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Assaults on the Courts

Politicians are increasingly threatening the independence and legitimacy of the judiciary. The Brennan Center is tracking these attacks and working to promote the rule of law.

Overview

With our democracy under strain, the courts are on the front lines.

Our democracy depends on fair and independent courts to protect against abuses of power, provide checks and balances, and administer justice without regard to outside pressures. Yet many state courts have been threatened by political power grabs, with legislatures introducing measures that would politicize judicial selection, diminish the role or independence of the judiciary, or make it harder for judges to do their job.

At the same time, President Trump has regularly attacked the legitimacy of the courts. After the first Muslim ban executive order was halted in the federal courts, the President attacked “so-called” judges and suggested that the courts should be blamed for future terrorist attacks. He pardoned a government official, Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of contempt for refusing to follow court orders in a civil rights lawsuit. These threats arise in the context of broader assaults on the rule of law and the institutions designed to protect it. 

The Brennan Center works to defend the rule of law when courts are under attack. We also track state legislative efforts to weaken or politicize the courts and bring together experts to assess the nature and extent of current threats to the judiciary.