Left-Wing Dark Money Groups Unite to Undo Trump's Judicial Legacy

February 3, 2021

Progressives are mobilizing to undo President Donald Trump's judicial legacy through a new dark money initiative.

The effort, called Unrig the Courts, is spearheaded by a coalition of eight left-wing groups: Demand Justice, Take Back the Court, People's Parity Project, 51 for 51, Demos Action, Indivisible, Just Democracy Coalition, and Stand Up America. The coalition will push to add seats to the Supreme Court, impose term limits on its justices, expand the lower courts, and create "improved ethics and transparency requirements."

Demand Justice, led by former Hillary Clinton aide Brian Fallon, is perhaps the best-known member in the coalition. Fallon's group is a project of the Sixteen Thirty Fund, a dark money fiscal sponsor managed by D.C.-based consulting firm Arabella Advisors, whose funds raked in $715 million for liberal groups and causes in 2019.

The coalition hopes to build popular support for the overhauls as it lobbies Biden and Congress. The public largely opposes adding seats to the bench, but Biden, who said he is "not a fan" of court packing, is moving to create a bipartisan commission to study judicial reforms.

Trump rankled liberal activists by appointing 226 federal judges, including three Supreme Court justices, during his four years in office. Fifty-four of those judges were appointed to the federal appeals bench—just one shy of the 55 President Barack Obama appointed over his eight years in office.

"As you know, Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell basically did nothing else for the last four years besides transform the federal judiciary into an arm of the Republican Party," Meagan Hatcher-Mays, director of democracy policy at Indivisible, told the Washington Free Beacon. "Most reasonable people agree that's bad, which is why we founded the Unrig the Courts coalition with our partners."

None of the other groups responded to requests for comment on their roles in the new coalition.

Carrie Severino, president of the Judicial Crisis Network, said the coalition is "a coordinated effort by left-wing dark money groups to convert the Supreme Court into a rubber stamp for their radical policy agendas."

Severino's group has been publicly targeted by Democratic leadership, including Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D., R.I.). After the network sponsored a $1.1 million ad campaign calling on Biden to release a list of potential judicial nominees, Democratic senators demanded that it release a list of donors who made more than $10,000 in contributions.

"The American public deserves to know who is funding these attacks, and whether the same individuals are financing litigation before the Court that will ultimately be decided by the Justices and judges they helped to confirm," read a letter from the senators at the time.

But the senators who attacked the network were themselves benefiting from dark money groups like Demand Justice. While Demand Justice does not publicly identify its donors, the Free Beacon found that the group received millions from George Soros around the time of its inception. Fallon appeared at a secretive gathering of the Democracy Alliance donor network, which was cofounded by Soros, to pitch the group in 2018.

Other liberal dark money groups, such as the Alliance for Justice, said at the time that they would work to create a list of judges whom the next Democratic president could nominate to federal courts.