Hello, all. As you know, the Coudert Institute invites informed, engaging speakers to Palm Beach to spark lively intellectual discussions. Last Wednesday, January 25, we featured two speakers from the Brennan Center for Justice. The event was a great success, and I wanted to share some information about the event and the Brennan Center with those of you who couldn’t make it.
The Brennan Center for Justice is a nonpartisan law and policy institute that works to protect and improve the systems of democracy and justice. Michael Waldman, the President of the Brennan Center, spoke eloquently about the serious threats to our democratic system in 2017 and the Brennan Center’s work fighting for reform. The Brennan Center fiercely protects voting rights, and now faces dramatically increased efforts expected from Congress, the Trump Administration and a wave of states to restrict eligible citizens from the right to vote. The egregious practice of partisan gerrymandering also denies voters a meaningful vote: the Center’s team works with leading litigators around the nation in a coordinated effort to curb the practice in cases now headed to the Supreme Court. At the same time, the Center will draw on growing public outcry on big money’s outsized role in politics to push forward innovative reform and longer-term constitutional change to erode and eventually reverse Citizens United.
Matthew Menendez, counsel at the Brennan Center, discussed state court systems, which handle the vast majority of cases in our country, and how they are failing to meet their charge of providing fair and impartial justice for all. The selection of judges through elections places pressure on judges to curry favor with the lawyers and frequent litigators who largely bankroll judicial elections. Rather than funding the judiciary through general tax revenue, we increasingly rely on fees and fines levied on criminal justice defendants. These people are largely economically disadvantaged and disproportionately of color, and funding our courts this way is both unjust and economically inefficient. Fixing the system of fees and fines is crucial to alleviating our country’s mass incarceration crisis.
If you are interested in learning more about the Brennan Center, I encourage you to visit their website, where you can sign up for their newsletters. They are also a non-profit that depends on individuals and philanthropic foundations for their work. I’m sure they’d greatly appreciate any support. The Brennan Center’s donation page can be found here.