either win or you lose, and if you win you can fundamentally change the world." That led him to law school at the University of California, Davis, where his political views took on an increasingly libertarian cast. After graduating in 1982, Bolick signed on as an attorney at the Mountain States Legal Foundation, where he began working with his future IJ co-founder Chip Mellor.

[In the mid-1980s Bolick] moved east to Washington, where he accepted a position in the Reagan administration's Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency charged with enforcing federal anti-discrimination laws. Heading up the EEOC at that time was a young and virtually unknown lawyer named Clarence Thomas.

"It wasn't really until I worked at the EEOC with Clarence Thomas that I began to think of economic liberty as a civil rights issue," Bolick later remembered. The two men became fast friends, and spent many hours together talking about law and history. A frequent topic in those days was the original meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment. "In Clarence Thomas I found a real kindred spirit on this issue," Bolick said. "He felt that the whole concept of civil rights had been mis-defined over the years, that when you look at it from a historical standpoint, the Civil Rights Act of 1866 was all about economic liberties. And that was a very exciting concept for me."…

Armed with such ideas, and with Clarence Thomas serving as both boss and mentor at the EEOC, Bolick began putting the whole thing together into a coherent legal philosophy, ultimately writing a book on the subject called Changing Course: Civil Rights at the Crossroads, which appeared in 1988. If [Bolick's 1990 book] Unfinished Business was IJ's original strategic litigation blueprint for advancing economic liberty, then Changing Course was the first draft of that strategy. "The civil rights movement should seek to reverse The Slaughter-House Cases, which upheld the power of government to create monopolies and impede entrepreneurial opportunities," Bolick wrote in Changing Course. But in order for that to happen, he continued, the doctrine of judicial deference must be rejected. "What the advocates of judicial abstinence overlook is the crucial role assigned by the Constitution to the judiciary in the protection of civil rights, without which the state will be free—as in the Jim Crow era—to subvert civil rights virtually unchecked." In short, Bolick argued, the libertarian legal movement must embrace "the necessity of judicial action."

Three years later, with Mellor at the helm and Bolick serving as second-in-command, the Institute for Justice opened its doors and began putting that libertarian strategy into practice.

NEXT: Lawsuit: White Student Bragged About Sex with Black Athletes, Then Got Them Expelled for Rape

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  1. Where does he land on burqas?

  2. Holy Schlonge, Mike Huckabee is the governor of Arizona and appointed a libertarian to … well, schlonge me!

    1. Wow, that guy really does look like Huckabee in that picture.

    2. Huckabee is the governor of Arkansas, not Arizona.

      1. I think he meant the picture, Tonio. Look at it, it does look like Huckabee.

        1. It looks like if Huckabee had a love child with Nixon.

  3. Libertarians on State Supreme Courts, frogs leaving the water, locusts, dogs and cats sleeping together. Schlonge!

  4. I’m having lunch with the Gov next week (big group, but I’ll get a grip-and-grin chance to talk to him). Now I know what to say: “Good move on Bolick. Four more just like him would be great!”

    1. Why only four more? I say he should do a Roosevelt-style court packing scheme.

      1. How about a Strijdom-style Senate and Court packing scheme?…..nal_crisis

      2. Why only four more?

        Because he can appoint five Justices to the State Supreme Court.

  5. Wow.

    But can he anti-Arpaio?

    1. I think Kim Jong-Un is still working on the only way to accomplish that.

    2. Holy shit, I just thought of … what if Trump picks Sheriff Joe for VP!

      1. They’re a shoo-in for the WH. Even Clinton couldn’t stop that juggernaut.

        1. Arpaio could also be the new Czar of banning people!

      2. He’ll be the Admiral Stockdale of this election cycle.

        1. Admiral Stockdale took great risks to serve his country, what did Arpaio do?

          1. He saved us from Mexican landscapers!

          2. Cracked down on chicken fighting!

            1. I can finally sleep soundly at night now, knowing that there won’t be any Mexican landscaping or chicken fighting. Thank you, Sheriff Joe!

