Holding Court: Justice Conversations With AFJ
Holding Court is a series of virtual and in-person conversations organized by Alliance for Justice. These sessions feature leading attorneys, progressive advocates, politicians, and thought leaders on current events and today’s social justice issues. Join our network of supporters, public interest and civil rights attorneys, progressive partners, and advocates for briefings about timely legal and political developments that affect our rights and liberties. Participants submit questions before and throughout the conversation to be answered at the end.
View the playlist of our past video-recorded Holding Court events on YouTube. You can view specific Holding Court events at the links below.
Upcoming Holding Courts
Holding Court: Black Grief/White Grievance
February, 21 2024 at 3PM ET
Please join us on Wednesday, February 21 at 3PM ET for a conversation with Dr. Juliet Hooker, Royce Family Professor of Teaching Excellence in Political Science at Brown University and author of the new book, Black Grief/White Grievance: The Politics of Loss. Alliance for Justice President Rakim H.D. Brooks will join Dr. Hooker for a conversation on how Black grief and white grievance have shaped our nation and what it means for our future.
Watch/Listen to Previous Holding Courts
Holding Court: Becoming Justice Thomas
January 23, 2024 at 2PM ET
A conversation with Joel Anderson, staff writer for Slate and host of the podcast Slow Burn: Becoming Justice Thomas.
In Slow Burn’s eighth season, Joel does a deep dive into Justice Thomas — from his roots in Georgia to his time as a college campus radical to his professional endeavors leading up to his time at the Supreme Court. Joel rounds out his reporting with several insightful interviews, including with Justice Thomas’s mother. Alliance for Justice President Rakim H.D. Brooks joined Joel Anderson for a conversation on Justice Thomas and what Joel learned through his reporting.
Holding Court: How the Supreme Court Divided America
December 5, 2023 at 3PM ET
A conversation between AFJ President Rakim Brooks and Michael Waldman discussing Waldman’s book, The Supermajority: How the Supreme Court Divided America, and what it can teach us about the current 2023-2024 Supreme Court term. He closely examines the 2021-2022 Supreme Court term against the backdrop of the history of the Court, while providing much needed potential solutions to reform the Court.
Tomorrow on Trial: Holding Court for our Future
October 5, 2023 at 3PM ET
A conversation about how the courts will have an impact on future generations. Co-hosted by Alliance for Justice, Rising Organizers, and People’s Parity Project, the panel will feature AFJ Regional State Courts Senior Manager Rachel Bracken and Rising Organizers Executive Director Elyssa Feder.
Holding Court: Supreme Court Term Preview
September 19, 2023
Recent Supreme Court terms have brought blockbuster decisions, from the overturning of Roe v. Wade, to the dismantling of affirmative action in higher education as we know it, to seriously undermining the Clean Water Act’s protections. When the 2023-2024 term of the Supreme Court opens October 2, the docket will already be stacked with consequential cases. The Court is poised to determine the future of critical gun safety laws keeping guns out of the hands of those subject to domestic violence restraining orders, the Chevron doctrine allowing expert agencies to implement federal safeguards such as those protecting clean air and water, the future of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and more. This in-person Holding Court event on Tuesday, September 19, 2023 featured remarks from Vice Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee Congresswoman Deborah Ross (NC-02), and House Judiciary Committee Member Congresswoman Becca Balint (VT-AL), and Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability Congressman Jamie Raskin (MD-08),followed by a panel discussion of the upcoming cases on this term’s docket and the implications for our rights and freedoms. Moderated by AFJ President Rakim Brooks, the panel will include Deepak Gupta, Founding Principal of Gupta Wessler, Esther Sanchez-Gomez, Litigation Director of Giffords Law Center, Sam Sankar, Senior Vice President for Programs of Earthjustice,and Joe Gaeta , Director of Oversight and Engagement at Democracy Forward.
Holding Court: Art in Organizing and Activism
July 19, 2023
Throughout history, activists have incorporated art and culture into their advocacy work. Art can be a powerful tool for social justice. It can raise awareness of important issues, give voice to marginalized communities, and inspire people to take action. Art can also build community and create a sense of solidarity among those who are fighting for a better world. Movements like the Civil Rights Movement and the #MeToo Movement were made more powerful through their incorporation of music, images, and writings. It can help us to see the world in new ways, to understand our own experiences, and to connect with others. When art and culture are used for social justice, they can help to create a more just and equitable world.
