Latest News from the Brennan Center

November 4, 2011

Outside Groups’ New Outsize Influence in Judicial Elections

Non-candidate spending in state high court elections nearly doubled as a share of total costs in 2009-10, compared to the previous off-year election, a new Brennan Center and Justice at Stake report shows. This spending fueled a flood of non-candidate TV advertising, making this the costliest non-presidential election cycle ever for TV spending in judicial elections. Among the report’s key findings: Nearly one-third of all funds spent on state high court elections came from non-candidate groups ($11.5 million out of $38 million in 2009-10). Read coverage by the Washington Post, Associated Press, Reuters, Roll Call, Huffington Post, and Time.

Florida's Challenge to the Voting Rights Act

Months ago, Florida passed a new election law making it harder to register and vote. The new law is still making headlines for the way it cracks down on volunteer voter registration efforts with unreasonable deadlines and harsh fines. Now, while pursuing approval from a federal court for the new law, Florida has teed up a constitutional challenge to the federal Voting Rights Act itself, opening a new front in the war on voting. The law threatens penalties even for civics teachers helping their students register, and has forced the League of Women Voters to shut down its voter registration program. The Brennan Center is working with allies to oppose Florida's new law in court and fend off the state's challenge to the Voting Rights Act.

The Other Side of the Foreclosure Crisis

Today, the Brennan Center releases a video series on housing foreclosures and the crisis in legal representation, along with new data from state court systems on the volume of unrepresented homeowners facing the loss of a home. Based on interviews conducted around the country, the videos feature homeowners, legal aid lawyers, housing counselors, and community leaders. Check out video from the series here. See more information on today’s event in Washington, D.C., and read our 2009 report on foreclosures.

The Supreme Court’s Second Session

The Supreme Court began its second session this week, and the Brennan Center released a second preview from Senior Advisor Sidney Rosdeitcher. The preview, featured in SCOTUSblog's morning round-up, calls attention to five cases involving important issues of access to justice, national security, and civil liberties. The cases discussed include Perry v. New Hampshire, United States v. Jones, and Lafler v. Cooper. Last month, The Atlantic’s Andrew Cohen included Mr. Rosdeitcher's first round-up in his "Top 10 Supreme Court Previews."

Judge Diane P. Wood: Decision-Making on the Bench

Part I of the annual Brennan Center Jorde Symposium was held on October 26 at Berkeley Law School. Seventh Circuit Judge Diane P. Wood delivered a frank and insightful analysis of the choices Court of Appeals jurists face when their views differ from those of their colleagues. Judge Marsha Berzon of the Ninth Circuit and Berkeley Law Professor Kevin Quinn provided additional commentary. Judge Wood will deliver Part II on April 16, 2012 at New York University School of Law. 


Ideas on Democracy, Justice, and the Rule of Law

Despite Setback, Continued Push for National Criminal Justice Commission – Molly Alarcon

  • Despite the Senate’s recent rejection of a bill to create a bipartisan commission to study the nation’s criminal justice system, the idea enjoys widespread support from across the political spectrum.

SCOTUS Ruling Won’t Fix Michigan’s Indigent Defense System – Thomas Giovanni & Laura K. Abel

  • The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case illustrating how people and society suffer when indigent defense systems are chronically underfunded.

Activists Urge Greater Transparency for the Super Committee – Jonathan Backer

  • On Oct. 31, activists across the country visited the district offices of Super Committee members to call for greater transparency.

Holding Our Nation to Its Promise of Equal Justice for All – Laura K. Abel

  • Attorney General Eric Holder recognized Laura Abel as a Champion of Change for helping low-income people get their day in court. The real heroes are those who fight daily in court to protect their lives and their families.

Rethinking Criminal Justice Debt – Rebekah Diller

  • As states struggle to close persistent budget gaps, they are searching for ways to raise revenue. But imposing more fees on those in the criminal justice system is not the answer.

What We’re Reading

  • See what the Brennan Center’s reading in this daily round-up of quick hits, clips, and opinion pieces touching on key issues of democracy, justice, liberty and national security. Includes stories on Super PAC spending, challenges to the Voting Rights Act, and the FBI’s latest domestic investigations rules.

Read more blogs here.


  • Nov. 4 – The Brennan Center hosts a Capitol Hill briefing in Washington, D.C. on the ongoing need for foreclosure legal assistance.
  • Nov. 4 – Laura Abel participates in an access to justice conference at the University of Colorado Denver.
  • Nov. 7 – Mimi Marziani participates in a panel discussion, “Creating the Voting Rights Act of 2012,” hosted by Why Tuesday? at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. Panelists will include Norman Ornstein, William Wachtel, Meghan McCain, and Jacob Soboroff.