Center for American Progress

Quiet Revolution: The Threat of A Right Wing Judiciary

Quiet Revolution: The Threat of A Right Wing Judiciary

Fundamental rights and freedoms are being threatened by radical, new interpretations of the Constitution.

The Center for American Progress and the Alliance for Justice held a panel discussion today to examine the themes of the film Quiet Revolution. The panel, moderated by Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Mark Agrast, consisted of Nan Aron, President of the Alliance for Justice; Dawn Johnsen, Professor of Law and Ira C. Batman Faculty Fellow at the Indiana University School of Law; Jamie Raskin, Professor of Law and Director of the Law and Government Program at Washington College of Law; and Emily Bazelon, Senior Editor at Slate.

The film documents how ultra-conservatives have skillfully downplayed their plans to reverse precedents and legislation that protect civil rights, the environment, and consumers, while aggressively working to appoint extremely conservative judges to the federal bench. By packing the courts with ultra-conservative judges, these individuals hope to reverse the progressive achievements of the New Deal period which gave Americans their fundamental rights and freedoms.

Although conservatives claim to oppose “judicial activism,” uncovered documents prove that these conservatives have an ambitious and activist judicial agenda of their own. Memos written during the Reagan administration call for judges to expand executive power, disregard the separation between church and state, and reject the right to privacy.

The panel criticized these plans and denounced right-wing tactics to confirm reactionary judicial nominees. Emily Bazelon accused the right wing movement of being a “juggernaut” that uses “attack-dog mechanisms.” Dawn Johnson said that the appointment of conservative judges is a “strategy for implementing radicalism,” and that the Reagan-Meese memoranda argues that a whole host of judicial decisions should be overturned, including ones that protect the right to contraception, the right to be free from forced sterilization, and the power of Congress to enact protective economic and environmental regulations.

Jamie Raskin contended that right-wing appointees are “counterrevolutionaries” seeking to reinstate the reactionary agenda of the pre-New Deal Supreme Court which struck down laws enacted to guarantee many of the basic rights and protections we consider fundamental today. “The threat is real,” he declared, adding that progressives need to defend against a “right wing judicial coup” by eliminating “constitutional illiteracy.”

Nan Aron agreed that there is a “huge need to educate” the public about the high stakes of a right-wing judicial system. And Bazelon added that progressives must become more engaged in the political battles to ensure the nomination and confirmation of judges who have a progressive judicial philosophy.

For more information and resources from the event:

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