Alliance for Justice President Rakim H.D. Brooks joined author Ken Grossinger, podcast host and activist DeRay Mckesson, and Prairie Rivers Network Executive Director Maggie Bruns to discuss Grossinger’s new book, Art Works: How Organizers and Artists are Creating a Better World Together. You can sign-up to join the conversation here. They will discuss historical and current examples of art and activism, how the organizing world can better incorporate art, and how we can all create a better world.
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s affirmative action decision, National Education Association President Becky Pringle, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, and Alliance for Justice President Rakim H.D. Brooks discussed the value of diversity in education, anticipated the Supreme Court’s student loan decision, and so much more.
June 15, 2023
This conversation featured NARAL President Mini Timmaraju and Alliance for Justice Senior Aron Justice Counsel Rebecca Buckwalter-Poza. The conversation was hosted on Twitter Spaces, and the recording accessible via this link. They discussed mifepristone, updates on the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA case, and how the reproductive rights movement is responding to attacks on abortion access and reproductive health care broadly.
March 14, 2023
In celebration of Women’s History Month, our President Rakim Brooks hosted a conversation with Slate’s senior legal correspondent Dahlia Lithwick about her book Lady Justice: Women, the Law, and the Battle to Save America.
Holding Court: Allow me to Retort with Elie Mystal
February 2, 2023
Our Rakim Brooks hosted a conversation with The Nation’s justice correspondent Elie Mystal about his book Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy’s Guide to the Constitution, and blockbuster cases in the 2022-2023 Supreme Court term.
This edition of Holding Court happened on Twitter Spaces. Listen to an audio recording of the conversation.
Holding Court: Presumed Guilty with Erwin Chemerinsky
July 7, 2022
For decades, the Supreme Court has knelt to police power, and communities of color have suffered disproportionate levels of harm and police violence as a result. Apart from the brief decade during which the Warren Court narrowly expanded the rights of the accused, the Supreme Court has historically sided with police and enabled racist practices. The chipping away at those rights has caused too many to become victim to police brutality and violence. In this edition of Alliance for Justice’s Holding Court series Berkeley Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky and ACLU National Board President Deborah Archer discuss Dean Chemerinsky’s book Presumed Guilty: How the Supreme Court Empowered Police and Subverted Civil Rights.
Holding Court: The Supreme Court’s Ethical Dilemma
June 8, 2022
All federal judges in the United States — except for the nine Supreme Court justices — are bound by a Code of Conduct. This code includes everything from basic ethics rules to standards for case recusal and navigating conflicts of interest. Chief Justice Roberts has consistently said the Supreme Court’s nine justices hold themselves accountable to the highest of ethical standards while rejecting the need for a code of ethics or any form of oversight. The Court’s approval rating and trust are at an all-time low. National pressure is rapidly rising on the Court and Congress to create and implement a Code of Ethics with bills introduced in the House and Senate. On June 8, 2022, Alliance for Justice led a conversation on the array of proposals to implement a Supreme Court Code of Ethics, why it’s necessary, and how we got here. The conversation features Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Senior Fellow for Governance Studies at The Brookings Institution Ambassador Norman Eisen (ret.), Director of Democracy Policy at Indivisible Meagan Hatcher-Mays, and Rakim Brooks, President of Alliance for Justice.
Holding Court: A Conversation with Sen. Tina Smith, Alliance for Justice, If/When/How, Jane’s Due Process, and Access Reproductive Care – Southeast, moderated by Imani Gandy.
The Fight to Protect Abortion Rights from a Radical Supreme Court
September 21, 2021
Last month the Supreme Court effectively allowed Texas to ban abortion after just 6 weeks. And while efforts to ban abortion are not new, Texas Republicans designed the enforcement provisions of SB8 as an end-run around the Supreme Court’s longstanding recognition of people’s constitutional right to reproductive healthcare. The draconian Texas law deputizes private bounty hunters rather than the state officials to enforce the state’s flagrantly unconstitutional abortion ban, setting the stage for other states to pass similar laws. Our courts have traditionally been the last line of defense for abortion access, and the Court is set to consider another abortion ban from Mississippi this December that strikes at the heart of Roe v. Wade.
