Public Justice Foundation

Impact. Change.

aka Public Justice   |   Washington, DC   |  www.publicjustice.net

Mission

Public Justice pursues high impact lawsuits to combat social and economic injustice, protect the Earth's sustainability, and challenge predatory corporate conduct and government abuses.

Ruling year info

1977

Executive Director

F. Paul Bland Jr.

Main address

1620 L St NW Ste 630

Washington, DC 20036 USA

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Formerly known as

Trial Lawyers for Public Justice

EIN

59-1730478

NTEE code info

Civil Liberties Advocacy (R60)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Communication

Blog

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Public Justice pursues high impact lawsuits to combat social and economic injustice, protect the Earth's sustainability, and challenge predatory corporate conduct and government abuses. Through cutting edge litigation, and public education and advocacy campaigns, we work to create systemic changes in the areas of corporate accountability, climate change, civil rights and the food system.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Students' Civil Rights Project

Public Justice’s Students’ Civil Rights Project uses litigation and advocacy to combat harassment and other forms of discrimination so that all students can learn and thrive in school. Our unique strategy for effecting lasting, systemic change pairs innovative legal advocacy with outreach, education, and mobilization efforts that empower young people to be catalysts for critical reforms.

Our work is rooted in, and steered by, our commitment to educational access, legal accountability, and youth empowerment.

Every student must be able to access education in a learning environment that is free from discrimination, including harassment and violence. No student should lose out on the chance to learn because of their race, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or any other part of who they are. And no student should fear going to school because they are the target of discrimination, bullying, or other abuse.

There must be accountability for schools and leaders who fail to create the safe learning environment required under the law. All schools have a legal obligation to provide an equal opportunity for all students to learn. When schools fail to do so, we take them to court to ensure long-lasting change.

As advocates for equitable schools, we work to empower young people – including students of color, LGBTQ+ students, and student survivors of sexual harassment – to organize, advocate and stand for change in their K-12 schools, colleges, and universities.

Population(s) Served
Young adults
Children and youth
Ethnic and racial groups
Sexual identity

Eighty-five percent of the meat Americans consume are produced by four corporate giants – Tyson, Smithfield, Cargill and JDS. These companies use the methods of mass factory production, including chemical modification, mechanization and concentration, to pump out products where the only concern is their bottom line. They do so without regard for the suffering their methods inflict on animals or the risks their methods pose to consumers, neighbors, employees, and the earth.

Public Justice’s Food Project takes a multifaceted approach to support a more sustainable, honest, humane and safe food system. In our lawsuits, we represent farmers, rural communities, consumers, and workers who share our vision. In our advocacy, we spread awareness of the systemic inequities that have allowed this corporate takeover of our food system and show policymakers and the public how they can support a return to farming focused on sustaining communities rather than extracting profit.

Our Food Project is:

Holding factory farms accountable:

Factory farms cram thousands upon thousands of animals into overcrowded barns and pens in order to make as much profit as possible, producing more waste than the farms could ever use in crop production. Many of these farms dump their waste in unlined landfills, onto bare open fields, and in multi-thousand ton mounds that sit unused for years. As the toxins in the manure leach into the groundwater, surrounding communities find well water tainted and the air outside putrid. Instead of managing their pollution, factory farms force it on the public, increasing the rate of infant deaths and cancer.

Public Justice believes that factory farms should be held responsible for these harms and must bear the costs of proper waste management that protects neighboring communities. We’re pioneering the use of suits under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act that seek to ensure discarded farm waste is treated as the hazardous substance it is. We also work with Public Justice’s attorneys in our Environmental Protection Project to use the Clean Water Act to force farms to abide by existing regulations and permits. Our goal is to secure justice for communities across the country by forcing factory farms to take responsibility for their true production costs.

Prompting transparency and protecting free speech:

We believe consumers deserve to know the truth about how their food is produced. Many industrial animal agriculture companies want to mislead consumers by labeling their factory-farmed products as “natural,” and support “ag-gag” laws that aim to criminalize and inhibit whistleblowers from exposing the true conditions of factory farms. Industrial animal agriculture wants consumers to believe that their practices are as safe and ethical as those of independent farmers. Investigations like the ones ag-gag laws prohibit, however, have uncovered some of the industry’s dirtiest and most dangerous secrets. They’ve even forced the recall of contaminated food sold to the government for school lunch programs.

Building on Public Justice’s work in securing Access to Justice and protecting consumers we’re at the forefront of using the Constitution and consumer protection laws to prevent corporate agriculture from deceiving consumers and shrouding their operations in secrecy. We helped secure the first victory holding ag-gag laws unconstitutional under the First Amendment and are helping manage national litigation and policy efforts to stop the spread of these dangerous laws. We’re also representing consumers in a first-of-its kind consumer protection challenge arguing that industrial animal agriculture companies cannot advertise their factory farmed meat as natural. We are committed to securing open, transparent markets so that consumers can select the safe, healthy and humane products they desire.

