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, left-leaning law and public policy institute.[2][3][4][5] The Brennan Center advocates for a number of progressive public policy positions, including raising the minimum wage, opposing voter ID laws, and calling for public funding of elections.[6][7] The organization opposed the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United v. FEC, which held that the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting independent political expenditures by nonprofits.[5][8]

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."[9] 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."[10] Justice Brennan’s idea of a living constitution figures largely into the center’s work.[11]

The Brennan Center is involved in issues such as opposing voter ID laws and advocating for redistricting reform and campaign finance reform.[12][13] The organization is part think tank, part public interest law firm, and part advocacy group.[9] George Soros is a major donor to the Brennan Center.[14][15]


The Brennan Center's work is divided into three programs—Democracy, Justice, and Liberty & National Security.[16] Past programs focused on criminal justice, poverty, and economic justice.[17]

The Brennan Center opposes mass incarceration.[18][19] 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.[20] 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.[21]

The Brennan Center advocated for the passage in 2010 of New York's law ending prison-based gerrymandering, and was part of a coalition of organizations that sought to defend that law from a court challenge.[22] The Brennan Center advocates for the restoration of felon voting rights.[23]

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.[24]

In 2015, the Brennan Center submitted an amicus curiae brief with the Supreme Court of Wisconsin, urging the state not to overturn its so-called John Doe law, which allows the state to conduct criminal investigations in secret.[25][26][27]

See also[edit]


  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. ^ "House Is Ready to Fire First Shot in Immigration Fight With Obama". New York Times. January 14, 2015. Retrieved 18 May 2015. 
  5. ^ a b Barrett, Paul (January 14, 2015). "Five Ways the Supreme Court Transformed Campaign Finance". Bloomberg. Retrieved 18 May 2015. 
  6. ^ Lingeman, Richard (2008). The Nation Guide to the Nation. Vintage Books. p. 243. ISBN 9780307387288. 
  7. ^ Filipovic, Jill (April 5, 2014). "Time for public financing of elections". Al Jazeera America. Retrieved 18 May 2015. 
  8. ^ Rose Quandt, Katie (January 21, 2015). "How Is ‘Citizens United’ Ruining Democracy and How Can We Stop It?". Moyers & Company. Retrieved 18 May 2015. 
  9. ^ a b "Our Mission". Brennan Center for Justice. Retrieved 12 March 2015. 
  10. ^ "Justice Brennan, Voice of Court's Social Revolution, Dies". Washington Post. July 25, 1997. Retrieved 12 March 2015. 
  11. ^ "Brennan Center Follows Own Path," Courtside Legal Times, March 25, 1996
  12. ^ Von Spakovsky, Hans (October 13, 2011). "New Myths on Voter ID". National Review. Retrieved 18 May 2015. 
  13. ^ Cohn, Nate (November 26, 2014). "Studies Back Up That Few Elections Are Swung by Voter ID Laws". New York Times. Retrieved 18 May 2015. 
  14. ^ Somberg, Iris (October 6, 2011). "Soros-Backed Voting Study Promoted By Soros-Funded Media". MRC Business. Retrieved 15 May 2015. 
  15. ^ Shawcross, William (September 1, 1997). "Turning Dollars into Change". Time. Retrieved 15 May 2015. 
  16. ^ "Programs". Brennan Center for Justice. Retrieved 14 August 2015. 
  17. ^ Schell, Scott (August 27, 2003). "The Brennan Center for Justice: Carrying on the Fight." NYC Pro Bono Center News. Retrieved 2011-05-17.
  18. ^ Davis, Kristina (February 14, 2015). "Study: Incarceration not behind crime drop". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 12 March 2015. 
  19. ^ Sneed, Tierney (February 12, 2015). "Mass Incarceration Didn't Lower Crime, But Can Congress Be Convinced?". US News & World Report. Retrieved 12 March 2015. 
  20. ^ Nazaryan, Alexander (January 23, 2015). "To Live and Die in Gitmo". Newsweek. Retrieved 12 March 2015. 
  21. ^ "Durbin, Larson Introduce Fair Elections Now Act, Durbin Announces Hearing on Campaign Finance Reform" (April 6, 2011). Press Release, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin.
  22. ^ Lucas, David (May 19, 2011). "Civil Rights Organizations File Motion to Defend Law Ending Prison-Based Gerrymandering." WAMC Northeast Public Radio.
  23. ^ Brodey, Sam (April 14, 2015). "40,000 Maryland Ex-Cons May Soon Get Their Voting Rights Back". Mother Jones. Retrieved 18 May 2015. 
  24. ^ 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. 
  25. ^ Hoy, Seth (March 3, 2015). "BRIEF: Ethicists Urge Wisconsin Justices to Consider Recusal in Gov. Scott Walker Campaign Finance Case". Brennan Center for Justice. Retrieved 10 November 2015. 
  26. ^ Stein, Jason (March 20, 2015). "Prosecutor alerts justices to secrecy violation in John Doe". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved 10 November 2015. 
  27. ^ Gass, Henry (July 16, 2015). "Boost for Scott Walker as campaign finance probe ends". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 10 November 2015. 

External links[edit]