Robert A. Levy (born 1941 in Washington, DC) is the chairman of the libertarian Cato Institute and the organizer and financier behind District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court Case that established the Second Amendment as affirming an individual right to gun ownership. He is a Cato senior fellow and an author and pundit. Before becoming a lawyer, he was the founder and CEO of CDA Investment Technologies.
Levy was born and grew up working class in the Petworth neighborhood in Washington, DC. His parents ran a small hardware store. He attended college at American University and went on to earn a Ph.D. in Business there in 1966.
After graduating he moved to Silver Spring, MD and founded CDA Investment Technologies. CDA was a provider of financial information and software. The company became a success and grew to have offices in Rockville, MD, New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Tokyo and London. It was particularly well known for its rankings of how mutual funds performed. Their quarterly release of rankings would prompt articles in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.
Levy sold the company in 1986 to Dutch publishing firm Elsevier for an undisclosed amount. In 1987 Elsevier sold CDA to The Thomson Corporation for a profit. Levy stayed on as CEO through both sales, retiring from his position in 1991 to attend law school.
In 1991 Levy retired from CDA Investment Technologies and entered George Mason University School of Law. He graduated as class valedictorian. After graduation he clerked first for Judge Royce C. Lamberth on the United States District Court for the District of Columbia and then for Judge Douglas H. Ginsburg on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Levy sponsored the Robert A. Levy Fellowship in Law and Liberty at George Mason Law School. It provides full tuition and a yearly $22,000 stipend for three years to students beginning Law School who already have a Ph.D. in Economics, Finance, Political Science or a related field. A minimum of two fellowships are granted for each incoming class.
In 1997 Levy became a Senior Fellow in Constitutional Studies at the Cato Institute and an Adjunct Professor of Law at Georgetown University. At this point Levy began writing extensively, and the following years saw him publishing articles and Op-Ed pieces in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Washington Post, National Review, Reason and many other publications. He also began making television and radio appearances, and has appeared on cable and network shows including Nightline, Crossfire, The O'Reilly Factor, Hardball with Chris Matthews, and The Today Show.
Levy co-authored The Dirty Dozen (book): How Twelve Supreme Court Cases Radically Expanded Government and Eroded Freedom with William Mellor. Although never a bestseller, The Dirty Dozen was excerpted by Forbes, reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, and enjoyed a generally positive critical reception.
In 2004, Levy retired from his position at Georgetown and moved down to Naples, Florida. He remains a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute. He was named to the institute's board of directors in 2007, and became chairman in 2008. He also sits on the boards of the Institute for Justice, the Federalist Society, and the George Mason University School of Law. He returns to DC often, and spends summers in Biltmore Lake, North Carolina, where he also has a house.
In 2002, Levy began recruiting plaintiffs for a planned Second Amendment lawsuit against the District of Columbia. Although Levy has never owned a gun himself, he was interested in the issue as a constitutional scholar and believer in individual rights. He teamed up with Clark M. Neily III of the Institute for Justice and began finding and vetting District residents who had a legitimate and appealing reason for wanting a gun for self defense at home. They eventually settled on six residents: Shelly Parker, Tom Palmer, Gillian St. Lawrence, Tracey Ambeau, George Lyon and Dick Heller. They tried to select a diverse group, and ended with men and women, black and white, and a variety of income levels. Levy only knew Palmer, a colleague at Cato, and none of the six knew each other before the case.
The lawsuit was initially filed in 2003 as Parker v. District of Columbia. After several reversals and appeals, the case was heard by the Supreme Court on March 18, 2008. The court affirmed that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to gun ownership. Levy released a statement saying "Heller is merely the opening salvo in a series of litigations that will ultimately resolve what weapons and persons can be regulated and what restrictions are permissible. But because of Thursday’s decision, the prospects for reviving the original meaning of the Second Amendment are now substantially brighter."
Levy financed the lawsuit and served as a co-counsel. As a result of his involvement in the case, Levy has been profiled by The New York Times and The Washington Post.