Protecting independent farmers:
Corporate agriculture companies have tried to fight competition and close family farms. Other family farmers find themselves trapped in agreements with companies that are unfair and anticompetitive.
Using innovative legal strategies, Public Justice is spearheading one of the only lawsuits focused on reforming industrial animal agriculture’s relationship with farmers. And we’re also working with independent farmers to challenge laws that force them to work with industrial agriculture companies in advertising their products. We believe in the sustainable farms that helped build, and feed America for generations, and we’re fighting, every day on their side.

Population(s) Served

America’s Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and other critical environmental laws are only as good as their enforcement. And then there are the giant energy companies preoccupied with profits. Together, lax enforcement coupled with corporate greed and negligence expose land, air, water and people to damage and destruction.

Public Justice’s Environmental Enforcement Project uses citizen suits and other litigation to force compliance with environmental laws. We make polluters pay.

On behalf of local communities and organizations, the EEP has filed more than 30 citizen suits in 14 states to hold corporate wrongdoers accountable for their violations of federal environmental statutes regulating clean air, clean water, coal mining and hazardous waste.

Population(s) Served

Public Justice is the only public interest organization in the country that both aggressively prosecutes a wide range of class actions and has a special project to preserve class actions and prevent their abuse.

Our Class Action Preservation Project has won the leading decisions in the nation striking down class action bans. We have won landmark rulings preserving class actions in the California, New Jersey, New Mexico and Washington state high courts and numerous federal appeals courts. For more than a decade, we have also been defeating proposed class action settlements that would make the corporate defendant happy, but deprive class members of access to justice.

Class action lawsuits are a powerful legal device. Properly used, they are often the only way to achieve justice. Abused, they can impose enormous injustice — and support corporate wrongdoers’ attempts to eliminate them entirely. That’s why our Class Action Preservation Project works so hard to preserve class actions and prevent their abuse.

Population(s) Served

As local governments shift the costs of the criminal justice system onto those who pass through their courts and outsource the collection of court debt to for-profit corporations, people are being arrested and jailed simply because they are too poor to pay criminal justice debt. According to a recent bipartisan report released by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, 47 states have increased criminal fees and fines since 2010, and many cities are using collection of court debt to generate municipal revenue at the expense of their own residents, especially low-income people and people of color. Meanwhile, for-profit companies that contract with municipalities to collect court debt benefit from keeping the debtors in debt—and having them arrested and jailed when they’re unable to pay—in violation of due process and other constitutional protections to which the debtors are entitled.

Public Justice’s Debtors’ Prison Project combats this criminalization of poverty through strategic class action litigation on behalf of criminal defendants whose constitutional and other legal rights have been violated. Our work aims to do away with the incentives municipal governments have to balance their budgets on the backs of indigent criminal defendants, and it aggressively targets corporate actors that profit by trapping these indigent defendants in a cycle of poverty. We believe that to deter unlawful conduct, we must use the courts to force companies and local governments to financially compensate those whose rights they have violated. We therefore focus not only enjoining unlawful practices, but also on winning damages for our clients. To ensure that our present and future clients recover to the fullest extent possible under the law, we are developing innovative legal theories, recruiting some of the nation’s top trial and class action lawyers to partner with us on large cases, and collaborating with other non-profit and public interest allies.

Population(s) Served
Ethnic and racial groups
Economically disadvantaged people

Where we work

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Number of media articles reflecting preferred issue framing

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Type of Metric

Input - describing resources we use

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

Our work was mentioned - and our spokespeople quoted - in the total number of media stories listed here.

Number of overall donors

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Type of Metric

Input - describing resources we use

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

The number of overall donors represents the individuals, law firms and organizations that support us over the course of the year.

Total revenue earned to support advocacy efforts

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Type of Metric

Input - describing resources we use

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

Shows total revenue received through contributions, grants, investment income, and 'Other Revenue' as designated on our 990.

Number of people on the organization's email list

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

Email is one of the key ways we provide important updates on our work, calls to action of our grassroots network and highlights of our activity in the media.

Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

Public Justice takes cases based on people, and principles – but never profit. Our team of attorneys and advocates work to ensure our courts remain open, and working, for everyone. We use impact litigation to advocate for safer workplaces, fight court secrecy and forced arbitration, dismantle systemic racism and discrimination and force environmental polluters to clean up their act. We also educate and mobilize communities impacted by these injustices and build momentum for real change that impacts real people. Public Justice is the legal team behind “the little guy" who takes on corruption and abuse and gives voice to those using the legal system to make our communities, and our country, a better place.

Public Justice uses innovative and cutting-edge litigation to effect lasting legal change, and creates public education and advocacy campaigns to inform the public, and rally concerned citizens, about the issues at the heart of our mission. Our legal team represents individuals, community groups and other advocacy non-profits in the courts while using our growing outreach and education program to build awareness about our mission and ongoing public support to preserve and expand the victories we've won.

