Brennan Center for Justice

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Brennan Center for Justice
Established 1995
President Michael Waldman
Chairman Patricia Bauman, Robert A. Atkins
Budget $10,983,824 (2014)[1]
Location New York, New York, Washington, D.C.

The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School is a nonpartisan law and public policy institute.[2][3] The Center's stated mission is to "work to hold our political institutions and laws accountable to the twin American ideals of democracy and equal justice for all."[4] The organization's president is Michael Waldman, former director of speechwriting for President Bill Clinton.

History and mission[edit]

The Brennan Center for Justice was founded in 1995 by the family and former law clerks of Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, whom the Washington Post called "the progressive voice of the modern court."[5] Justice Brennan’s idea of a living constitution figures largely into the center’s work.[6] The Brennan Center is involved in issues such as voting rights, redistricting reform, campaign finance reform, and presidential power in the fight against terrorism. The organization is part think tank, part public interest law firm, and part advocacy group.[4]


The Brennan Center's work is divided into three programs—Democracy, Justice, and Liberty & National Security.[7] Past programs focused on criminal justice, poverty, and economic justice.[8]

The Brennan Center opposes mass incarceration.[9][10] The Brennan Center has represented several detainees at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, and also U.S. citizens or legal residents held as unlawful enemy combatants.[11] Attorneys from the Center challenged a U.S. President's authority to declare a prisoner to be an unlawful enemy combatant in the fight against terrorism. The Center has also challenged the U.S. Congress’s power to deny habeas corpus to such prisoners.

The Brennan Center assisted in drafting and enacting the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 ("BCRA"). The law banned soft money contributions to political campaigns. The Center helped Senator Dick Durbin write the Fair Elections Now Act.[12]

The Brennan Center advocated for the passage in 2010 of New York's law ending prison-based gerrymandering, and is part of a coalition of organizations seeking to defend that law from a court challenge.[13]

The Brennan Center represented plaintiffs Margarita López Torres, other unsuccessful judicial candidates, and Common Cause, in a court case that challenged the way New York state trial judge candidates gain access to the ballot. They prevailed in the U.S. District Court and in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit. In 2007, attorneys from the Brennan Center argued N.Y. State Bd. of Elections v. Lopez Torres before the United States Supreme Court, but in 2008 the court ruled for the state.[14]


  1. ^ "IRS Form 990 2014" (PDF). Internal Revenue Service. Retrieved 12 March 2015. 
  2. ^ Chokshi, Niraj (March 6, 2015). "How Oregon hopes to register nearly every last eligible voter". Washington Post. Retrieved 12 March 2015. 
  3. ^ Madhani, Aamer (February 17, 2015). "Voices: On the ISIL 'problem,' little faith in Obama". USA Today. Retrieved 12 March 2015. 
  4. ^ a b "Our Mission". Brennan Center for Justice. Retrieved 12 March 2015. 
  5. ^ "Justice Brennan, Voice of Court's Social Revolution, Dies". Washington Post. July 25, 1997. Retrieved 12 March 2015. 
  6. ^ "Brennan Center Follows Own Path," Courtside Legal Times, March 25, 1996
  7. ^ About the Brennan Center for Justice: Programs
  8. ^ Schell, Scott (August 27, 2003). "The Brennan Center for Justice: Carrying on the Fight." NYC Pro Bono Center News. Retrieved 2011-05-17.
  9. ^ Davis, Kristina (February 14, 2015). "Study: Incarceration not behind crime drop". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 12 March 2015. 
  10. ^ Sneed, Tierney (February 12, 2015). "Mass Incarceration Didn't Lower Crime, But Can Congress Be Convinced?". US News & World Report. Retrieved 12 March 2015. 
  11. ^ Nazaryan, Alexander (January 23, 2015). "To Live and Die in Gitmo". Newsweek. Retrieved 12 March 2015. 
  12. ^ "Durbin, Larson Introduce Fair Elections Now Act, Durbin Announces Hearing on Campaign Finance Reform" (April 6, 2011). Press Release, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin.
  13. ^ Lucas, David (May 19, 2011). "Civil Rights Organizations File Motion to Defend Law Ending Prison-Based Gerrymandering." WAMC Northeast Public Radio.
  14. ^ Scalia, Antonin & al. (January 16, 2008). "New York State Board of Elections, petitioners, v, Margarita Lopez Torres et al." (PDF). Supreme Court of the United States. Retrieved 2009-08-09. 

External links[edit]