Mountain States Legal Foundation

Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF) is a free market public interest law firm.[2] Founded in 1977 and based in Colorado, the organization says it is "dedicated to individual liberty, the right to own and use property, limited government, and the free enterprise system."[3]

Mountain States Legal Foundation
Mountain States Legal Foundation logo
TypeNon-profit corporation
PurposePublic interest litigation
HeadquartersLakewood, Colorado
Region served
United States
Executive Vice President
Cristen Wohlgemuth
15 (2019)[1]

MSLF focuses on litigation relating to property rights and federal land management in the American West,[4] as well as Second Amendment rights[5] and other constitutional law cases.

MSLF is a donor-supported, nonprofit organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. MSLF's attorneys provide representation to clients pro bono in cases that involve important public policy issues. In addition to direct representation of its clients, MSLF attorneys also file amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs. MSLF engages in cases at all levels of the federal court system, including the Supreme Court of the United States.

History and activitiesEdit

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. MSLF filed amicus briefs opposing an affirmative action program at the University of Colorado Law School and limiting business inspections.[6]

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.[7][8] 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.[9]

MSLF's office is in Lakewood, Colorado near Denver. MSLF publishes a quarterly newsletter, The Litigator, which addresses topical legal issues.

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.”[10] 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. Its lawsuits have involved 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.[11]

MSLF's sources of funding have included Texaco, U.S. Steel Phillips Petroleum and ExxonMobil corporations and Castle Rock Foundation.[12]


  • “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 employeesEdit

Notable past employees include:[13][14]


External linksEdit