Since 1982, Public Justice's legal team has been at the forefront of impactful litigation that changes not only the law, but that also shapes the way corporations behave, the way schools address violence and bullying, the way our food system works and the way individuals fight back against abuses of power. Our legal team is the largest, and most successful, it has ever been. Our expanded communications and advocacy staff have invested in community outreach to engage the public on issues our members — and our members’ clients — care about and are impacted by. No other group is educating the public on court secrecy, access to justice and the importance of class action litigation in the way that Public Justice does every day – and winning the battles in court to empower the people, attorneys and communities impacted.

The COVID-19 crisis brought to light many of the horrors faced by marginalized communities, but thanks to our supporters, Public Justice was prepared to act. Our work in 2020 was urgent, time-sensitive, and for many people, a matter of life and death.

Our lawsuits on behalf of workers fighting for workplace protections during the COVID-19 crisis – at meat packing plants and an Amazon fulfillment center – have been the most innovative court cases in the country seeking to curb the impact of the pandemic and protect those on the frontlines. Public Justice, along with other workers’ rights groups, also filed a civil rights complaint against Tyson Foods and JBS last summer exposing company policies that rejected critical Centers for Disease Control guidance – including social distancing on meat processing lines staffed primarily by Black and Latino workers – to stop the spread of COVID-19 at their processing facilities. We continued to fight efforts to immunize companies that hurt workers, consumers and others from accountability in the courts, prevent debt collectors from garnishing the stimulus funds sent to economically insecure Americans, and preserve public access to court proceedings during COVID-19 closures. But we didn't stop there.

The Public Justice team of legal advocates continued fighting court secrecy so plaintiffs have the information they need to prove their cases in court. We continued fighting for civil liberties – and everyone’s right to their day in court – with a first-of-its-kind ruling in the Ninth Circuit. We also announced our new Students’ Civil Rights Project, which will promote a more comprehensive approach to combatting racism, sexual harassment and other discrimination in our schools. The Food Project team exposed discrimination in our food system, and our Environmental Enforcement Project took the lead in challenging the coal industry’s destructive practices.

(For more information on recent victories, visit our website at www.PublicJustice.net.)

We will continue to combat the vigorous and coordinated campaigns which threaten to close the courthouse doors by bringing cutting-edge legal cases that push the law forward in support of workers, consumers, families and communities; advocating for systemic change before regulatory, administrative and legislative bodies on the federal and state level; and educating the legal community and the public about the ways in which justice is at stake, and our solutions to the problems at hand.

Financials

Public Justice Foundation
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Connect with nonprofit leaders

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Build relationships with key people who manage and lead nonprofit organizations with GuideStar Pro. Try a low commitment monthly plan today.

  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

Want to see how you can enhance your nonprofit research and unlock more insights? Learn More about GuideStar Pro.

Public Justice Foundation

Board of directors
as of 6/15/2021
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Eric Cramer

Berger Montague PC

Term: 2020 - 2021

Eric Cramer

Berger & Montague, P.C.

Daniel Bryson

Whitfield Bryson & Mason, LLP

Thomas Sobol

Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, LLP

Tara Sutton

Robins Kaplan, LLP

Preston Tisdale

Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, PC

Jason Lichtman

Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP

Amy Keller

DiCello Levitt Gutzler LLC

Michael Pitt

Pitt McGehee Palmer & Rivers, P.C.

J.D. Hays Jr.

J.D. Hays Law

Beth Terrell

Terrell Marshall Law Group, PLLC

Janet Varnell

Varnell & Warwick, P.A.

E. Michelle Drake

Berger Montague

Rayna Kessler

Robins Kaplan LLP

Seth Lesser

Klafter Olsen & Lesser, LLP

Roger Mandel

Jeeves Mandel Law Group, P.C.

Kristen Miller

Weitz & Luxenberg, P.C.

Christopher Nace

Paulson & Nace

Anna Praksh

Nichols Kaster, PLLP

Ellen Presby

Van Wey, Presby & Williams, PLLC

Lee Rohn

Rohn and Cameron, LLC

Donald Slavik

Slavik Law

Gerson Smoger

Smoger & Associates, P.C.

David Sugerman

David F. Sugerman Attorney, PC

Melissa Weiner

Pearson Simon Warshaw LLP

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Yes

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 04/26/2021

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? GuideStar partnered on this section with CHANGE Philanthropy and Equity in the Center.

Leadership

The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
White/Caucasian/European
Gender identity
Male, Not transgender (cisgender)
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or Straight
Disability status
Person with a disability

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity

 

Sexual orientation

Disability

Equity strategies

Last updated: 06/14/2021

GuideStar partnered with Equity in the Center - an organization that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems to increase racial equity - to create this section. Learn more

Data
  • We review compensation data across the organization (and by staff levels) to identify disparities by race.
Policies and processes
  • We use a vetting process to identify vendors and partners that share our commitment to race equity.
  • We seek individuals from various race backgrounds for board and executive director/CEO positions within our organization.
  • We engage everyone, from the board to staff levels of the organization, in race equity work and ensure that individuals understand their roles in creating culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.