Demand Justice, an activist group that pushes for progressive judicial appointments, released a shortlist of potential Supreme Court nominees for Democrats should they win the Senate and presidency in 2020.
The list represents an about-face for the dark-money group, which in the wake of Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement spent much of 2018 vocally opposing President Donald Trump's own judicial shortlist.
Recent Stories in Issues
"Democrats running for President should tell primary voters who they might appoint to the Supreme Court," Demand Justice executive director Brian Fallon tweeted Tuesday. "And they should be bold enough to pick someone who's worked to defend civil rights, worker's rights or reproductive rights – like those on this list."
The Demand Justice list features 32 prominent progressive lawyers, only a quarter of whom have previously served as judges. The list includes a number of figures popular on the far left. One is New York Times columnist Michelle Alexander, a visiting professor of social justice at Union Theological Seminary best known for authoring The New Jim Crow, an attack on the U.S. prison system that critics labeled "careless" and "weak." Also on the list is Lawrence Krasner, the progressive Philadelphia district attorney and beneficiary of billionaire George Soros's investments in local law enforcement elections. Also included is Zephyr Teachout, a multi-time candidate for office in New York state who has supported abolishing ICE.
Fallon did not respond to a request for comment.
In May 2016, Trump released a list of potential nominees to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. The move was widely seen as novel—the Washington Post on Tuesday called it "unusual"—sparking criticism from liberals who claimed the list was a threat to the Court's nonpartisan status.
Demand Justice took up this message in 2018. In the lead-up to Kennedy's retirement, it launched the "Ditch the List" campaign, in which it called for wholesale opposition to Trump's original shortlist. Trump had promised to, and eventually did, nominate Kennedy's replacement from that list. Even before Kennedy officially left the bench, the group debuted digital ads targeting eventual nominee Brett Kavanaugh, as well as appeals court judge Amy Coney Barrett.
"The next person named to the Supreme Court could shift the balance of the court for a generation, and the public deserves to know about the people that Trump is considering," Fallon said at the time. "During his campaign, Trump promised to rely on a number of litmus tests when choosing another justice, such as their support for overturning Roe and gutting Obamacare. All these judges had to pass Trump's litmus tests, and so none of them can be trusted to stand up to this President."
Democratic 2020 contenders have been reluctant to follow Trump's lead by releasing shortlists. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.) has explicitly ruled it out.
Demand Justice's shortlist, by contrast, not only names individuals the group would like to see Democrats nominate, but is composed of "radicals," according to Carrie Severino, policy director of the conservative Judicial Crisis Network.
"These people are radicals," Severino said in a statement. "This list is a dream come true for far left activists who seek to turn the courts into a political super-legislature."
Of the 32 proposed names, just 8 are sitting state or federal judges. Based on the short descriptions released by Demand Justice, the most judicial experience the other 25 have is clerking. The last justice nominated to the Supreme Court without bench experience was Obama nominee Elena Kagan, who served as a Harvard professor and solicitor general prior to her 2010 nomination.