Thomas J. Donohue Thomas J. Donohue
Advisor and Former Chief Executive Officer, U.S. Chamber of Commerce


March 20, 2017


This month the U.S. Chamber Litigation Center marks 40 years of fighting for American business in the judicial system. Throughout its history, the center has earned a reputation as one of the business community’s most valuable lines of defense by challenging harmful regulations at the federal and state levels, filing amicus briefs to represent our views in important cases, helping advocates prepare for court arguments, and working to promote public understanding of key decisions and legal principles.

The center’s origin can be traced back to August 1971 when the U.S. Chamber of Commerce received a memo from attorney Lewis Powell—just two months before he became a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Powell wrote, “American business and the enterprise system have been affected as much by the courts as by the executive and legislative branches of government” and suggested that the Chamber “undertake the role of spokesman for American business” in the courts.

The Chamber heeded Powell’s advice by establishing the Litigation Center in March 1977. In its first full year, it filed 13 amicus briefs and had 3 regulatory lawsuits pending. Over the next 40 years, as threats against business have grown, so has the center’s size and scope. In 2016 alone, it filed 173 amicus briefs and had 21 regulatory lawsuits pending.

Among its actions last year were bold moves on labor and employment issues, including challenging the Department of Labor’s overtime rule. It continued pushing back against an overly aggressive plaintiffs’ bar, which forces companies to spend billions of dollars every year fighting and settling frivolous lawsuits. It was a leading challenger of Labor’s so called fiduciary rule and filed legal challenges against two major Obama-era energy and environment regulations: the Clean Power Plan and the Waters of the U.S. rule.

Through its 40 years of action-packed history, the Litigation Center has proven Powell right—the judicial system is one of the most important instruments for change in our country. The center has helped rein in government overreach and guard individual businesses and entire industries against bad regulations. It has defended the rights of all businesses and associations to participate in the political process and have a voice in the debate. No matter what business faces in Washington in the near term or long term, the Litigation Center will continue to play a driving role in the Chamber’s mission to protect American business and advance free enterprise.

About the authors

Thomas J. Donohue

Thomas J. Donohue

Thomas J. Donohue is advisor and former chief executive officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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