Michael Farris (lawyer)

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Michael Farris
Michael P. Farris.jpg
Personal details
Born (1951-08-27) August 27, 1951 (age 68)
Spokane, Washington, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Vickie Farris
Alma materWestern Washington University (BA)
Gonzaga University (JD)
University of London (LLM)

Michael "Mike" P. Farris (born August 27, 1951) is an American constitutional lawyer. He is a founder of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) and Patrick Henry College, both in Purcellville in Loudoun County in northern Virginia. He is CEO and general counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom.[1]

Personal life and education[edit]

Farris graduated magna cum laude with a degree in political science from Western Washington University (formerly Western Washington State College). He received a J.D. degree and graduated with honors from Gonzaga University School of Law. Farris received an LL.M. in public international law (with merit) from the University of London in 2011.

He married in 1971 and has ten children and twenty two grandchildren.[2]


In 1983, Farris founded the Home School Legal Defense Association, serving as chairman and general counsel.[3] His efforts resulted in a number of court rulings and policy changes favoring homeschooling. In 1993, Farris hired Timmy Teepell, then a homeschooled 18-year-old, to run the Madison Project, a political action committee that raised campaign funds for Christian conservatives. Teepell later became a Republican political consultant in both his native Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Alexandria, Virginia.[4]

Farris also founded Patrick Henry College, which opened its doors in 2000. According to HSLDA, the college was founded as "...a Christian institution with the mission of training students through a classical liberal arts curriculum and apprenticeship methodology to impact the world 'for Christ and for Liberty.'"[5]

He held the positions of president and professor of Government from 2000 to 2006. Farris resigned his position as president of HSLDA to take on these new roles. In March 2006, Farris stepped down from the position of president to become chancellor of the college.[6] In January 2017, Farris retired from the position of chancellor but retained the title of "chancellor emeritus."[7]

Legal and political career[edit]

As a lawyer, Farris's cases include over 40 reported decisions as lead counsel. These decisions were given by the United States Supreme Court, five U.S. circuit courts of Appeal, seven state Supreme Courts, and five state Courts of Appeal. Farris has argued for the petitioners in the Supreme Court cases Witters v. Washington Department of Services For the Blind in 1985–1986[8] and National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra in 2018.[9]

In 1993, Farris ran unsuccessfully for Lieutenant Governor of Virginia and was defeated by Democrat Don Beyer 54–46 percent. However, fellow Republicans George Allen and James Gilmore were elected on the same ballot as Governor and Attorney General, respectively. Farris' close connection to conservative leaders like Jerry Falwell of the former Moral Majority, Pat Robertson of the Christian Coalition and Phyllis Schlafly of the Eagle Forum stirred deep-seated feelings about religion and politics. These concerns, inflamed by negative ads by Beyer to portray him even more radically, likely caused alienation of enough moderate voters to cause his defeat.[10]

In 2009-2010, Farris represented the plaintiffs in Clemons, John T., Et Al. v. Dept. of Commerce, Et Al.,[11] which was dismissed on appeal to the Supreme Court.[12] Apportionment.Us brought the case in attempt to apply the "One Man, One Vote" principle of Baker v. Carr to the relative size of congressional districts across state lines.[13] That would have had the effect of expanding the size of the US House of Representatives beyond its current 435 members.[14]

Along with Mark Meckler, Farris was co-founder of the Convention of States Project,[15] founded in 2013 to encourage a convention to propose amendments to the US Constitution. He served as Senior Fellow for Constitutional Studies for the project's parent organization, Citizens for Self-Governance, and as a member of CSG's Legal Board of Reference.[16]

Alliance Defending Freedom announced that Farris would become its CEO and General Counsel in January 2017.[17]


  1. ^ "ADF Names New CEO - Alliance Defending Freedom". www.adflegal.org. Retrieved 2017-01-10.
  2. ^ Biography
  3. ^ http://www.hslda.org/about/staff/attorneys/Farris.asp HSLDA Biography of Michael Farris. Retrieved 2009-12-01.
  4. ^ "Stephanie Stokes, Competitive spirit drives Jindal's top gun, October 28, 2007". New Orleans Times-Picayune. Retrieved October 25, 2013.
  5. ^ http://www.hslda.org/about/staff/attorneys/Farris.asp. Retrieved 2009-12-01.
  6. ^ Farris Assumes New Responsibility - Patrick Henry College news 2/28/06
  7. ^ College, Patrick Henry. "Exciting News from Dr. Michael Farris". Retrieved 2018-10-14.
  8. ^ "FindLaw's United States Supreme Court case and opinions". Findlaw. Retrieved 2017-01-11.
  9. ^ "National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra - SCOTUSblog". SCOTUSblog. Retrieved 2018-07-10.
  10. ^ Don Beyer, Mike Farris, and the Wizard of Oz; how the election for Lt. Governor of Virginia became a testing ground for the Christian right – Campaigns & Elections Dec–Jan 1993
  11. ^ Baker, Peter (2009-09-17). "Expand the House?". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  12. ^ "Apportionment.US - Blog". apportionment.us. 2010-12-13. Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  13. ^ "Lawsuit challenges number of House members". msnbc.com. 2009-09-30. Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  14. ^ Baker, Peter (2010-07-12). "Suit Seeks to Double Size of House". The Caucus, The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  15. ^ Markus Schmidt, January 20, 2014, Richmond Times-Dispatch, The News Virginian, Effort seeks to reset course for America, Accessed Jan. 21, 2014, "...Last year, Farris launched the Convention of States Project, sponsored by a group called Citizens for Self-Governance. In the past three months, the project has opened numerous chapters nationwide that lobby legislators. ... "
  16. ^ Lifson, Thomas (October 1, 2014). "Article V convention moves a step closer". American Thinker. Retrieved 7 October 2014.
  17. ^ "ADF Names New CEO - Alliance Defending Freedom". www.adflegal.org. Retrieved 2017-01-10.

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
Edwina P. Dalton
Republican nominee for Lieutenant Governor of Virginia
Succeeded by
John Hager
Academic offices
New office President of Patrick Henry College
Succeeded by
Graham Walker
Chancellor of Patrick Henry College