Campaign For Fair Judges

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“The Senate's power of advice and consent is perhaps most consequential in the case of presidential appointments to the federal courts, where judges are granted life tenure under the Constitution and can be terminated only through the time-consuming congressional impeachment process.” – U.S. Senate

ADA Watch/CDRJ’s Campaign for Fair Judges informs and mobilizes the disability community, policymakers and the public regarding federal judicial nominees who, based on their public records, pose a threat to civil and human rights protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other disability rights laws.

For our democracy to work as it should, judges must uphold the promise inscribed on our Supreme Court: “Equal Justice Under Law.” But people with disabilities disproportionately experience obstacles as we use legal processes to solve problems related to crime, victimization and financial stability.

The U.S. Department of Justice reports that, “from court technology platforms that are not accessible to blind users; to courtrooms with no wheelchair accessible entrances; to a lack of adequate sign language interpretation for d/Deaf and hard of hearing litigants; people with disabilities are often left disempowered as they navigate legal processes where most people, regardless of disability, have little access to legal representation or assistance.”

These access problems are compounded by the stigma that people with disabilities face as we interact with justice system actors who question our credibility, our ability to make decisions in our legal matters, and whether we deserve redress for harms we have experienced.

Although not all our national and state coalition partners take formal positions on judicial nominees, ADA Watch/CDRJ’s Campaign for Fair Judges forms our positions and plans activities with the input of our community’s legal experts and organizations, as well as from our civil rights and social justice coalition partners.

We rely on the expertise of disability rights lawyers from our partner organizations, including the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN)Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF) and the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law.

A theme graphic of Justice scales and text that reads The Campaign for Fair Judges
Case Study:

Grassroots Organizing/Earned & Unearned Media

ADA Watch/CDRJ’s Stop Sutton! campaign included numerous earned media appearances on television, radio and in the press. We also led with paid media, including a center spread in Roll Call, the Captial Hill newspaper. The ad featured more than 500 disability and other organizations opposed to Jeffrey Sutton’s nomination to the federal court.
ADA Watch/CDRJ was published in numerous opinion columns across the country, including the Cleveland Plain Dealer and The Columbus Dispatch, Sutton’s home state newspapers.
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As we work to shape a federal judiciary that upholds the promise of equal justice for all, ADA Watch/CDRJ partners with the Fair Courts Task Force and with our coalition organizations including the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human RightsAlliance for Justice and People For the American Way. Leaders of these and other disability rights, civil rights and social justice organizations also contribute to the ADA Watch/CDRJ National Advisory Council.

As we partner with the Fair Courts Task Force, we demand a federal judiciary that will uphold the rights of all people in America. That means the White House and Senate must prioritize nominating and confirming judges who have a demonstrated commitment to civil and human rights, who are fair-minded with a progressive vision of the law, and who reflect and represent the rich diversity of our nation. This diversity includes race, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability status, ethnicity, national origin, socio-economic status, and experiential and professional background.

In coalition, we call on Congress to respond to the ongoing judicial ethics crisis by passing legislation that modernizes and strengthens our courts, including legislation on ethics reforms, such as extension of a binding Code of Conduct for Supreme Court justices, further transparency measures, and ongoing investigation into the escalating reports of misconduct. Congress must also pass structural reforms such as expanding the number of authorized judgeships for circuit and district courts, and Congress should also consider other structural reforms to the Supreme Court.