Public Citizen Litigation Group


Public Citizen Litigation Group

Public Citizen Litigation Group is the litigating arm of the non-profit consumer advocacy organization Public Citizen. The Litigation Group’s attorneys specialize in cases involving health and safety regulation, consumer rights, separation of powers, access to the courts, class actions, open government, and the First Amendment, including Internet free speech. Since 1972, Public Citizen Litigation Group has litigated cases at all levels of the federal and state judiciaries. Its staff attorneys have argued 55 cases and counting before the U.S. Supreme Court. [cite web
last =
first =
title = Cases Argued by Public Citizen Litigation Group Attorneys in the Supreme Court of the United States
work =
publisher = Public Citizen
date= May 01, 2006
url = http://www.citizen.org/documents/ACF2D36.pdf
accessdate = 2008-03-08
]

Its efforts are pursued through such programs as the Alan Morrison Supreme Court Assistance Project, the Consumer Justice Project, the Internet Free Speech Project, and the Freedom of Information Clearinghouse.

Alan Morrison Supreme Court Assistance Project (SCAP)

Named after Litigation Group founder, Alan Morrison, SCAP was founded to try to rectify what the Litigation Group perceived to be an imbalance in the practice before the Supreme Court. Typically, business clients are well-represented before the Court, often by experienced Supreme Court practitioners, backed by all of the resources large corporations can offer. Often, on the other side are small firm practitioners with little or no Supreme Court experience. SCAP seeks to fix this imbalance by lending the Litigation Group’s experience and expertise in Supreme Court practice to the underdog, through assistance with writing briefs and conducting moot courts. [cite web
last =
first =
title = The Alan Morrison Supreme Court Assistance Project
work =
publisher = Public Citizen
date=
url = http://www.citizen.org/litigation/supremecourt/
accessdate = 2008-03-08
]

Consumer Justice Project

Started in 2005, the Consumer Justice Project litigates individual and class action cases that offer a chance to establish important precedents on behalf of consumers. Working with other non-profit organizations and private consumer attorneys, the Project’s role includes representation of consumers on appeal, amicus support, briefing on important motions, and co-counseling from the inception of cases. The Project's cases have included issues such as abusive debt collection practices, foreclosures, predatory lending, constitutional due process rights in the consumer context, unfair class-action settlements, mandatory binding arbitration, preemption, the interpretation of federal consumer protection statutes, and class-action principles.

Internet Free Speech Project

Since 1999, the Litigation Group has defended First Amendment rights online, protecting the rights of ordinary citizens against powerful forces that seek to curtail or suppress the exchange of ideas and criticism that the Internet allows. The project's focus is on representing individual citizens and consumers, although they have also written amicus briefs and assisted other lawyers with their briefs. Cases have involved the right to speak and read anonymously on internet message boards; the use of brand names in web site domain names, metatags and keyword advertising; the right to maintain interactive discussions; and file-sharing. Recently they have also defended the rights of small online merchants targeted by large corporations that claim selling less expensive second-hand or competing products infringes the company's intellectual property rights. [cite web
last =
first =
title =Vivendi allows World of Warcraft guide sales to resume
work =
publisher = USA Today
date= June 11, 2006
url = http://www.usatoday.com/tech/gaming/2006-06-11-warcraft-guide_x.htm?POE=TECISVA
accessdate = 2008-03-08
] [cite web
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first =
title = Internet Free Speech
work =
publisher = Public Citizen
date=
url = http://www.citizen.org/litigation/briefs/IntFreeSpch/
accessdate = 2008-03-08
]

Freedom of Information Clearinghouse

The Freedom of Information Clearinghouse is a joint project of Public Citizen Litigation Group and Ralph Nader's Center for Study of Responsive Law. It provides technical and legal assistance to individuals, public interest groups, and the media who seek access to information held by government agencies under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). [cite web
last =
first =
title = Freedom of Information Clearinghouse
work =
publisher = Public Citizen
date=
url = http://www.citizen.org/litigation/free_info/
accessdate = 2008-03-08
]

Examples of Other Important Litigation

upreme Court Practice

Since the Litigation Group was founded in 1972, its lawyers have argued 55 cases before the United States Supreme Court—including four cases during the Court’s 2005-2006 term and three in the 2007-2008 term. [cite web
last =
first =
title = Litigation Group 2005-2006 Supreme Court Oral
work =
publisher = Public Citizen
date=
url = http://www.citizen.org/litigation/supremecourt/articles.cfm?ID=14401
accessdate = 2008-03-08
] The Litigation Group’s victories include:

• "INS v. Chadha" (1983), the landmark case holding that a legislative veto violates the constitutional principle of separation of powers.

• "Jones v. Flowers" (2006), a victory for due process rights, in which the Court ruled in favor of an Arkansas man whose house was sold by the state after mailed notice of the impending forfeiture was returned undelivered. [cite web
last =
first =
title = Jones v. Flowers, 547 U.S. ___ (2006)
work =
publisher = Oyez Project
date=
url = http://www.oyez.org/oyez/resource/case/2024/
accessdate = 2008-03-08
]

• "Medtronic v. Lohr" (1996), which rejected the medical device industry’s broad claims to immunity from product liability suits and held that the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act does not preempt such suits. [cite web
last =
first =
author= Brian Wolfman and Allison Zieve
title = Litigating Preemption Issues After Medtronic v. Lohr
work =
publisher = The Consumer Law Page, consumerlawpage.com
date=
url = http://consumerlawpage.com/article/medtron.shtml
accessdate = 2008-03-08
]