          3. Gave Steven Seagal a tank!

            1. Wait… wut? Steven Seagal has a tank? Those Mexicans better run now! Thank you, Sheriff Joe!

              1. If a chubby, pony-tailed, martial arts expert, movie star, has-been in a tank doesn’t say ‘America, Fuck Yeah!; then I don’t know what could. Someone cue up Lee Greenwood, and bring me an apple pie and a baseball mitt.

          4. what did Arpaio do?

            Normalized pink undies for men.

  6. The libertarian moment starts now? I’m so confused.

    1. Let me clear this up for you. Libertarian moment is a figment of the imagination of the Reason staff. It doesn’t exist and never has.

    2. Let me clear this up for you. Libertarian moment is a figment of the imagination of the Reason staff. It doesn’t exist and never has.

      1. And I mean it twice as much!

  7. “a firm commitment to the state and citizens of Arizona.”

    Ducey not only thinks the state and the citizens are somehow separate, but that the state is more important by listing it first.

    I sure hope Ducey is increasingly disappointed when vitcmless crimes are brought to Bolick’s bench.

  8. Wow, great news for the State of Arizona! However, I’m wondering if Bolick’s talents aren’t better used at the IJ and arguing cases at the Supreme Court. It seems like state supreme courts can become unnoticed in the grander scheme of things.

    But, I’m still happy to see him up there.

    1. Given the relative volumes of state and federal court cases and the relative effects on our lives of state and federal law, state supreme courts are a pretty big deal.

      1. ^This. This is actually kind of big.

  9. OK, I must have missed it. What stupid thing did the Arizona legislature do recently? Because with us its always one step forward, one back.

    1. The libertarian lawyer will only accept the nomination if the legislature bans sombreros.

      1. Only sombreros worn with a burqa. Those Mexican Muslims are some sneaky bastards.

        1. Some, I assume, etc etc.

    2. What stupid thing did the Arizona legislature do recently?

      Here’s a link to the bills from the last session:

      That probably covers a lot of it.


    Yet these sympathetic plaintiffs are often cat’s paws for a much more sweeping agenda seeking to invalidate much of American law. In Death Grip (which, it’s worth noting, Bolick published after leaving IJ), the incoming justice praises the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Lochner v. New York, a 1905 case that is often taught in law schools as an example of how judges should never behave. “Lochner,” Bolick writes, “is a celebration of freedom of enterprise and freedom of contract, and a repudiation of government paternalism and excessive regulation. It reflects a careful and proper balancing of freedom and the state’s power.”

      1. Scary libertarians! It don’t get no better than that!

    1. Sinner!

      Aside: In first-year con law, when Lochner came up, I had lots of naughty fun. I shocked my classmates by suggesting that a city of that size might have more than one bakery.

    2. In 1991, Bolick co-founded the Institute for Justice (IJ), possibly the most savvy anti-government litigation shop in the country. One of IJ’s core strategies is to find genuinely sympathetic plaintiffs who are harmed by economic regulations that sound ridiculous on their face, and then use them as vehicles to push sweeping changes to legal doctrine that mirror limits on state power repudiated during the New Deal.


      1. One of IJ’s core strategies is to find genuinely sympathetic plaintiffs who are harmed by economic regulations that sound ridiculous on their face, and then use them as vehicles to push sweeping changes to legal doctrine that mirror limits on state power repudiated during the New Deal.

        This sentence is like a petri dish of progressive thought.

        1. Plaintiff false consciousness!

    3. If a Republican wins the race for the White House, men like Bolick could soon fill the U.S. Supreme Court.

      If only.

      1. Yeah. Like Bolick represents anything closely matching the modern GOP.

        1. If Rand is president by some miracle, then we might get one appointment if Penaltax retires to that private island the Obamacare bribe money bought him.

