Mountain States Legal Foundation

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Mountain States Legal Foundation
Formation 1977
Type Non-profit corporation
Purpose Public interest litigation
Headquarters Lakewood, Colorado
Region served
United States
President & Chief Operating Officer
William Perry Pendley
12 (2013)[1]

Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF) is a nonprofit law firm. The Foundation "describes itself as the litigation arm of the anti-environmental wise-use movement", and organized the first wise use conference in 1988.[2]

History and activities[edit]

MSLF was incorporated in Colorado in 1977 by western business leaders concerned that advocates for constitutional liberties, property rights, and economic activity were not present during important legal battles. Initially created with funding by the National Legal Center and Joseph Coors, MSLF's first president was James G. Watt. On behalf of his corporate sponsors, Watt initiated lawsuits opposing affirmative action, limiting safety inspection of businesses, and preventing the implementation of reduced utility rates for the elderly.[3]

MSLF is a nonprofit organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. MSLF provides representation to its clients pro bono in cases that involve important public policy issues. In addition to its direct representation of MSLF, its members, and its clients, MSLF also files amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs. In its litigation, MSLF seeks to establish binding legal precedents.

MSLF is governed by a volunteer Board of Directors, which also approves all legal actions taken by MSLF, and assisted in the selection of its litigation by a volunteer Board of Litigation.[4][5] MSLF employs a full-time staff, which includes attorneys who conduct all of the litigation in which MSLF engages. The organization reports its annual budget to be over $2 million.[6]

MSLF's only office is in Lakewood, Colorado. MSLF publishes a quarterly newsletter, The Litigator, a quarterly Action Update, which addresses topical legal issues, and its website at[7]

Since its creation, MSLF has argued cases before the Supreme Court of the United States and numerous federal courts of appeals. MSLF’s best known litigation involved the Constitution's equal protection guarantee, which resulted in a 1995 landmark ruling that Time Magazine called “a legal earthquake.” In Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Peña, Justice Scalia wrote, “In the eyes of government, we are just one race here. It is American.”[8] MSLF has continued its litigation regarding affirmative action, reverse discrimination, and racial quotas and preferences, and also has litigated regarding the Voting Rights Act.

In addition, MSLF has litigated regarding property rights and has been preeminent regarding issues of concerns to westerners, including the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, especially regarding “wetlands,” the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the National Forest Management Act, the Antiquities Act, the Multiple Use Sustained Yield Act, and the General Mining Law and bars on and restrictions regarding the ability to develop natural resources such as energy and minerals and forest and agricultural products. In a case dismissed in 2002, MSLF sued George W. Bush for failing to overturn a designation of national monuments action by Bill Clinton.[9]

MSLF's sources of funding have included Texaco, U.S. Steel Phillips Petroleum and ExxonMobil corporations and Castle Rock Foundation.[10]


Greenpeace has criticized The Mountain States Legal Foundation as "training ground for a number of attorneys most active in the anti-environmental movement."[11]


  • William Perry Pendley, It Takes a Hero: The Grassroots Battle Against Environmental Oppression (Bellevue, WA: The Free Enterprise Press, 1994). ISBN 0-939571-16-1
  • William Perry Pendley, War on the West: Government Tyranny on America's Great Frontier (Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 1995). ISBN 0-89526-482-X
  • William Perry Pendley, Warriors for the West: Fighting Bureaucrats, Radical Groups, and Liberal Judges on America’s Frontier (Regnery 2006). ISBN 1-59698-006-0
  • “Life, Liberty, and Property Rights,” in Bringing Justice to the People: The Story of the Freedom-Based Public Interest Law Movement (Lee Edwards, ed.). Washington, DC: Heritage Books, ISBN 0-9743665-2-8.

Notable employees[edit]

Notable past employees include:[12][13]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Lindstrom, Matthew J. Encyclopedia of the U.S. Government and the Environment: History, Policy, and Politics: History, Policy, and Politics, p 508. ABC-CLIO, 2010. ISBN 9781598842388
  3. ^ Bellant, Russ. The Coors Connection: How Coors Family Philanthropy Undermines Democratic Pluralism, p 85. South End Press, 1991. ISBN 9780896084162
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ [1]515 U.S. 200, 239 (1995) (Scalia, concurring)
  9. ^ Lindstrom, p 508.
  10. ^ Lindstrom, p 507.
  11. ^ ExxonSecrets Factsheet: Mountain States Legal Foundation
  12. ^
  13. ^

External links[edit]