Advance Political Justice

2021 Blueprint of Federal Social Policy Priorities: Recommendations to the Biden-Harris Administration and Congress

Conservative politicians and advocacy groups have for many years made judicial nomination a number one priority for advancing their political objectives. The result of that effort is a federal courts system that is skewed in its political philosophy and racial make-up. The current lower federal court judges are young, highly ideological and do not reflect the modern United States. Of the 218 federal judges confirmed under the Trump administration, 75 percent are white and 83 percent are men (American Constitution Society, 2020).

Our courts are overwhelmed because, while their dockets continue to swell, no judgeships have been added since the 1990s. The overwhelmed lower courts have led judges to create procedural hurdles and substantive law that keeps civil rights plaintiffs—and particularly plaintiffs bringing employment disputes—out of federal court.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was gutted by the Supreme Court in 2013, rendering it essentially useless. Since that court decision, there has been a concerted effort by many states to suppress the votes of Black and Brown people using unreasonable voter ID laws, massive purges of eligible Black voters from voting rolls, and limiting voting places in heavily Black and Brown districts. In addition, gerrymandering, and unregulated excessive “dark money” – where political groups spend money to influence elections without having to disclose the names of donors—contribute to an increasingly inequitable voting system that favors the rich and powerful.

NASW calls on national leaders to:

  • Add judgeships to the federal district and circuit courts, increasing the number of judgeships for each circuit and district according to population growth, especially for the 5th through 8th Circuits.
  • Nominate federal judges who represent both the diversity of the nation and the professional diversity of attorneys. Nominate people of color, women, LGBTQ people, those with disabilities, immigrants, and those from various religious backgrounds. Prioritize nominating lawyers for judgeships who have represented labor unions, workers, consumers, immigrants, or civil rights plaintiffs.
  • Rebalance the Supreme Court by adding associate justice seats and nominating individuals to those seats who reflect the diversity of the modern United States.
  • Pass the For the People Act (S. 949/H.R. 1 in the 116th Congress) to expand Americans’ access to the ballot box and reduce the influence of big money in politics.
  • Pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act (S. 4263 in the 116th Congress).
  • Make Election Day a national holiday.
  • Restore voting rights to formerly incarcerated citizens who have served their sentences.