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Interview with a Volunteer Attorney: Allyson Ho

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October 16, 2014

Former special assistant to President George W. Bush leads Liberty Institute’s legal charge to save veterans memorial cross 

“They never gave up . . . so we can’t give up fighting for them.”

Allyson Ho is passionate about the law, her family, her country, and her work defending religious liberty in the nationally famous Mt.Soledad Veterans Memorial Cross case.  One of Liberty Institute’s elite corps of the best attorneys in America who volunteer their time to defend religious liberty, Allyson Ho has worked in both the United States Supreme Court and the White House.  And that was after graduating from a top law school . . . and that was after getting a Ph.D. and teaching at a noted college. 

Allyson studied English literature at Duke University (B.A., Magna Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa), as well as securing an M.A. and Ph.D. from Rice University.  While she was an English professor at Asbury College in Asbury, Kentucky, Allyson discovered her love for First Amendment issues.  So she left “the bluegrass state” and headed to the University of Chicago Law School where she received her J.D., with high honors.

After law school, Allyson clerked for the first female Supreme Court Justice—Sandra Day O’Connor and shortly after worked in senior positions in both the U.S. Department of Justice and in the White House, as special assistant to President George W. Bush.

Allyson then became the co-chair of the U.S. Supreme Court and Appellate Litigation Practice at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP and also forged a relationship with Liberty Institute as a volunteer attorney.

Of his experience working with Allyson, Liberty Institute General Counsel Jeff Mateer says:  “Allyson Ho is one of the very best attorneys who I have had the pleasure to work with during my 24 years as a practicing attorney.  She combines superior intellect with unwavering commitment to conservative principles.  I can think of no other attorney in the country who I would want leading our efforts to protect the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial.”

Allyson recently shared about her work with Liberty Institute and her efforts to help fight against the destruction of the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial Cross, which she says is “a special way for me to honor my father . . . and all veterans and their families who have given so much for our country.”

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Why did you choose to become a volunteer attorney with Liberty Institute?

I have enormous respect for the quality of Liberty Institute’s work and the results they’ve achieved, so it’s an honor to serve as a volunteer attorney.  In particular, Liberty Institute’s work on behalf of veterans gives me an opportunity to serve those who have served our country so well.

You’re a wife, mother of young twins, and co-chair of the U.S. Supreme Court and Appellate Litigation Practice at Morgan, Lewis, & Bockius LLP.  One might wonder how you do it all and find the time to be a volunteer attorney with Liberty Institute.  So how do you do it and why?   

Someone once told me, if you need something done, ask a busy person to do it!  I am blessed with an incredibly supportive family, including my husband, Jim Ho, who is the best appellate lawyer I know, and terrific colleagues whose support is invaluable, too.  And volunteering with Liberty Institute is just so incredibly rewarding!

In your work as a member of Liberty Institute’s national volunteer legal team, you are lead counsel for Mt. Soledad Memorial Association—co-defendant in Mt. Soledad Memorial Association v. Steve Trunk.  What has your experience been like working on this case?

In a word, amazing.  I’ve received emails from the families of service members who have taken pictures of the Memorial with them into harm’s way abroad, because it reminds them that their country honors the sacrifices they’re making for the freedoms we all enjoy.   And it’s a special way for me to honor my father, who is a Korean War veteran, and all veterans and their families who have given so much for our country.

Why do you think it’s worth not giving up in the Mt. Soledad case, even though this court battle has been going on for 20+ years now?

To me, that’s exactly why we need to stay engaged—honoring and remembering our veterans is simply too important!  They never gave up on the critical mission of preserving and protecting our liberty, so we can’t give up fighting for them, either.

With Mt. Soledad you’ve said before that the fate of hundreds of similar veterans memorial hangs in the balance.  Will you elaborate on that?

The use of religious imagery in war memorials to honor and remember veterans is longstanding and ubiquitous.  If an Act of Congress is insufficient to protect the Memorial from destruction, then other memorials are similarly at risk.

Where is the hope in this ongoing battle to defend veterans memorials like Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial?

In the incredible support we’ve received across the spectrum—from people of faith and people of no faith, from Democrats and Republicans, from young and old, from veterans and civilians—who stand with us in preserving and protecting the Memorial in honor and memory of veterans, their families, and their supporters. 

What is the current status of the Mt. Soledad case and do you think it will reach the U.S. Supreme Court by next year?

We’ve only just submitted the opening briefing for the case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, so the exact timetable is still unclear. 

Do you think that Liberty Institute is making a difference in stopping the religious persecution we’re seeing in our nation today?

I would say that Liberty Institute is playing a critical role in advancing the cause of religious liberty throughout the Nation.  I think it’s important to emphasize that many times, Liberty is able to protect religious liberties      without having to resort to litigation at all, because they are able to bring to bear their vast experience and expertise with these issues to quickly engage with government entities and resolve problems so that litigation is unnecessary.     

Finally, what should friends and supporters of Liberty Institute know about what it takes—as a volunteer attorney—in the battle to defend and protect our religious freedom?

That working with Liberty and its network of volunteer attorneys around the Nation is a real joy, and I’m very honored to have the opportunity to contribute, in a small way, to the cause of liberty that our brave men and women in uniform fight for every day.

YOUR ROLE IN CONTINUING OUR WINNING STRATEGY

When you support Liberty Institute through your ongoing financial support and prayer, you are helping to defend and restore religious freedom . . . and continue a unique, winning strategy:

  • Home-Field Advantage — Our national network of local volunteer attorneys—including Allyson Ho—know their communities and how to win, wherever in America the case is litigated.
  • All-Star Attorneys — Our network features only America’s best attorneys.  Many charge more than $1,000 per hour.  Yet they take religious liberty cases—as volunteer attorneys—pro bono (free of charge).
  • Multiplied Impact — For every dollar spent on a case by our staff attorneys, we receive invaluable pro bono legal time by our all-star volunteer attorneys across the nation.  That means your financial support of Liberty Institute goes a long way to bring down opponents—including the ACLU, Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), and more!



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About Liberty Institute
Liberty Institute is a nonprofit legal group dedicated to defending and restoring religious liberty across America — in our schools, for our churches, in the military and throughout the public arena. Liberty’s vision is to reestablish religious liberty in accordance with the principles of our nation’s Founders. For information, visit www.LibertyInstitute.org.

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