This is a critical moment in the fight to preserve people’s bodily autonomy and fundamental human rights. For decades, conservative state legislatures have introduced legislation preventing people from accessing abortions, but now a Supreme Court that has been reshaped by three radical and illegitimate Trump justices may be considering whether to undercut 50 years of settled precedent protecting abortion rights. Please join Alliance for Justice, Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN), If/When/How Legal Director Farah Diaz-Tello, Jane’s Due Process Legal Director Blake Rocap, Access Reproductive Care-Southeast Co-Founder & Executive Director Oriaku Njoku, and moderator Imani Gandy, Senior Editor of Law and Policy at Rewire News Group and co-host of the Boom! Lawyered podcast, on Tuesday, November 16th at 6:30 PM Eastern for a conversation on the future of abortion access, what we can do to preserve the fundamental right to abortion, and how we can help those most affected by these bans.
Holding Court: A Conversation with Rakim Brooks, Chase Strangio, Katelyn Burns, and Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen
Defending Trans Youth
September 21, 2021
Over the past decade, anti-LGBTQ+ groups and Republican-controlled state legislatures have waged relentless attacks to restrict the rights and health care of transgender people, from restricting access to public spaces, to denying transgender youth health care, to prohibiting transgender students from equally participating in school and sports activities.
This has been the worst year for anti-LGBTQ legislation since 2015, and state legislatures are doubling down on anti-transgender legislation and rhetoric demonizing our youth, with more than 110 bills introduced across 33 states since January.
The stakes are high. Unless we act quickly, transgender children will be denied life-saving, medically necessary health care, the ability to fully participate in public education, and their right to be treated equally with their peers. It’s not just in state houses. Our state and federal courts will likely be the last lines of defense for trans youth, and many of these courts have been stacked with dangerous anti-LGBTQ+ extremists.
Watch our conversation with Rakim Brooks, President at the Alliance for Justice, Chase Strangio, Deputy Director for Transgender Justice at the ACLU, Katelyn Burns, Contributing Writer at Vox, and Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, Executive Director of National Center for Transgender Equality, breaking down the GOP’s most recent coordinated attack and how we can protect trans youth.
Holding Court: A Conversation with Rep. Jim Clyburn, Kimberly Atkins Stohr, Adam Jentleson
Reforming the Filibuster to Protect our Rights
July 14, 2021
At every turn, Republicans in the Senate have weaponized the filibuster to obstruct critical proposals to secure our right to vote, expand access to healthcare, protect workers, and defend civil rights. From John C. Calhoun using it to defend segregation to Minority Leader McConnell blocking the January 6th insurrection investigation, for too long the filibuster has been manipulated to deny our rights and block any effort to protect our access to the ballot. In the face of unprecedented attacks on our voting rights and democracy, as we confront sweeping state voter suppression laws targeting Black and Brown communities, reforming the filibuster is a necessary path forward.
We are at a turning point for our democracy, where we must decide if we will work together to ensure all individuals have a voice in our government or if we will let a small minority of politicians silence us and take away our rights. Watch our conversation with House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC 6th District), Kimberly Atkins Stohr, Senior Opinion Writer and Columnist at The Boston Globe, Adam Jentleson, Author of Kill Switch: The Rise of the Modern Senate and the Crippling of American Democracy, on why we must reform the filibuster to preserve our rights and democracy.
Holding Court: A Conversation with Chris Geidner, Elie Mystal, and Kate Shaw, featuring comments from Sen. Elizabeth Warren
The Importance of Professional Diversity on the Bench
May 12, 2021
Public defenders, trial attorneys, and advocates for workers, civil rights, and environmental protections have been severely underrepresented within our federal judiciary while individuals from corporate and prosecutorial legal backgrounds have been fast-tracked to the bench. Our federal judiciary must reflect the depth of experience across all corners of the legal profession and the country. By ensuring that a variety of backgrounds and life experiences are brought to bear when judges consider the cases that affect our daily lives, we not only improve the accuracy and legitimacy of judicial decisions, but ultimately strengthen the very foundation of our democracy. President Biden’s initial judicial nominees embody much of the groundbreaking diversity the progressive movement has been seeking, but also indicate the urgency of broadening the representation of legal professions on the bench even further.
Please join Alliance for Justice on Wednesday, May 12th at 6 PM Eastern for a Holding Court conversation featuring comments by Senator Elizabeth Warren and a panel discussion featuring Chris Geidner, Editorial Director at The Appeal, Elie Mystal, Justice Correspondent at The Nation, and Kate Shaw, Professor of Law and the Co-Director of the Floersheimer Center for Constitutional Democracy at Cardozo Law School, for a discussion on the importance, necessity, and positive impacts of professional diversity on the federal bench.
