Associate Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court and TFAS alumnus, the Honorable Clint Bolick joins the Liberty + Leadership Podcast.
In addition to serving on the bench, Justice Bolick teaches Constitutional Law at Arizona State University School of Law, serves as a research fellow with the Hoover Institution, and is the author of numerous books. In this week’s episode, Roger and Clint discuss advice for young leaders, insights on SCOTUS cases, and why Clint marked a constitutional victory for free speech by getting a tattoo of a scorpion on his index finger.
The transcript below is lightly edited for clarity.
Roger Ream [00:00:17] Hello and welcome. I’m Roger Ream and this is the Liberty + Leadership Podcast, a conversation with TFAS alumni who are making a real impact in politics, public policy, government, business, philanthropy, law and the media. Today we have a very special guest joining me: Associate Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court and TFAS alumnus, the Honorable Clint Bolick. Clint was appointed to the court in January 2016 by Governor Doug Ducey of Arizona. Before his time on the bench, Clint argued and won cases in the United States Supreme Court, the Arizona Supreme Court, and state and federal courts from coast to coast. Clint won landmark precedents defending school choice, freedom of enterprise, private property rights, as well as challenging corporate subsidies and racial classifications. In addition to serving on the Arizona Supreme Court, Clint teaches constitutional law at Arizona State University School of Law. He serves as a research fellow with the Hoover Institution and is author of numerous books. A recent profile in the New York Times said that Clint is “known for his aggressive litigation to defend individual liberties.” And having known Clint for over 30 years, I can confirm that reporting. Clint, welcome to the show. I’m excited to speak with you and discuss some of the liberty and leadership you have learned over the years.
Clint Bolick [00:01:52] Roger, it’s such an honor to be with you and to kick off this facet of TFAS’s program. I’m just so proud of everything that you’ve accomplished with The Fund for American Studies and very grateful for the catalyst that it provided to me early – very, very early in my career.
Roger Ream [00:02:15] Well, if you don’t mind, why don’t we start with that? In, I think it was 1978, you attended our program as an undergraduate at Drew University. Do you remember how you first heard about it? And could you tell us a little bit about your experience in our program?
Clint Bolick [00:02:31] So it was 1978, and I remember that well because I was excited it was going to be at Georgetown University. The Exorcist had just come out, and I wanted to see that the stairs where so much of the action took place in that movie. But it was just a flyer that I saw at my college. It said ‘Live, Learn and Intern in Washington, D.C.’ And I had been making the trek to Washington, D.C., on the Amtrak Metroliner since I was a little kid. I just loved Washington, D.C., and the idea of being able to spend an entire summer there studying at Georgetown and interning on Capitol Hill, I mean, it just was was so exciting to me. And fortunately, I was able to get a full scholarship. I knew nothing about the program. I didn’t know if it was liberal or conservative or neither of the above. All I knew was it was going to get me to D.C. and whatever my expectations were, they were soaringly exceeded.
Roger Ream [00:03:46] Well, I have to share a story with you. I recall just a few years ago meeting with a businessman in Texas and he said, “I serve on the boards of nonprofits, and to be honest with you, I can never tell whether they’re effective. Can you try to share with me why you think you’re an effective organization and I should invest in what you do?” And I said, “Well, you know, we try to produce courageous leaders who make a difference. And let me tell you about one of them, Clint Bolick.” And he said, “Oh, I know who Clint Bolick is.” And I told him your story a little bit about coming from Drew, and you interned, I think, on the Hill for Senator Orrin Hatch. You tell me about how our economics course increased your passion for understanding market economics. And I said if our entire budget in the year 1978 only resulted in Clint Bolick, it would have been worth the investment because I think our budget at the time was about $1,000,000. And I said, “For a million dollars to produce Clint Bolick, who has such an impact in his career…” And I’m not sure I persuaded him or not, but he seemed to agree with that.
Clint Bolick [00:04:54] Well, that’s a really nice tribute, and honestly so much of my career traces to that summer.
Roger Ream [00:05:05] While you were in law school, you decided to run for a seat in the California assembly. What in the world was your motivation there?
