Grantee Profile: Alliance for Justice
What’s your origin story?
Alliance for Justice (AFJ) 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 43 years since, AFJ has fought for a fair justice system and a vibrant advocacy community that works to uphold and advance the rights of all.
In the mid-1980s, AFJ launched its Judicial Selection Project 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 and ensuring the confirmation of nominees such as Ketanji Brown Jackson. AFJ has historically focused on federal judicial nominations at not only the Supreme Court, but the lower federal courts as well. In 2022 we launched a State Court Justice Project, which is focused on state court judicial nominations.
In the mid-90s AFJ launched Bolder Advocacy which 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.
Tell us about your work. What do you do?
AFJ is widely respected for its extraordinary track record in fighting for a fair and just society. Our small but nimble 40+-person team of legal, communications, outreach, and advocacy experts work to ensure a balanced federal and state judiciary and help funders and nonprofits across the country to advance their missions and improve the lives of their communities and constituencies through enhanced advocacy. AFJ’s membership has grown to comprise more than 150 organizations from across the progressive spectrum from criminal justice reform to environmental advocacy to education equity organizations. Together with our membership and numerous allies in the legal and courts space, we advocate for a diverse judiciary that resembles the communities and people that come before them. We also support our membership with AFJ achieves these outcomes through two primary programs: Justice and Bolder Advocacy (BA).
AFJ JUSTICE AND IMPORTANCE OF DOROT FELLOWSHIPS
AFJ’s Justice Program receives support from the Dorot Foundation to house two Dorot Fellowships – recent law school graduates who provide vital research and capacity to our Justice team. The Justice team seeks to address key concerns in the American judicial system that threaten its ability to fulfill its constitutional function, including: the vacuum of public awareness surrounding the impact of the federal courts and the various distinctive processes for judicial nominations; the lack of experiential and demographic diversity on the bench; and the ethical issues that impede access to justice. The Dorot fellows housed at AFJ provide crucial support to these initiatives. Through their work identifying, vetting, and supporting diverse nominees to the federal courts, they help AFJ inch closer to the realization of a balanced judiciary, which will inspire confidence that anyone who steps before a judge will be treated fairly.
AFJ’s Dorot fellows are among the foremost experts on judicial nominations in the country. Our current fellows have been instrumental in identifying candidates for the federal judiciary, supporting lobbying efforts for the nomination of professionally and demographically diverse candidates, and advocating for these individuals once nominated. The fellows have produced analyses and resources detailing the incredible gains of the Biden administration, which has nominated and confirmed the most federal judges since President John F. Kennedy. These reports, as well as blog posts on the most pressing legal topics of the day, are designed to keep the public apprised of the courts and understand the direct impact that judges and court decisions have on their everyday lives.
DOROT FELLOWSHIP EXPERIENCE (MARI AND JEEVNA)
My name is Jeevna Sheth and I graduated from the graduated from the George Washington University Law School in May 2020 and earned my B.A. in Political Science and Human Rights from the University of Chicago in 2017. While in law school, I served as a student attorney in Rising for Justice’s Housing and Advocacy Litigation Clinic, where I represented vulnerable tenants in D.C. Superior Court. Additionally, I worked as a judicial intern for New York State Supreme Court Justice John J. Kelley. Prior to coming to AFJ, I worked in private practice as a Commercial Bankruptcy and Environmental Litigation Associate.
I applied for the Dorot Fellowship at Alliance for Justice because I wanted to advocate for a more diverse federal bench with jurists who are dedicated to equal justice for all. After having first-hand experience with litigation at the federal level, I learned how vital it is to have intelligent, fair, and experienced federal judges who treat everyone before them with decency and respect. Additionally, it is equally important that federal judges have diverse demographic and professional backgrounds so that the federal bench reflects the American public they are tasked with serving. The Dorot Fellowship has allowed me ardently pursue this important work, enhance my writing and research skills, and learn how to effectively advocate on Capitol Hill.
My name is Mari Nemec and I am a recent graduate of the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law, where I served as President of Pride Law and Co-Chair of the National LGBTQ+ Bar Association’s Law Student Congress. Prior to law school, I served as Manager of Public Affairs at the National LGBTQ+ Bar Association. In that role, I advocated for the Bar’s policy goals, produced and distributed educational materials, and drafted all official communications, including statements by the Executive Director.
I applied for the Dorot Fellowship at Alliance for Justice because I wanted to continue working towards justice for the LGBTQ+ community and other marginalized groups. The role that federal judges play in that work is critical. While legislatures can pass laws advancing equality and justice for all, one bad judge can disrupt that progress. The Dorot Fellowship allows me to advance justice, learn more about the working of Capitol Hill, and dedicate my skills and talents to creating change. As a Dorot Fellow, I conduct research and write reports on federal judicial nominees, monitor the state of our federal courts, conduct research on important federal cases, and track legislation related to the federal courts.