Holding Court: A Conversation with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Nan Aron, Thomas Saenz, and Jen Bendery.
Prioritizing Progressive Judges in the New Administration
Januar 27, 2021
From historic voter turnout to take back the White House and Senate to unprecedented mobilization to demand accountability for Trump’s judicial nominations, it’s clear that progressives are fired up like never before. With dozens of current District and Circuit Court vacancies and more opening by the day, the Biden-Harris administration and Senate majority of champions for constitutional rights have momentous opportunities on the horizon to reverse the damage Trump and Mitch McConnell inflicted on our judiciary and our democracy. For over forty years, Alliance for Justice has led the fight to confirm judges committed to equal justice who represent the breadth of people and legal backgrounds of our country, and our Building the Bench initiative has laid the groundwork to join progressives and our elected officials in bold action from day one.
Watch AFJ’s Holding Court conversation with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), AFJ President Nan Aron, and MALDEF President and General Counsel Thomas Saenz about the strategy and our work ahead with the White House and Senate champions to take back our courts. Jen Bendery, Senior Politics Reporter at HuffPost, moderated the conversation.
Holding Court: A Conversation with Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Dale Ho, and Guy-Uriel Charles
Democracy Under Attack: The Role of Judges in Protecting the 2020 Election
October 21, 2020
With an open Supreme Court vacancy Republicans are rushing to fill, Trump’s refusal to commit to a peaceful transition of power, and ongoing battles over voter suppression and mail-in voting even amidst a global pandemic, it is clear that core tenets of our democracy are under attack as Election Day approaches. Federal courts make vital decisions at every step and have already played a critical role in state and federal races this year. Judges could determine how and which ballots are counted, settle disputes about in-person or absentee voting, set registration deadlines, and potentially resolve a disputed election.
Watch Alliance for Justice, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Dale Ho, ACLU’s Voting Rights Director discuss the historic role of the federal judiciary during this unprecedented election. Guy-Uriel Charles, Edward and Ellen Schwarzman Professor of Law, Duke University School of Law, moderated the conversation.
Holding Court: A Conversation with Alliance for Justice, Senator Jeff Merkley, and Kristen Clarke
States Fight Back: a discussion on protecting our right to protest, organize, and safely vote in the Trump era
September 9, 2020
Speakers: Sen.Jeff Merkley (D-OR); Kristen Clarke, President and Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; Nan Aron, President, Alliance for Justice; Leah Litman, Assistant Professor of Law at University of Michigan Law School and Co-Host of the Strict Scrutiny Podcast.
A month after sending federal troops to attack peaceful protestors in front of the White House for a personal photo op, the Trump administration sent unidentified federal forces to Portland, Oregon in an attempt to shut down the protests for Black lives, who detained citizens off the streets with no cause. Since then, Trump has threatened to unleash the same excessive power on other cities with protests, and even to deploy law enforcement to polling places. Yet the typically white and conservative protestors who turned out en masse with guns at state capitols and city halls or to counter-protests of police violence, they have not faced the same level of counter-violence from police and federal troops.
This administration has bent the rule of law to force its policies fueled by racism and bigotry onto the American people. However, state leaders and officials have played a key role in challenging Trump’s abuses of power, raising the importance of checks and balances for state and federal authority in protecting our rights. Join Alliance for Justice and other leading advocates to discuss the legal and social implications of Trump’s deployment of unidentified troops to Portland, threat to send law enforcement to the polls, and other uses of federal force.
Holding Court: A Conversation with Alliance for Justice, Senator Chris Coons, and Harold Koh
Trump’s impact on our federal judiciary and what we can do to reclaim our courts
June 10, 2020
Speakers: Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE); Harold Koh, Sterling Professor of International Law, Yale University; Nan Aron, President, Alliance for Justice
President Trump and his allies in the Senate have waged an unprecedented attack on our courts, confirming nearly 200 federal judges. Now is the critical time for progressives to unite in calling for the next administration to prioritize undoing the damage inflicted on our judiciary. This conversation was an opportunity to reflect on Trump’s impact on the judiciary, and how we can fight back to reclaim our courts.
