Post 1: Learning our Courts with Alliance for Justice

How much do you know about our courts? I’m not talking about just the Supreme Court, but our district courts and circuit courts, too. Almost every week, new judges are confirmed to the federal courts for lifetime terms, able to exercise their judgment on workers’ rights, women’s rights, LGBTQ+ discrimination, and more. And very few people are paying close attention.

Alliance for Justice, my internship site for this summer, is focused on ensuring our courts are fighting for people’s protection, and does so in two important ways. First, our team researches the records of every federal judicial nominee so people understand who they are and can oppose them if necessary. Then, more generally, we work to increase the visibility of the courts and their importance at every stage of our political process.

Working with the outreach team this summer, I have been responsible for making our mission better known to our partner organizations and those that want to work with us. Alliance for Justice represents over 130 organizations on issues of justice in the courts, but not all of them are engaged in this issue. This summer, I will be bringing them further into the fray of the work we do. Through webinars, lunches and other events, I’m hoping to bring our organizations closer to our work and empower them to speak up with us when harmful judicial nominees are presented to the Senate. We’re also going to other organizations to encourage them to talk about how the courts affect their work.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) speaking at the Center for Popular Democracy’s Stronger Together DC Benefit.

We also want to engage everyday citizens in this work. Most people don’t understand the power of nominating federal judges–but the current administration certainly does. To bring some power back to the people, we hold events in the community like book talks, lunches, and, most recently, trivia!

In June, we’ve held events on and offline to raise awareness about the intersection of LGBTQ+ rights and the federal courts. So many landmark decisions about LGBTQ+ discrimination started in the courts, and so many of the nominees to the federal bench today have atrocious records on LGBTQ+ rights. Our trivia night highlighted judicial powerhouses in protection of LGBTQ+ individuals, some horrendous nominees, and other activism in the spirit of Pride month.

Because the judiciary is the least well-known of the branches of government, half the battle is getting people to know, and the other half is getting them to care. Fighting against the tide of horrible judicial appointments is certainly an uphill battle, but Alliance for Justice has been influential in opposing, and in some cases halting, the appointment of conservative judges. The small steps of holding trivia nights and courting member organizations leads to a broader coalition of people paying attention, which leads to strong opposition to nominees like Matthew Kacsmaryk, a recently confirmed nominee who has implied that transgender people are “delusional” and that Obergefell v. Hodges, which established marriage equality, was poorly decided.

One of our employees posing at our well-attended Justice Trivia night!

In the past two weeks since starting here, I have learned so much about how we can fight to protect our courts. On my first day, someone said, “Even if we can’t prevent these nominees from being confirmed, every day they aren’t on the court is a day someone’s case is decided more fairly.” Everything we do to stall a confirmation protects an individual who would not have otherwise received fair judgment. Those wins are just as important as getting a nominee to withdraw entirely. That is how we make the change we want to see.

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