Clint Bolick [00:05:14] Not too many people know about that, though I guess more will know about it now. But, you know, during high school, I had been a bit intellectually confused. I was active in the teenage Republicans, but I found that some of my views were aberrant. I supported some things that Republicans did not. I had very much a ‘live and let live’ philosophy. It wasn’t until going to law school that I discovered the idea of libertarianism, and it really, really appealed to me, and I finally felt like I had a coherent intellectual foundation. That was really the first year that the Libertarian Party had a very significant candidate, Ed Clark. In fact, David Koch was the vice presidential candidate. And I decided to run for the state legislature. It really was a crazy idea, obviously I had no chance of winning, but I worked very, very hard. One of the benefits of that was debating the incumbent Democrat and the Republican candidate. I learned to think on my feet and to be able to, when the occasion called for it, to speak in sound bites. It really was a fantastic experience. I ended up getting 7.1% of the vote, which for a libertarian is quite high. I actually beat the Republican in a number of precincts. So it was a great experience. That was the last of my affiliation with the Libertarian Party, though I still very much consider myself a small ‘l’ libertarian. But it was just a great formative experience. I remember my constitutional law professor walking into class one time and shaking his head very sadly, and he said, “I can’t start my day without hearing Clint Bolick’s voice on the radio.” Everyone got a good laugh out of that. But it really was a great experience. During law school, I sued my law school and I sued the city of Davis, and I do encourage young people in college or in law school or wherever, you know, get active right away. One of the nice things about that is not only do you learn a lot, but you make your mistakes at a point where they don’t count all that much. You know, when I was representing myself in these lawsuits, it didn’t really matter whether I made any mistakes because I was the client. And getting that experience at a very early age, hands on experience, whether it’s interning or whether it’s running for office or whether it’s suing people, the more experiences you can have, you always look back on them as good learning experience.
Roger Ream [00:08:32] Now that’s great advice for young people in particular. You know, our headquarters is in Washington, D.C., but we run our high school programs through the Foundation for Teaching Economics with headquarters in Davis, California, so I have to ask you, what was your lawsuit about against the city of Davis?
Clint Bolick [00:08:54] So against the city of Davis, they had a campaign contribution limit of $35 for municipal candidates. And I thought that that was unconstitutional. Certainly over time, over the years, that sort of thing would be struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court. And the main thing I had to do, the main obstacle to filing a lawsuit challenging this, was I had to come up with $36 to contribute to a candidate, which was no small feat. But I did do that, and I found a candidate who was willing as a matter of civil disobedience to accept that contribution. And so we were on our way.
Roger Ream [00:09:40] Well, if you had trouble coming up with $36, that means we were justified in giving you a scholarship.
Clint Bolick [00:09:47] Yes! You absolutely were! And I couldn’t have done the program without it.
Roger Ream [00:09:51] Not sure when we first met, I think it was when you were at the Mountain States Legal Foundation, I certainly learned about you when you were there. I recall you said something very wise at the time, and that is that there’s a world of difference between an organization that is pro-business and an organization that is pro-free enterprise. Could you explain that a little bit?
Clint Bolick [00:10:13] I certainly can. My first job out of law school was at Mountain States Legal Foundation, which was one of the early conservative public interest law firms. The acting president at the time was was Chip Miller, who – he and I went on to co-found the Institute for Justice. At the time that I joined, we had a lawsuit challenging Denver’s award of an exclusive cable television franchise. Now, this was just when cable was getting started. And so the effect of that was to bring instead of the eight stations that we had as kids growing up, you know, expanding that to 140, obviously, that was the foundation of many things to come. But most cities, including Denver, filed or created an exclusive franchise for a single monopolist. And we thought that was contrary to the First Amendment. So we filed a lawsuit challenging that. Well, it turned out that the franchise, the monopoly, was awarded to one of the best friends of our board chairman. And our board chairman resigned in protest over that, and he took a lot of the funders with him. That really was a huge crisis. Chip was fired. Fortunately, there was a Reagan administration to be a part of at that time, so we had no trouble finding a phenomenal job. About a year later, I resigned and joined him in Washington, D.C. I remember sitting in his backyard after he was fired, and we said, you know, one day we’re going to start an organization where people contribute to us, not because we support their economic interests, but because we support principles that they believe in. And that, of course, ultimately became the Institute for Justice. Now there are so many groups like that that put principles first. But at the time, it really was the exception to the rule. And, of course, The Fund for American Studies exemplifies the belief in principles and teaching about the foundational principles of the American experiment. But at the time, it was damaging to one’s career to take that kind of position.