• "Virginia State Board of Pharmacy v. Virginia Consumers Council" (1976), which challenged a prohibition against price advertising by pharmacies and established the test for evaluating restrictions on commercial free speech. [cite web
last =
first =
title = Virginia Pharmacy Bd. v. Virginia Consumer Council, 425 U.S. 748 (1976)
work =
publisher = Oyez Project
date=
url = http://www.oyez.org/oyez/resource/case/1051/
accessdate = 2008-03-08
]

• "Richardson v. McKnight" (1997), which held that prison guards for-profit prisons under contract with the federal government do not have qualified immunity in suits alleging violations of constitutional rights. [cite web
last =
first =
title = Richardson v. McKnight, 521 U.S. 399 (1997)
work =
publisher = Oyez Project
date=
url = http://www.oyez.org/oyez/resource/case/1414/
accessdate = 2008-03-08
]

Fighting Ineffective or Unlawful Agency Action

The Litigation Group brings many cases under the Administrative Procedure Act to challenge agency regulations or other actions that are arbitrary and capricious or unlawful. For example, in 2001, after 9 years of delay, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) had not issued a rule to regulate use of the highly toxic chemical hexavalent chromium, the Litigation Group successfully brought suit to force OSHA to issue a rule ("Public Citizen v. OSHA"). [cite web
last =
first =
author = David Michaels, Celeste Monforton, and Peter Lurie
title = Selected science: an industry campaign to undermine an OSHA hexavalent chromium standard
work = Environmental Health
publisher = BioMed Central
date= February 2006, vol. 5
url = http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=1402271
accessdate = 2008-03-08
]

In 2004, the Litigation Group along with Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH), and Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT) successfully challenged the final rule governing the hours of service of commercial truck drivers, issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The advocacy groups claimed that the rule expanded the hours that truckers may legally drive, failed to mandate the use of electronic onboard recording devices to put an end to the pervasive violations of legal limits, and would likely to lead to many avoidable deaths and injuries on the nation’s highways. [cite web
last =
first =
title = CRASH and P.A.T.T. win Court Ruling -- new hours-of-service BLOCKED -- but remain in place until new FMCSA ruling
work =
publisher = Truck Safety Coalition, www.trucksafety.org
date= July 16,2004
url = http://www.trucksafety.org/blocked2.php
accessdate = 2008-03-08
]

In 2002, when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a rule to implement a law that required a device in new vehicles to warn drivers when a tire was significantly underinflated, but the rule allowed use of devices that would not warn when two or more tires were underinflated, the Litigation Group successfully sued to force NHSTA to issue a rule that complied with this important safety measure ("Public Citizen v. Mineta"). [cite web
last =
first =
title = NHTSA Finally Issues Long-Delayed Tire Pressure Rule
work =
publisher = OMB Watch
date= September 21,2004
url = http://www.ombwatch.org/article/articleview/2422/1/219?TopicID=1
accessdate = 2008-03-08
]

Freedom of Information and Government Secrecy

From its founding, the Litigation Group has devoted a significant portion of its efforts to fighting government secrecy. It has litigated more FOIA cases than any other organization. [cite web
last =
first =
title = Data Expert Prevails in Lawsuit Against IRS Secrecy
work =
publisher = Trac IRS
date= April 4,2006
url = http://trac.syr.edu/foia/irs/20060404/
accessdate = 2008-03-08
] The Litigation Group has secured from government files information about health risks, safety issues, and financial problems, on behalf of other divisions within Public Citizen, other public interest organizations, reporters, and academics. Among material of significant public interest obtained through its efforts are approximately 2,000 pages of Lt. Col. Oliver North's notebooks ("National Security Archive v. National Archives and Records Administration"), [cite web
last =
first =
title = Archive, historians ask judge to rethink dismissal, Presidential Records Act case still not solved; New Bush order adds 140 days to processing time; Judge recognized injury but thought it moot
work =
publisher = National Security Archive
date= April 30,2004
url = http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/news/20040430/index.htm
accessdate = 2008-03-08
] the report relied on by the Attorney General to exclude Kurt Waldheim from the United States ("Mapother v. Department of Justice"), [cite web
last =
first =
title = OBTAINING ACCESS TO GOVERNMENT RECORDS SINCE 1972: Highlights of Advocacy Efforts Against Government Secrecy
work =
publisher = Public Citizen
date=
url = http://www.citizen.org/litigation/free_info/foic_aids/articles.cfm?ID=758
accessdate = 2008-03-08
] and all but one paragraph of the government’s secret brief filed before the Supreme Court in the “Pentagon Papers” case ("Sims v. Department of Justice"). [cite web
last =
first =
title = Let the Information Flow
work =
publisher = Nader.org
date=
url = http://www.nader.org/history/bollier_chapter_4.html
accessdate = 2008-03-08
] In recent years, Litigation Group lawyers have devoted significant resources to litigating issues surrounding preservation of and access to electronic records. In the case "Armstrong v. Executive Office of the President", Litigation Group lawyers succeeded in establishing that electronic records generated by the White House and the rest of the Executive Branch are subject to federal open records laws. At the end of both the Reagan administration and the first Bush administration, the government had claimed that it was entitled to delete all of the electronic records created and stored by the White House during each president’s tenure. As a result of the litigation, in which the court agreed that FOIA required that executive branch e-mail be preserved, the government released more than 3,000 e-mail records from the White House and the National Security Council. [cite web
last =
first =
title = Preservation of Email Required under Federal Records Act
work =
publisher = K&L Gates
date= December 14, 2004
url = http://www.ediscoverylaw.com/2004/12/articles/case-summaries/preservation-of-email-required-under-federal-records-act/
accessdate = 2008-03-08
]

References

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[http://www.citizen.org/litigation Public Citizen Litigation Group Website]


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