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The Other Rights Revolution: Conservative Lawyers and the Remaking of American Government, Jefferson Decker

Reviewed by Philip Kronebusch



Scholars have long documented how, in the 1950s and 1960s, advocates for several liberal interest groups found some success in pursuing their causes in the courts. The NAACP created its Legal Defense Fund, which supported litigation that began chipping away at institutionalized racial segregation. Similarly, some consumer, environmental, and women's rights organizations also pursued litigation strategies. This “rights revolution,” which Charles Epp refers to in his 1998 book of that title, helped trigger what Jefferson Decker calls “the other rights revolution.” In his book of that title, he analyzes the roles that conservative lawyers, and the public interest legal organizations they founded, played in the 1970s and 1980s.

The main body of the book examines the founding and development of the Pacific Legal Foundation in 1973 and then the Mountain States Legal Foundation, the Great Plains Legal Foundation, and the Washington Legal Foundation in later years. The Pacific Legal Foundation, led by Ronald Zumbrun, a former aide to Ronald Reagan when he was governor of California, began by filing amicus curiae briefs in support of restrictive welfare laws in cases brought by welfare rights organizations. The original focus on welfare policy was short-lived, and Pacific shifted its focus to defending the property rights of property owners i

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