The Public Good Law Center is a public interest firm dedicated to the idea that the law exists to serve everyone, not just those with means and ready access to the courts.
The voices of wealthy, powerful individuals and “corporate persons” are well represented in courtrooms around this country. The perspectives of ordinary citizens, consumers, debtors, students … less so. The consequence is not only that the latter are likely to fare less well in their individual cases, but that – as the law is interpreted and developed from case to case – rules of law too often emerge that systematically favor the wealthy and the powerful. Public Good works to level the playing field.
We seek to influence the development of the law in order to protect the rights of ordinary people. From the right of students to exercise their conscience to the right of consumers to be free from abusive business practices, Public Good is a voice on behalf of the underrepresented.
We file amicus briefs in consumer protection, public health, civil rights, and civil liberties litigation, intervening strategically in significant cases to place a weight on the side of the scale that represents ordinary people. We particularly look for cases that are out of the limelight but raise issues with potentially far-reaching consequences. It is our mission to ensure that courts are aware of the real-life impact of their decisions.
In addition, Public Good serves as a consultant to federal, state, and local government agencies on a variety of constitutional issues arising from efforts to regulate businesses to protect public health, consumers, and employees. We also submit comments on agency rulemaking on crucial issues.
Since its founding in 2009, Public Good has steadily made a difference. We have:
- Convinced the California Supreme Court to reverse lower court decisions that would have enabled unscrupulous businesses to deceive consumers by falsely advertising – with impunity – that their products were Made in the USA, or organic, or otherwise produced with particular social and environmental benefits.
- Persuaded the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit to consider the tobacco industry’s gross history of deception about the hazards of its products in assessing the constitutionality of new restrictions on marketing tobacco products.
- Helped significantly to clarify the state of science concerning high sodium consumption to New York courts in the face of industry misinformation, making clear that mandated health warnings were uncontroversial and therefore could constitutionally be required.
- Successfully argued to the United States Supreme Court that the First Amendment does not stand in the way of laws that require businesses to disclose important factual information to consumers – from provisos on law firm advertising to ingredient disclosures by food distributors to warning labels by pesticide manufacturers.
- Convinced the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to amend an opinion that otherwise could have allowed credit card companies to evade statutes of limitations in debt collection cases, giving them the ability to surprise consumers with claims on debts from years or even decades in the past.
- Successfully called on the California Supreme Court to nullify a lower court opinion and thereby uphold a state law establishing consumers’ right to challenge and fix mistakes on their credit reports.
- Convinced the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit to amend an opinion in a First Amendment challenge to a ban on retailers imposing a surcharge on credit card customers to make clear that it was not making it easier to challenge regulations of commercial speech (i.e., advertising), and then helping to persuade the United States Supreme Court to dispose of the case without revisiting its standards for reviewing regulations of commercial speech.
Through these and other amicus interventions, we try to make the rules a little bit fairer, the courts a little bit more accessible, and justice a little bit closer to hand.