Biden Judicial Nominee Leads Left-Wing Group That Wants To Defund Police

Amir Ali (DC Bar/Twitter)
January 11, 2024

President Joe Biden’s pick for a top judicial post leads an activist group that has called to defund police departments and aims to "transform" the criminal justice system.

Biden on Wednesday tapped civil rights lawyer Amir H. Ali for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Ali is the executive director of the MacArthur Justice Center, which was formed in 1985 to fight Illinois’s death penalty statute.

The MacArthur Justice Center supports a host of controversial initiatives. The group has posted the "#DefundPolice" hashtag on its social media accounts and in 2020 lobbied the New Orleans city council to pass a resolution "committing to reductions in law enforcement budget." The center supports the Black Lives Matter movement and joined the Illinois BLM Uprising Defense in calling for prosecutors to drop felony charges against rioters at Black Lives Matter protests in Chicago.

Ali is likely to face scrutiny over his work for the center when he appears before the Senate Judiciary Committee for his confirmation hearing. Republicans on the panel recently grilled Adeel Mangi, Biden’s nominee for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, over his board position at Rutgers Law School’s Center for Security, Race, and Rights, an anti-Israel group that has hosted events for a number of terrorism sympathizers. Mangi is also on the advisory board of the Alliance of Families for Justice, a left-wing legal group that has lobbied for parole for convicted cop killers such as Mumia Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther serving a life sentence for the murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner.

Biden has struggled to distance himself from anti-police rhetoric. In his 2022 State of the Union address, the president claimed "the answer is not to defund the police, but to fund the police." But last year, Biden tapped an anti-police activist to lead a White House initiative to prevent gun violence, the Washington Free Beacon reported.

If confirmed, Ali will serve on one of the most consequential district courts in the country. District Court judge Tanya Chutkan, an appointee of President Barack Obama, is presiding over special counsel Jack Smith’s election interference case against President Donald Trump. Its judges have handled hundreds of cases related to the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. Other judges on the court handled cases stemming from special counsel Robert Mueller and special counsel John Durham’s "Russiagate" probes.

Prominent left-wing groups have already rallied around Ali, who served as an attorney for the MacArthur Justice Center since 2018 and took over as executive director in 2022. Demand Justice, a left-wing legal group that aims to expand the size of the Supreme Court, hailed Ali as a "brilliant" civil rights lawyer.

Ali has appeared before the Supreme Court in a number of cases. He represented a coalition of Muslim groups, including the Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), in a Supreme Court challenge of President Trump’s ban on travel from Muslim countries. CAIR recently found itself at the center of controversy after its president, Nihad Awad, said he was "happy" that Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7.

Ali’s legal work has won him accolades from other anti-Israel groups.

The Arab American Civil Rights League gave Ali its Justice Tribute Award at an event in November. One of the group’s board members is Amer Zahr, an anti-Israel activist who has repeatedly defended Hamas and Hezbollah. Last month, the Arab American Civil Rights League sponsored an event in Michigan with CAIR and American Muslims for Palestine, another activist group linked to Hamas.

Ali did not respond to questions about his affiliation with those groups, and whether he supports the movement to defund police.