Roger Ream [00:13:09] Yeah, that must have been a very, very difficult and stressful time for both you and Chip Miller. I know you mentioned you founded the Institute for Justice. One of the things among many that was so key, I think, to the strategy you adopted there was this idea of looking for cases that you could build on that would establish a precedent, and you could chip away at economic regulation and regulation of property rights. You had a lot of very interesting cases there. I know one dealt with, right here in Washington, D.C., you dealt with shoeshine operations, right? And I’ll never forget that name, Ego Brown. Could you maybe tell us about that case?
Clint Bolick [00:13:53] So one of the things that we wanted to do, and you’re absolutely right, it was all about long range strategy following the game plan that led to Brown versus Board of Education. And we would do that in the areas of economic liberty, school choice and private property rights. Fortunately, the Institute has proved to be incredibly successful in all three of those areas. But with economic liberty, the idea of being able to start a business free from excessive or arbitrary government regulation, that’s a right that most Americans think they have and it’s a right that they ought to have because the 14th Amendment was designed to protect that right. But over the years, it really had evaporated. It literally was read out of the Constitution in a series of very bad U.S. Supreme Court decisions. So we were starting literally from scratch. The idea that I brought to the table was that you had your best chance of making revolutionary change in the courts if your case was as appealing as possible. A lot of people don’t know that Plessy versus Ferguson was a public interest law case. It was actually funded by the streetcar industry to fight separate but equal streetcar railroad laws. But that was disastrous because the client at that time was not sympathetic. It was someone, a man, that a lot of people wanted to discriminate against. But when we chose our case, our very first case was Ego Brown, who had left his job in the Navy to start his own business shining shoes on the public streets of Washington, D.C., and he was incredibly successful. He was very flamboyant. He would put up these stands and he would cajole people. He’d say, “Man, what a nice suit that is. Too bad your shoes don’t hold up to it. They’re all scuffed,” you know, and people would step up to his stand and get their shoes shined. And he was so successful that over time, the District of Columbia began referring homeless people to him, and he would give them a shower, a tuxedo and a shoeshine stand and get them in a position to lift themselves by their own bootstraps. Well, in D.C., you’ve lived there long enough, Roger, to know that no good deed goes unpunished, and before long the District of Columbia had dusted off an old Jim Crow law that forbade shoeshine stands on the public streets, and they shut him down. And that’s when I met him. At that point, he was shining shoes as an employee for a hotel. I went and got what was probably the best shoeshine in my entire life. And I said, “Hey, do you want to challenge this law?” And he said, “I can’t afford a lawyer.” And I said for the first time what I subsequently said many, many times and always gleefully, “I’m free!” And so the price was no object, and Ego and I filed a lawsuit. And after a long, difficult litigation where we really had no cases to cite in support of the proposition that he should be allowed to do this, on the first day of spring in 1988, the District Court for the District of Columbia became the first federal court in over 50 years to strike down an economic regulation as a violation of equal protection. And that became the first building block for literally dozens of cases that have come since that time.
Roger Ream [00:18:12] Yeah. And after that, I know you’ve been the case of the flower shops. There have been the case of the of people who manufacture coffins.
Clint Bolick [00:18:23] Yes. And one of my personal favorites was here in Arizona on behalf of a tattoo studio.
Roger Ream [00:18:34] Oh, you have to tell us about that.
Clint Bolick [00:18:36] Yes, and fortunately, we were able to advocate the First Amendment in that particular case. It was a tattoo artist who, during the middle of the recession, invested in a half empty strip mall and started a tattoo studio, invested $25,000, and after the city had given him a use permit, the neighbors were really offended about having a tattoo studio there. So they went to the city council and his use permit was revoked. He was about to lose his entire investment. And I read about this in the newspaper and I called him up and once again said, “Would you like to challenge this?” And so we did. Challenging the government’s revocation of a use permit was – it was very much an uphill battle. But this case, you know, my colleagues who have litigated these cases, you really throw your heart and soul into these cases because you’re really the last thing that stands between the government and a real tyrannical act. So I decided that if we won, I would get inked. And we did end up winning the Arizona Supreme Court before I joined. It became the first court and the first state Supreme Court in the country to recognize tattooing as a protected form of free speech. So I thought about what I would like to do if I got inked. And I decided since I, I type everything, this is-
Roger Ream [00:20:25] This is a G-rated podcast, so careful what you’re going to tell us-
Clint Bolick [00:20:29] Yes. So my first one – and my only one if I want to preserve my marriage – I decided to get a scorpion on my typing finger, the scorpion being emblematic of a little desert creature with a powerful sting. I only type with one finger, and so I have a scorpion on my typing finger. And that has kind of become my symbol. As a matter of fact, my law clerks a couple of years ago dubbed us the Scorpion Gang and made this lovely coffee mug to commemorate us. So that was really a fun case.
