Conservative Lawyer Takes Aim at Liberals

Times Staff Writer

Gary Kreep is out to save the world from the American Civil Liberties Union, Communists, reverse discrimination, Democrats, and just about anything else that can be associated with the label “liberal.”

Kreep, 37, a former national director of Young Americans for Freedom and a practicing civil litigation attorney in Escondido, is executive director of the impressively named United States Justice Foundation.

Never mind that it operates out of a small office in Escondido, hardly the focal point of America’s legal battles over the interpretation of the U.S. Constitution.


Never mind that the U.S. Justice Foundation has a paid staff of only three--Kreep and two clerical assistants.

Never mind that you probably have never heard of it.

Kreep, backed by some 70 other lawyers around the country who pledge to take on court cases at no charge if a conservative issue is at stake, and buoyed by several hundred thousand dollars in contributions each year from supporters, is on a mission to bring a conservative philosophy back into the nation’s courtrooms.

Consider some of the USJF’s activities and campaigns:

It launched an “ACLU Watch” earlier this year, a self-described “campaign to counter the nation’s most powerful left-wing legal lobby, the American Civil Liberties Union.”

It offered legal assistance to a San Francisco-area father trying to win custody of a daughter from his ex-wife, said to be “an avowed and active leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party.” The headline in the organization’s newsletter read, “USJF Wins First Round of Battle to Save 12-Year-Old From Communism.”

It has petitioned the Internal Revenue Service to revoke the tax-deductible status of the National Council of Churches, which it describes as an “anti-American pro-Marxist organization.”

It has offered legal assistance to a handful of people who claimed they were passed over by minorities for career advancement because they are white.

It solicited 100,000 postcards in support of its demand that the Senate Ethics Committee investigate the circumstances of the 1969 incident in which Mary Jo Kopechne drowned after a car being driven by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) plunged off a narrow bridge on Chappaquidick Island, Mass.

Currently, the organization is sponsoring a nationwide essay contest in which law students are asked to define “terrorism” in a context of U.S. and international law.

Kreep started the USJF in 1979 with two other San Diego County attorneys, James V. Lacy and Norman M. Olney, “because we decided the ACLU was kicking butt too much in the courts.”

Kreep underwrote the costs of the USJF, which operates out of his law office, for the first two years, slowly building up the mechanism for large-scale fund raising.

Today, he estimates, the organization collects upwards of $200,000 a year, donations from some of the 46,000 persons on the USJF’s mailing list. About 40% of the income reverts back to fund-raising expenses; overhead, including the three salaries, runs about 20%, and the 40% balance funds the various USJF projects.

He doesn’t pretend to think that the world has sat up and taken notice of the United States Justice Foundation. For that matter, neither has the ACLU, which is the target of the USJF campaign this year.

“I haven’t heard of it,” said Linda Hills, executive director of the San Diego Chapter of the ACLU.

Told of the USJF’s characterization of the ACLU as a “left-wing legal lobby,” Hills responded, “Our job is to further the goals of the Bill of Rights. We have clients on all sides of the political spectrum. I would say they are watching the wrong group.”

Kreep acknowledges that his organization doesn’t seem to pose a threat to the ACLU mission, “especially when you consider they operate on a $20-million annual budget and we’re working with a couple hundred thousand.”

“But we are trying to monitor their cases, to determine whether we should oppose them,” he said. “What we are doing through our newsletter is making the public aware that the ACLU is not the American Civil Liberties Union, but the American Criminal Liberties Union. In all the decisions that have substantially enlarged criminal rights, you’ll find the ACLU there.”

The most recent newsletter from the USJF notes, for instance, “The Bear Lake School District in Idaho was hauled into court recently by the ACLU and forced to apologize publicly for giving copies of the Bible to 35 fifth-graders. Of course, if the school district had distributed copies of ‘The Communist Manifesto,’ the ACLU would vigorously defend their right to do so.”

The USJF has had no broad-brush success stories on the legal front, he concedes. “I can’t point to a case that says, ‘See here? We’ve made a difference.’ And we haven’t represented one side in a case where the other side was represented by the ACLU.”

String of Small Efforts

Rather, Kreep says, the USJF success story is a string of small efforts to educate the public on the voting record of California and U.S. Supreme Court justices, to promote discussion about whether murderers under the age of 18 should be tried as adults, to publicly air debate on whether Supreme Court justices should serve limited terms of office, and publication of a discussion paper on the Communist Chinese legal system.

It has also written letters of endorsement on behalf of President Reagan’s Supreme Court nominees, and several years ago provided legal assistance to the Rev. Dorman Owens, the fundamentalist Baptist preacher now in federal custody and facing charges of conspiring to bomb an abortion clinic. Kreep said his office provided free legal advice when Owens’ Bible Missionary Fellowship tried unsuccessfully to overturn a court-ordered restraining order prohibiting it from picketing an abortion clinic.

“We provided $10,000 in legal time to his (Owens’) cause. We felt it was worth it,” Kreep said.