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Far Right Billionaires Are Waging a War to Capture State Courts

๐ŸŒˆ Abstract

The article discusses the efforts of ultra-wealthy extremists, particularly Leonard Leo and his allies, to capture state courts and impose their personal religious beliefs on the public through the judicial system. It highlights how these groups have targeted state-level judicial selection processes, such as merit-based systems, in order to install right-wing judges who oppose reproductive freedom and corporate regulation. The article also mentions other key actors, such as billionaires Dick Uihlein, Charles Koch, and Jeff Yass, who are actively funding efforts to influence state court elections and decisions.

๐Ÿ™‹ Q&A

[01] Leonard Leo and the Federalist Society's Influence on State Courts

1. What is Leonard Leo's role in the campaign to capture state courts?

  • Leonard Leo is a central figure in the long-term effort to install right-wing judges on both federal and state courts, in order to advance a regressive agenda.
  • As co-chair of the Federalist Society, Leo has played a key role in screening and selecting judicial nominees, including three of the current U.S. Supreme Court justices.
  • Leo has also sought to undermine merit-based judicial selection systems in states, in order to give governors more control over the composition of state courts.

2. How has the Federalist Society's influence affected the composition of Florida's Supreme Court?

  • In Florida, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has appointed five of the seven justices on the state's Supreme Court, with Leonard Leo playing an outsized role in advising DeSantis on these judicial appointments.
  • The groundwork for this was laid in 2001, when then-Governor Jeb Bush signed legislation that gave the governor more control over the state's judicial nominating commission, diminishing the power of the state bar.
  • This shift resulted in a significant increase in Federalist Society-affiliated judges being appointed to the Florida Supreme Court.

3. What are some examples of the Federalist Society's efforts to capture state courts beyond Florida?

  • In the 1990s, the Federalist Society worked to undermine the American Bar Association's role in evaluating federal judicial candidates.
  • The Federalist Society also targeted the "Missouri Plan" for merit-based judicial selection, lobbying the governor to reject the slate of candidates chosen by the merit selection committee.
  • The Federalist Society created a "Judicial Elections White Paper Task Force" that issued findings attacking merit selection and nonpartisan elections for state courts.

[02] Other Groups Seeking to Influence State Courts

1. What other groups are targeting state court elections in 2024?

  • The Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) and its "Judicial Fairness Initiative" are prominent groups spending to influence state judicial elections.
  • Billionaires like Dick Uihlein, Charles Koch, and Jeff Yass are also heavily funding efforts to capture state court seats in order to advance their personal agendas.
  • Uihlein has launched his own state-focused super PAC, Fair Courts America, to influence state court races and attack progressive prosecutors.
  • Koch's Americans for Prosperity group has also spent significant sums to influence state supreme court elections in several states.

2. Why are state courts becoming an increasingly important battleground?

  • With the overturning of Roe v. Wade, state courts have become the key institutions determining the state of reproductive rights and justice for citizens.
  • Other important issues, such as fair elections, fair maps, and fair trials, are also being decided at the state court level, making them a prime target for regressive forces seeking to roll back freedoms.
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