Roger Ream [00:21:16] Well, that’s such an apt tattoo because you’ve described it there as small but powerful. And that describes what you’ve been doing through your litigation over all these years. You had some experience in government, didn’t you, along the way?
Clint Bolick [00:21:34] Yes. So early in my career, and this is advice that I give to young people – if your team is in power (and obviously you can define your team in terms of party or philosophy), but if your team is in power, do a stint in the government. Even if you’re not terribly fond of the government, you can get great experiences at an early age. Fortunately my team was in government. It was the Reagan administration, and I first joined the EEOC about three years into my career, and then after that switched over to the Justice Department in the Civil Rights Division and just got amazing experience. Another bit of advice I always give is to choose your mentors carefully, and if you end up with the right one, it can just be incredible. And for me at the EEOC, I became very, very close to the chairman, who at the time was not very well known at all, but turned out to be an incredible inspiration and influence in my career. And I, in turn, helped to support his nomination to the United States Supreme Court, and that was Clarence Thomas. And he was just an incredible influence at the EEOC and throughout my career. I’m very happy to call him a friend and one of the greatest justices who’s ever served on our Supreme Court.
Roger Ream [00:23:09] Yeah, well, I agree with you there. He’s had such terrible treatment by forces on the other side who don’t agree with his judicial philosophy, who don’t agree with originalism. I mean, the kinds of racist things that have been said about him have just been beyond the pale. I don’t know if you keep in touch with him, but how does he persevere, given the terrible attacks against him?
Clint Bolick [00:23:38] Well, you know, nothing they can throw at him is a greater obstacle than what he encountered as a young man growing up in the segregated South. And he developed a very, very thick skin. I remember when he was EEOC chairman, and I really discovered how thick his skin was. You know, he often would be hauled down to the Senate committee that had oversight over the EEOC, and it was a Democrat controlled Senate. So any chance they had to make his life miserable, they would take advantage of. On that committee were such denizens as Ted Kennedy and Howard Metzenbaum. Not particularly kind people. I would see him at the commission and he’d be in a really foul mood, and I’d say, “What’s going on?” And he’s like- he would always respond the same way: “Well, I’m going down to the woodshed today to get my whooping,” and he would endure that experience. And it literally for him was a throwback to his his days with a very, very stern grandfather and other experiences he had growing up where, you just endure it and you live to fight another day.
Roger Ream [00:25:05] Clint, we’ve talked about the tremendous gains made through your litigation, through the organizations you’ve established on economic liberties. Obviously, there’s more to be done in that area and more so in some states than others. But you’ve also been a great advocate for school choice, for education reform, had some tremendous success in that regard. We’ve come a long way. Where do things stand now with the work you’ve done in terms of – in fact, I have one of your books here on the voucher wars, so you’ve been in the trenches there. Could you talk a little bit about that?
Clint Bolick [00:25:41] Well for young people watching the podcast who may want to go into public interest litigation, I hope they’ll pick up a copy of “Voucher Wars” because it chronicles, from the first person perspective, the 12 years of litigation that went into the battle for school choice, starting with a Milwaukee school choice program in 1990, culminating in the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Zelman versus Simmons Harris, the Cleveland school voucher program 12 years later. There were 16 lawsuits around the country. I know you mentioned coast to coast, and as soon as you said that, before litigating coast to coast, I realized that I litigated off the coast in Puerto Rico to defend a school choice program there among the 16 cases that we litigated. But this year, this June, we’ll be celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Zelman decision that upheld school vouchers and the inclusion of religious schools within them by the margin of 5 to 4. That’s how close it came. We were worried about Justice O’Connor’s vote until literally the moment the decision came down. We’ve come so far in the 20 years since then, the Supreme Court this year will consider a case that’s the flip side of what happened in Zelman. In Zelman the question was, can religious schools be included among the range of choices? Now the question is, can they be excluded? And that just shows how far we’ve traveled, because now the question is, can religious schools be discriminated against and can religious school parents be discriminated against? And I’m pretty confident the U.S. Supreme Court will say, no, they can’t be. If you’ve got a range of choices, then you have to include religious schools. And I think that the biggest thing that has boosted education reform and the demand for more choices was COVID, when we saw that children in many instances were not the top priority of many of the public schools and parents had to find alternatives and they’re no longer terrified that those alternatives exist.
