Alliance for Justice is a national association of over 120 organizations, representing a broad array of groups committed to progressive values and the creation of an equitable, just, and free society. Since 1979, AFJ has been the leader in advocating for a fair and independent justice system, preserving access to the courts, and empowering others to stand up and fight for their causes. The two pillars of Alliance for Justice are our Justice Program, focusing on ensuring our nation’s courts protect our critical constitutional rights and legal protections, and our Bolder Advocacy Program, focusing on building advocacy capacity among nonprofits and the foundations that fund them.
AFJ envisions a vibrant democracy that values and protects a just and equitable society.
To champion and secure a government where all voices, regardless of wealth, power, or privilege, are heard and valued.
Alliance for Justice was founded by attorney and activist Nan Aron in 1979, in response to a growing threat from the far right to decades of progressive advances in the United States. In the 40 years since, AFJ has fought for a fair justice system and a vibrant advocacy community that work to uphold and advance the rights of all.
The impetus for AFJ’s creation came in 1971, when the famous “Powell Memo” argued that the “American economic system [was] under broad attack” and urged the business community to weaponize the courts to serve business interests. Since then, conservatives and their corporate allies have tried to pack the courts with ultraconservatives to advance their agendas. Conservative foundations and donors began offering seminars and courses for judges and lawyers to advance a pro-corporate legal philosophy. This insidious movement was a direct threat to the arenas of public interest and civil rights law and the vulnerable people they serve. AFJ’s earliest mission was to fight back against this risk, and the organization opened its doors as a shoestring operation in a former Georgetown University campus building in late 1979.
But the threat from the right continued to grow. In a few short years, AFJ realized that the times called for a program focused on judicial selection. It was clear that the right-wing had begun a massive effort to groom and place future conservative judges — an effort that continues today. AFJ launched its Judicial Selection Project in the mid-1980s with an Advisory Committee drawn from 20 like-minded progressive nonprofits. In the years that followed, AFJ’s research and advocacy around federal judicial nominations would become a beacon for the progressive community — leading opposition movements against high-profile nominees such as Robert Bork, Clarence Thomas, and Brett Kavanaugh. During the Clinton and Obama presidencies, AFJ helped hundreds of highly qualified people ascend to the federal bench. During the Trump Administration, even with Republican control of the Senate, we have been successful in keeping several ultraconservative judicial nominees off the federal bench. For decades, AFJ has been at the front lines of monitoring the federal judiciary, collaborating with allies in Congress to raise awareness of the significance of judicial nominations, and encouraging public engagement with the nominations process.
The launch of AFJ’s Bolder Advocacy program in the mid-1990s served as an invaluable resource for advocates for justice and the rights of all. Bolder Advocacy originated from a political climate in which a growing number of conservative federal judges were ruling against consumers’ rights, workers’ rights, civil rights, and the environment. Organizations advocating for these rights then turned to state legislatures to advance their missions. Bolder Advocacy was created to help these nonprofit groups and the foundations that fund them fully understand and exercise their rights to advocate for their causes, while staying within the laws governing their nonprofit status. Bolder Advocacy continues this important mission today. Given the political climate, this work has never been more important.
Our Building the Bench initiative will further amplify our legacy by identifying a strong pool of talented professionally, geographically, and demographically diverse individuals to be considered for the federal bench by the next president soon after they are sworn in. This project is a collaborative effort with organizations, including but not limited to those that represent workers’ rights, women’s rights, civil rights, LGBTQ rights, disability rights, consumers, immigrants, and environmental protections. It will begin with an education campaign to build awareness about how federal judges are selected, and the importance of increasing the professional and demographic diversity of the bench.
AFJ is proud of our many years of contributions to the cause of democracy, through all manner of political climates and attacks. Yet, the numerous challenges to our rights and liberties that America faces under the Trump Administration have brought a new urgency to AFJ’s justice and advocacy mission. We have never witnessed an assault on our justice system like the one we have seen since Donald Trump became president. Immigrant and LGTBQ rights, consumer and environmental protections, worker and disability rights, and access to quality health care and reproductive rights are all under threat from an administration that seeks to strip the gains we have fought so hard to make.
But, we won’t give up the fight. We are bolstered by the great support for our work, from our early days sounding the alarm about the far-right threat to our justice system, to the vast network of courts advocates we have built, to the strong and growing interest in advocacy by the nonprofit and philanthropic communities, and in the surge of young activists, elected officials, and everyday people who support our cause.