Holding Court: A Justice Conversation with Alliance for Justice and American Association of Justice
The dangers of corporate immunity amidst a pandemic
June 4, 2020
Speakers: Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI); Linda Lipsen, CEO, American Association for Justice; Rebecca Dixon, Executive Director, National Employment Law Project; and Professor Myriam Gilles, Cardozo School of Law; Nan Aron, President, Alliance for Justice
Congressional Republicans have made clear their priority in the next phase of coronavirus relief is to provide corporations with blanket immunity from lawsuits if workers or customers are exposed to the virus. Join us for a discussion about why such a proposal is dangerous for our communities, and why there must be clear, science-based, and enforceable rules so that corporations can be held accountable for failing to take proper precautions to protect our health and safety.
Holding Court: A Justice Conversation with AFJ and Rashad Robinson, Ai-jen Poo, and Ludovic Blain
Examining COVID-19 through a racial and economic justice lens
May 27, 2020
Speakers: Rashad Robinson, Executive Director of Color of Change; Ai-jen Poo, Executive Director of National Domestic Workers Alliance; Ludovic Blain, Director of California Donor Table
Across the country, millions of families, communities, and businesses have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite being named the great equalizer by many, the pandemic has disproportionately affected communities of color across the United States. Black and brown people comprise the majority of essential workers fighting on the frontlines, have been hit hardest by job losses, and face higher rates of infection and death. It’s undeniable that the pandemic has exacerbated longstanding systemic inequities across our healthcare system, environmental conditions, policing and criminal justice system, and more. Join us for a discussion about the root causes of the racial and economic disparities of COVID-19 and how our government’s response must address them.
Holding Court: Defending the Rights of Detainees During COVID-19
May 6, 2020
Speakers: Myesha Braden, Director of Special Justice Initiatives, Alliance for Justice; Katherine Rosenfeld, Partner, Emery Celli; Baher Azmy, Legal Director, Center for Constitutional Rights; Professor Betsy Ginsberg, Director, Cardozo Civil Rights Clinic
As COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to rise, the pandemic is exposing and exacerbating stark systemic inequities, and people in confinement are especially at risk. Already facing limited access to medical care and mistreatment throughout the criminal justice and immigration systems, they have limited ability practice social distancing, proper hygiene, and are at disproportionately higher risk for underlying health conditions. Katherine Rosenfeld, Partner at Emery Celli; co-counsel Professor Betsy Ginsberg, Director of the Cardozo Civil Rights Clinic; and Baher Azmy, Legal Director at the Center for Constitutional Rights discussed leading their litigation seeking release of people detained in Brooklyn’s federal jail and in ICE custody in Louisiana.
Holding Court: A Justice Conversation with AFJ, Joyce Vance, and Maya Wiley
Defending the Rule of Law in the Time of Trump and COVID-19
April 29, 2020
Speakers: Daniel Goldberg, Legal Director, Alliance for Justice; Joyce Vance, former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama; Maya Wiley, Legal Analyst, NBC and MSNBC and University Professor, The New School
From Attorney General Barr intervening in the DOJ’s sentencing recommendation for President Trump’s longtime friend Roger Stone, to Trump’s recent declaration that as president he enjoys “total” power to dictate states’ pandemic policies, this administration has blatantly disregarded the core tenets of separation of power and respect for the rule of law. Joyce Vance, former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama and Maya Wiley, Legal Analyst for NBC and MSNBC and University Professor at The New School, discussed the Trump Administration’s threats to the independence of our justice system, and how to defend the rule of law in the time of COVID-19.
Holding Court: A Justice Conversation with AFJ, Deepak Gupta and Julie Murray
Civil Rights and Liberties in the Time of COVID-19
April 15, 2020
Speakers: Nan Aron, Founder and President, Alliance for Justice; Deepak Gupta, Founding Principal, Gupta Wessler LLC; Julie Murray, Staff Attorney, Planned Parenthood Federation of America
Deepak Gupta, AFJ Board Member and Founding Principal of Gupta Wessler LLC, and Planned Parenthood attorney Julie Murray discussed ultraconservative efforts to exploit the public health crisis to further their agenda, from banning abortions to restricting voting rights to increasing the power of the gun industry.
Holding Court: A Justice Conversation with with AFJ and Congressman Jamie Raskin
April 1, 2020
Speakers: Nan Aron, Founder and President, Alliance for Justice; Congressman Jamie Raskin (MD-08)
Congressman Raskin discussed the intersections between COVID-19 and the justice system, including updates on the stimulus package, Trump’s support of the lawsuit threatening to strip healthcare from millions amidst a global pandemic, and how the administration’s moves to expand executive power in response threaten the independence of our justice system.