Roger Ream [00:28:17] Well, it’s a wonderful opportunity that’s been opened up to mostly- you know, again, like you did with economic liberties, you are trying to help low income parents find alternatives to the government monopoly.
Clint Bolick [00:28:32] That’s absolutely right, and they are more affluent kids. They’re going to do fine no matter how bad the system may be. But for low income kids facing very difficult situations in their lives, the one oasis that we can provide and that we must provide is a high quality educational opportunity. And if the public schools can do that, that’s fantastic. If they can’t, then they deserve a choice.
Roger Ream [00:29:05] One other area I’d like to touch on is what you accomplished when you were with the Goldwater Institute with respect to health care decisions. Could you talk some about that, the ability of a person to be able to buy health care?
Clint Bolick [00:29:19] Well, this was an unbelievably audacious idea. You know, our friends in Washington, D.C., had been working very, very hard over the years to clip the wings of the Food and Drug Administration, which had really made it very difficult for new drugs to come into the market. It costs about $1,000,000,000 for a company to get a new drug through the FDA, and not a lot of companies can afford to do that. Oftentimes, there are either potentially life saving drugs that haven’t gotten through that incredibly lengthy process, or drugs that are approved but aren’t approved for a particular use to which they might be put. So we came up with the idea – we’re like, “Is there anything we could do at the state level to facilitate this?” And we came up with the idea of right to try, which is the idea that if you have a life threatening disease, that you can have access to drugs that have gone through the safety phase of FDA approval, but not the other phases, the efficacy phase and so forth. We proposed this as a referendum, and it was overwhelmingly adopted by the electorate. We thought the FDA was surely going to come in and sue us, because this is a matter of the preemption of federal law over state law. Instead, what we saw the FDA do was to finally start speeding up its processes. So we took this show on the road, and before long, dozens of other states, both red and blue, had passed this legislation, and then Congress adopted it just in time for COVID and the ability to get the vaccines through the FDA process in an unbelievably short time. So it was an idea that really was, you know – if the FDA had taken us to court, they almost certainly would have won. But the idea was so popular on both sides of the political spectrum that D.C. had to simply step back and say, “You know what? We’re going to let this this tidal wave just take over, and it’s a good idea whose time has come.” And it just shows, Roger, so many organizations on both the left and the right have discovered that if you start something in the States, sometimes it can get through the the logjam that characterizes Washington, D.C.
Roger Ream [00:32:30] Yeah, well, I know you are at least somewhat involved in the Kilo decision, which was a case in Connecticut involving a woman’s attempt to keep her home from being taken under eminent domain for purposes of private use. And that was an unfortunate decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in that case, not protecting property rights. But it is an example, isn’t it Clint, of the result being taking things to the states?
Clint Bolick [00:33:02] Exactly. So the Fifth Amendment says that private property may be taken for public use with just compensation. Over the years, the U.S. Supreme Court essentially rewrote that provision and took public use and made it public benefit, which is a huge difference. In the Kilo case, which was litigated by the Institute for Justice, the city decided to bulldoze a working class neighborhood for the benefit of a Pfizer facility, and it wasn’t even a manufacturing facility. It was amenities for an existing facility. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld that over the passionate dissent of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. But while I was losing that case in the U.S. Supreme Court, by that time, I had moved out to Arizona and we were litigating an almost identical case under our state constitution here in Arizona on behalf of a guy named Randy Bailey. And I can look at my wall and see his photo on my wall. Randy ran a brake shop, owned a brake shop, and the city of Mesa wanted to bulldoze that to make way for a hardware store. Again, a private to private transfer, a wealth transfer through the course of apparatus of government from one private property owner to a more politically powerful property owner. We stopped it in its tracks under the Arizona Constitution. Many other states have either, through their courts or through legislation, enacted far greater protections for private property rights than currently exists under the federal constitution. One of the things that I love about our system of federalism is that states are free to provide greater protection for individual liberty than the federal government does, but not less protection. And so I call that the freedom ratchet. And that occurred in the context of eminent domain, whereas you, as you say, are a loss, and the U.S. Supreme Court opened the floodgates to a series of wins in the states.
