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Fair Courts: The Threat to Judicial Independence in Polarized Times
Judicial independence may be the most consequential — though least visible and discussed — long-term threat to a well-functioning American democracy. The partisan political climate in the U.S. has emboldened lawmakers to undermine the role of an independent judiciary by mounting unprecedented assaults at the state and federal levels.

We’ve heard the attacks: The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is “hostile” and “in chaos” for rulings on immigration and other issues; a U.S.-born Latino judge is labeled a “Mexican” and biased, and much more.

“People uttering those [disparagements] are doing damage, short-term and long-term, to courts, to the rule of law,” California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye told the San Francisco Chronicle recently.

The damage has spread to at least 22 states which have considered legislation that would diminish the role or independence of the courts, according to the latest annual report from the Brennan Center. Fueled by big money, some of most brazen political attacks to influence state courts and twist them in their favor have surfaced in:

-Kansas, where state courts were defunded because of a ruling that the state legislature did not like;
-Iowa, where the legislature retaliated against courts for specific rulings related to marriage equality and reproductive rights; and
-Pennsylvania, where a bill was introduced to impeach five Democratic state supreme court justices who ruled that the state’s congressional map was an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander.

What’s at stake and what are the underlying causes? Can it happen here or has it already? How are groups across the country successfully pushing back against these assaults? How can philanthropy respond to ensure fair courts in California and other states?

Join us for a conversation with four leaders in the field to examine these issues and more.

Oct 3, 2019 02:00 PM in Pacific Time (US and Canada)

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