          Then after Rand’s one and only 4 year term, all the history books will be rewritten and libertarians will be blamed for everything gone wrong since the big bang.

          Not sure it’s worth it.

          1. We’re blamed for it now. Full speed ahead.

            1. It’s great to be blamed for something when you have small numbers and no power. At least our detractors have put us on the map.

              1. ^This. The progs don’t realize they’re doing us a favor, and how their own preachments fail to resonate with much of the public.

      2. men like Bolick could soon fill the U.S. Supreme Court.

        *Reason commentariat masturbates furiously*

        1. We’ll be in our bunk

    4. “a 1905 case that is often taught in law schools as an example of how judges should never behave”

      Were the judges running a distillery in the courtroom? Did they invite a circus act to perform for the audience?

      I’m not real clear on how the judges’ behavior is at issue.

      1. Trying to limit the power of the state.

        This is an abomination in the Holy Book of Progtard.

  11. I’ll just leave this here:

    The mayor of Cologne on Wednesday offered some poorly received advice to female residents of her city after a wave of New Year’s Eve attacks that shocked Germany.

    “There’s always the possibility of keeping a certain distance of more than an arm’s length ? that is to say to make sure yourself you don’t look to be too close to people who are not known to you, and to whom you don’t have a trusting relationship,” Henriette Reker said, according to Britain’s Guardian newspaper.


    A crowd of about 1,000 men ? described by the city’s police chief as being “largely from the North African or Arab world” ? had reportedly gathered outside the main train station that night. Small groups broke away from that crowd throughout the night to surround and harass women. At least 106 criminal complaints have been filed,up from 90 on Tuesday, the Associated Press reported.

    “At least three quarters have a sexual component. In two cases we are investigating crimes that amount to rape,” Cologne police spokesman Christoph Gilles said. Previous reports cited officials saying the majority of complaints cited thefts.

    1. offered some poorly received advice to female residents

      Understatement of the year, so far. I hope this boils over. It may take some time, like Rotherham, but it will come.

      1. From what I can tell, Rotherham hasn’t boiled over at all. I haven’t heard of any mass firings of Brit pubsecs or mass arrests of “Asian” rapists.


    3. When gangs of men surround you in public to molest you, make sure you don’t leave your drink unattended

    4. That actually is good advice. It is shitty policy, but good advice. It’s government, so there is no doubt the shitty policy will become law.

  12. Somewhat related.

    You probably recall Maria Hasankolli, the woman who slept in as her stepson missed the bus and walked to school. She was charged with child endangerment.

    Today was supposed to be one of her court appearances – perhaps to make her plea. The link is a day behind and I couldn’t find any news stories.

    As I understand it, she can be brought to trial in Connecticut – on these serious charges – without being indicted by a grand jury. A clause in the Fifth Amendment requires grand juries in these cases, but this clause is one of a very few provisions in the Bill of Rights which does *not* bind the states – at least based on old Supreme Court precedents.

    Much of the rest of the Bill of Rights binds the states, according to the Court. They just pick and choose which rights are important.

    This was a big battle in the Second Amendment cases. The Second Amendment narrowly – and belatedly – won, and now binds the states.

    What about the rest of the Bill of Rights?

    1. What about the rest of the Bill of Rights?

      That old thing? Pssht.

      1. Yeah, written by white slave owners a hundred years ago. Just imagine if we could get a new one. Written by wise men, like Obama. Here’s who I’d have write that up:

        Barack Obama

        Cass Sunstein

        Matthew Yglesias

        Donna Brazile

        Paul Krugman

        Wow, I’m getting excited. We have to do it to find out what’s in it!

        1. With those guys, it’s more like “Here’s your rights. And here’s your annual bill. Pay up or die.”

    2. The Bill Or Rights is like the Bible, you’re not supposed to take it literally.

      1. Pardon my John.

  13. So, Arizona put this guy on their SC?

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