Roger Ream [00:35:34] That’s the way our system should function, even though I wish that hadn’t been lost in the press.
Clint Bolick [00:35:39] I couldn’t agree more.
Roger Ream [00:35:41] Tell us, what is it like to be a justice of a Supreme Court? Well, here are probably a lot of interesting cases. Do your decision drafts get leaked?
Clint Bolick [00:35:56] We did have a leak of a vote of how the justices voted on a case where we had issued an order, but we had not disclosed how the justices had voted. But I think that that was just very, very innocent, where a clerk or an employee didn’t realize that the vote was confidential and just said, “Oh yeah, this is how they voted.” And then it took off. But that’s the closest that we’ve had. But it’s just been incredible. I never aspired to this. I think when you pursue a career in public interest litigation, you’re pretty much deciding that you’re never going to be a judge because it’s too controversial. The only two public interest lawyers I know other than myself who have gone on to appellate judgeships were Thurgood Marshall and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. And they are the exceptions that prove the rule. But when Governor Ducey was elected, we have a merit selection system here, and I decided to give it a go. I had literally never given it a second thought throughout my career, and to my astonishment and delight, he chose me to be on the court. I think that my constitutional law experience, which is very typical for the U.S. Supreme Court, but very atypical for a state Supreme Court, has been a benefit to the court. The one thing that is very different, though, is that I follow the law wherever it leads. And sometimes as as Justice Gorsuch has remarked, it leads you to a place where your policy views would not take you. But I think that that’s so important that we have the rule of law rather than a bunch of policy advocates on the court. There’s never a better day than when I vote against my policy preferences but in favor of the rule of law, even if it means sometimes voting to strike down legislation that my legislator wife has voted for.
Roger Ream [00:38:28] Makes for interesting dinner conversation.
Clint Bolick [00:38:30] It does. It definitely does.
Roger Ream [00:38:34] You mentioned getting a scholarship to come to The Fund for American Studies’ program as a college student. I want to thank you for the way you’ve given back many times over as a supporter of our programs – scholarships for kids to come today and in the past years. And also, I know you have – I think had some of our alums who’ve either worked for you as judicial interns, or you’ve been involved also with Jacek Spendel, who runs Project Arizona. We’re so proud of what he’s done. A young man from Poland who came out to develop a program in Arizona for young people. So thanks for all that you do.
Clint Bolick [00:39:19] Any time I do that and any time I write out a modest check to The Fund for American Studies, it’s really a labor of love. You know, our country’s future absolutely depends on young people being exposed to the ideas of freedom. And I mean, it’s just astonishing and depressing that in the ordinary course of their education, they may not be exposed to those ideas. But The Fund for American Studies does such a great job. And it’s not like hard core indoctrination by any stretch of the imagination. It is literally exposure, and when people are exposed to those ideas, oftentimes, more often than not, they embrace them, and they become not just an intellectual preference, but truly a heart and soul passion for the ideas of liberty. When we see things like what’s going on in Ukraine right now, we know which side we’re on because it’s become so deeply ingrained within us.
Roger Ream [00:40:35] Yeah. We’re going to be providing scholarships for students from Ukraine to come to our program in Prague and even here in Washington as well, so we’re looking forward to hearing their stories when they come this summer.
Clint Bolick [00:40:49] They will teach more than they learn.
Roger Ream [00:40:52] At our programs here in Washington, we’ve always had this stress on not engaging in trying to propagandize, but bring students from varying perspectives who are bright and interested in leadership positions and influential professions and let them have a civil discourse and an environment where they can argue about ideas. Hopefully most leave with a better appreciation of our Constitution and our separation of powers and our institutions of free government. We know some don’t, but it’s transformative to so many of them that they do things like Jacek Spendel and like you’re doing, and so we really appreciate that. You’re someone we really have great pride in, Clint.
Clint Bolick [00:41:37] Well, I really appreciate that. My daughter just took her AP economics exam last week, and I was remarking to her that I got my lowest grade in college in economics as the professor put red X’s over any references to Milton Friedman that I put on my exam. If it hadn’t been for The Fund for American Studies, where I realized it wasn’t a matter of not being able to grasp economics, it wasn’t a matter of being taught ideas that were contrary to the rules of economics, I would never have been able to have confidence that my ideas were sound. So I am literally eternally grateful for that experience.
