PIONEER INSTITUTE, who has spent more than three decades trying to inform and shape policy in the public arena, will advocate for limited government and liberal solutions in court. The Boston-based think tank is launching a legal branch that plans to tackle issues ranging from school choice to business regulation and access to public records.
The new nonprofit public interest law will be led by Frank Bailey, who recently announced that he plans to retire in June from his post as a US bankruptcy court judge. Bailey will be aided by a team of two other attorneys and a group of interns to lead PioneerLegal, which will be based in the Pioneer Institute’s downtown Boston offices.
“We want to bring data-driven research and a fact base to a place where we can get an audience and where facts, rationality and precedent are the core values,” said longtime executive director Jim Stergios. from the Pioneer Institute.
Stergios said Pioneer had ‘incubated’ the idea of a law center for several years as it weighed in on briefs filed in high-profile cases in Massachusetts, other states and before the Supreme Court. the United States. The new legal entity aims to pursue business in three broad areas: expanding educational options, promoting greater government transparency, and freeing markets from unwarranted regulation and government intrusion.
Pioneer has filed briefs in recent years in the Supreme Court’s Janus ruling barring charging “agency fees” to workers who choose not to join a union, court cases involving bans on the state over public funds for religious schools and the successful challenge that eliminated the so-called millionaires tax from the 2018 statewide ballot.
On access to public information, Stergios said the state’s record is deplorable. “We are poorly ranked in all national rankings,” he said. “Places like Florida, Texas and Missouri are doing better.” Although significant reform of access to public records will have to go through the political process, not the courts, with amendments made by the Legislative Assembly to state statutes exempting lawmakers and the judiciary from the public records, Stergios said there may be a legal avenue to challenge the interpretation. of an earlier court ruling invoked by the governor’s office to seek an exemption from the Records Act.
When it comes to business regulation, Stergios said too often “market players” set rules that prevent new entrants into a field. He pointed to the difficulty of obtaining a license for food trucks as an example. “You don’t have to be Elizabeth Warren or a right-wing populist to recognize that the professional licensing, the regulations, the way the government oversees a lot of things related to the economy are kind of rigged,” he said. -he declares.
Brackett Denniston, senior counsel at Goodwin Procter, who served as the government’s chief legal adviser at the time. Bill Weld in the mid-1990s, will chair PioneerLegal’s board of directors. The board includes a host of other high-profile attorneys, including former Supreme Court Justice Robert Cordy and famed First Amendment lawyer Jonathan Albano, who has represented various media outlets in public record cases.
Stergios said the new center will aim to disrupt the status quo where he sees a strong case for doing so, but will be “cautious and wise in what we undertake and will ensure that we have a high probability of success”.
Pioneer has long been a strong advocate for charter schools. Nonetheless, Stergios pointed to a 2015 lawsuit that challenged the state’s charter school cap on the grounds that it denied students the constitutional right to a quality education as the kind of case PioneerLegal would avoid. “I didn’t think it was designed in a way that had a high chance of success,” he said of the charter school lawsuit. “We will not do ‘Hail Mary'”. A court dismissed the claim in the charter case, a decision later upheld by the Supreme Judicial Court.
The Pioneer Institute was founded in 1988 and has often served as a right-wing political counterbalance in a Democratic-dominated state. The think tank counts Governor Charlie Baker and Education Secretary Jim Peyser among the first executive directors.
Stergios said Pioneer Legal will have a budget of at least $500,000 for the partial fiscal year ending in September, and a “seven-figure” budget for its first full year of operation beginning in September. fall. The group is looking to recruit first- and second-year law students for the center’s internship program. Stergios said one post drew 30 submissions in the first two days.