Supreme Court A Vacancy on the Court <Justices

Advocacy Groups

Nowhere does the Constitution mention the role of advocacy groups, interest groups, or lobbyists in the political process. Yet, their role is critical to the operation of democracy in a society as large and complex as ours. Supreme Court nominations are no exception. Who among us has the time, the skill, or the resources to research the backgrounds and records of Supreme Court nominees? While we can rely on the press to provide some of that information, the fact is that advocacy groups have greater resources and incentive than newspapers to gather and disseminate detailed information about nominees. One has only to remember that advocacy groups, despite their exalted titles suggesting lofty ideals, are about special interests and particular points of view.

Judicial nominations now reflect the adversarial approach that characterizes our legal system. Advocates for two sides, for and against confirmation, make the best cases they can for their particular position. The difficulty comes in trying to decode the language used by these advocates and figuring out whether the information they provide is valid and reliable and whether or not they are being straight with you. The Judicial Crisis Network asserts that "Every American deserves equal justice under law." The Alliance for Justice emblazons "Justice for all," but the two seem to have very different views about what that means or how it might best be achieved.

Those who favor confirmation of a nominee have a distinct advantage. There is a presumption in favor of any presidential nominee in the eyes of the public, and the president serves up a Supreme Court nomination with considerable fanfare, taking the opportunity to say how considered his judgment has been in selecting this individual from all of those qualified to serve. Supporters of the president accept the nominee immediately and virtually without reservation. Those who might be considered political adversaries of the president are at a disadvantage because they must wait until the nominee is announced to gather and analyze the information needed to articulate an alternative view of the nominee's credentials. If the nominee is a high profile one with an extensive public record, a response can come quickly, likely from a file of material already collected. If the nominee is less well known and his or her public record is somewhat less substantial or available, then more time is needed to formulate a response.

Any number of advocacy groups may enter the arena regarding the nomination, soliciting your support and vying for your attention. Some are true coalitions of a number of groups, like the Alliance for Justice, which identifies itself as " . . . a national association of over 120 organizations who share a commitment to a justice, freedom, and equality." Others, People for the American Way, work more at the individual level, soliciting individual memberships to help fund its activities and provide volunteers for grassroots activities. Some, like the Comittee for Justice, operate as foundations and think tanks that address a series of issue topics of which judicial selection may be only one. Still other organizations are specific to other interests, but see those interests as affected by the Supreme Court, like the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights or the Family Research Council. Finally, some organizations are barely more than fronts for money funneled to sponsor advertisements in behalf of a particular point of view.

Supreme Court nominations serve as an opportunity for fund raising. Groups demonstrate they are speaking out on behalf of those who view the nomination with concern. One can not necessarily be sure, though, whether a donation will go specifically towards the nomination battle being used as bait for the donation. Many decry the fact that the appointment process has become so politicized, but a fact it remains. The Judicial Crisis Network, for example, touted that it would spend at least $10,000,000 on an ad campaign in support of the Barrett nomination.

Major Players among Judicial Advocacy Groups
Alliance For Justice Created in 1979, the Alliance describes itself as "advocating for a fair and independent justice system, preserving access to the courts, and empowering people to advocate on behalf of the issues they believe in.." This liberal alliance has a "membership of over 120 organizations who share a commitment to a justice, freedom, and equality." AFJ plays a leading role for expressing liberal perspectives in Supreme Court nominations. Nan Aron has directed the Alliance since its inception.
Committee for Justice The Committee for Justice, formed in 2002, describes itself as "the nation's leading conservative voice on judicial appointments and the threat of judicial activism" Created by C. Boyden Gray, White House counsel for the first President Bush, the Committee for Justice was created to support George W. Bush's nominees to the federal courts. Curt Leveyis president of CFJ.
Judicial Crisis Network The Judicial Crisis Network asserts, "Our commitment is to the Constitution and the Founders' vision of a nion of limited government, dedicated to the rule of law; with a fair and impartial judiciary. Every American deserves equal justice under law." It began as a Web-organization created specifically to support President Bush's nominees to the Supreme Court. Carrie Campbell Severino is president of JCN.
People For the American Way People For the American Way is a 501(c)(3) organization seeking "to build a democratic society that implements the idelas of freedom, equality, opportunity, and justice for all." While dealing with a large number of diverse issues, attention to the Supreme Court and judicial system has always been a strong focus. Ben Jealous is president of the PFAW.

Last update: October 2, 2020 by GW