Roger Ream [00:42:36] Well, let me conclude this with a couple of questions that might be useful to younger people listening. Do you have one particular book or writer you could suggest for young people wanting to have a better understanding of our Constitution and the concepts of originalism or how we should look at our Constitution?
Clint Bolick [00:42:59] Well, absolutely anything that has been written by my good friend, Professor Randy Barnett. He really has revolutionized the ideas of originalism. Certainly Justice Scalia, when he was on the court, really made originalism mainstream. It’s so exciting to be a part of that. So checking out the books by Randy Barnett and seeing which ones might appeal to you. He’s written on so many topics and always brings the idea of originalism. In terms of my own repertoire, I wrote a book called “David’s Hammer: The Case for an Activist Judiciary,” that explains what I think the proper role of the judiciary is. I remember when I wrote that for the Cato Institute, they begged me not to use that subtitle. They said, “You’ll never be a judge if you advocate for an activist judiciary.” And I said, “I’m never going to be a judge anyway, so it doesn’t matter.” But nonetheless, that is one of my contributions to the idea of what courts ought to be doing.
Roger Ream [00:44:26] Well, I can’t resist since you mentioned Randy Barnett. There’s something that you, Randy and I have in common. I have it on my bookshelf here, it’s a Bradley prize.
Clint Bolick [00:44:34] Yes!
Roger Ream [00:44:36] It’s a great honor to share. I have a great regard for the Bradley Foundation. There have been such exceptional people winning Bradley prizes in the past. They have another ceremony this coming week with some great people winning it.
Clint Bolick [00:44:49] Well, and I don’t think I would have won the prize were it not for your advocacy on my behalf. So I’ve got my lion on my bookshelf and it’s just an incredible honor.
Roger Ream [00:45:04] Well, before we end, I always like to wrap up these conversations with one question, and it’s simply if you were to give a piece of leadership advice to our students, what would that be?
Clint Bolick [00:45:15] Well, you know, it probably would vary depending on what particular week it is, but I always tell my law students, there’s really only one Latin phrase you need to know, and that’s carpe diem. Seize the moment. There are so many things. The Zelman case is an example of that, where if one person out of the thousands that were involved in the effort to put that over the finish line had not done what they did, we might not have gotten there. Sometimes you look at yourself as an individual that can’t have very much influence, but the things that you do, seizing the moment, being an example, being an inspiration, being a part of a team, just always err on the side of saying yes, this is what I’m going to do, taking risks, following that Latin admonition.
Roger Ream [00:46:19] I think this whole conversation has been chock full of leadership advice from you, examples of how to make a difference. So thank you for sharing your story with us, Clint. I think it’s been an empowering discussion.
Clint Bolick [00:46:32] Well, Roger, it’s always great to be with you. I am a huge admirer of what you and TFAS are accomplishing.
Roger Ream [00:46:43] Thank you. It’s good to be with you today, Clint. All the best to you.
Clint Bolick [00:46:46] Likewise.
Roger Ream [00:46:56] Thank you for listening to the Liberty + Leadership Podcast. Please don’t forget to subscribe, download, like and share the show on Apple, Spotify, YouTube, or wherever you listen to podcasts. If you liked the episode, I ask you to rate it and review it. If you have a comment or question for the show, please drop us an email at podcast@TFAS.org. That’s podcast@TFAS.org. The Liberty + Leadership Podcast is produced at kglobal Studios in Washington, D.C. I’m your host Roger Ream, and until next time, be a leader for liberty.
About the Podcast
TFAS has reached more than 46,000 students and professionals through academic programs, fellowships and seminars. Representing more than 140 countries, TFAS alumni are courageous leaders throughout the world forging careers in politics, government, public policy, business, philanthropy, law and the media.
Join TFAS President Roger Ream ’76 as he reconnects with these outstanding alumni to share experiences, swap career stories, and find out what makes their leadership journey unique. With prominent congressmen, judges and journalists among the mix, each episode is sure to excite your interest in what makes TFAS special.
If you have a comment or question for the show, please email podcast@TFAS.org.
View future episodes and subscribe at TFAS.org/podcast.