Democracy Docket: How the 5th Circuit Is Dismantling Democracy - Alliance for Justice

Democracy Docket: How the 5th Circuit Is Dismantling Democracy

In the News

Rachel Selzer

Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas


Voting Rights

This excerpt is from a piece that originally ran on January 17, 2024.

Although the 5th Circuit has received notoriety for being the most conservative federal appeals court in the country, its sweeping and destructive democracy-related decisions suggest that it has become more of a right-wing activist court. As Rakim Brooks, president of Alliance for Justice, explained to Democracy Docket, “the Fifth Circuit is demolishing the rule of law as we know it…From reproductive rights to gun safety to democracy itself, [t]hese judges are trying to force an extreme agenda not only on the states they serve, but on all of us.”


Although the path to a fair Louisiana congressional map remains open, the alacrity with which a duo of ultra-conservative 5th Circuit judges accepted Louisiana Republicans’ attempted delay tactics raises cause for concern. “Time and again, the Fifth Circuit acts as a laboratory for conservative interests, pushing the boundaries of the law to test what the U.S. Supreme Court will tolerate [and ruling] in ways that make it harder for people to vote and achieve fair representation, especially low-income Black communities,” Brooks said.


In the meantime, “it’s vital to prioritize filling all of the vacancies on the federal bench, especially if any should open on the Fifth Circuit, [with] more qualified movement lawyers to resist and counter their attacks on the rule of law,” Brooks emphasized. In a promising step, the U.S. Senate confirmed Biden-nominated judge Irma Carrillo Ramirez to the 5th Circuit in December 2023, making her the circuit’s first ever Latina judge.

According to Brooks, reforms are also necessary to reign in the 5th Circuit, including the creation of “new ethics accountability measures for the Supreme Court when they take up these wild cases from the Fifth Circuit.”

“We don’t yet know the total…harm this court can do, but there are steps we can take to protect ourselves and prevent other courts from being similarly coopted [by] extremism.”