Fix the Court turns seven today!
We started out on Nov. 12, 2014, with a Metro station takeover, a TV ad and a print exclusive. Now we’re our own 501(c)(3); have researchers and law clerks working to advance our mission; and every week speak with judiciary and Hill staffers, legal affairs reporters and law profs to push for the most powerful, least accountable part of our federal government to open up.
We don’t subscribe to the thinking that a single change to one branch of government will suddenly make all our troubles go away but believe that steady, incremental improvements will build trust in our courts and better outcomes for all Americans.
Here are seven accomplishments we’d like to highlight to commemorate our seven years fixing courts:
1. SCOTUS term limits bills. Ending life tenure for the justices wasn’t initially one of our “fixes” since, in 2014, I thought it was too associated with one side (conservatives). Funny to think back on that now. Anyway, FTC added that “fix” in 2015 and in 2020 got a term-limits-via-statute bill, a first in U.S. history, introduced in Congress.
2. Manifesting SCOTUS reform into being.There’s no way to know for certain how much of the following is on our account, but we’ve led the charge for a number of measures SCOTUS has begun to accommodate: oral argument livestreaming; digitized disclosure reports; the sale of half of the justices’ individual stocks; more frequent livestreaming of their public events. The justices are even “studying” whether to have an ethics code, and several are okay with non-methuselan terms.
3. Circuit court transparency: When FTC started out, it was FixTHE Court, as in SCOTUS, but we quickly realized the other federal courts needed fixing, as well. Our work at the circuit level has helped develop a standard practice of livestreaming for appellate arguments and encouraged most circuits to establish wellness committees.
4. Speaking of lower courts, a“free PACER” bill passed the House in 2020. Unanimously, at that.
5. There’s even been a “nearly-every-fix” bill or three. The 2018 GOP-led ROOM Act, the 2020 Dem.-led 21st Century Courts Act and the (likely) 2022 (hopefully) bipartisan 21st Century Courts Act include nearly every “fix” — some combination of livestreamed appellate arguments, a SCOTUS code of conduct, recusal explanations, free PACER, wellness initiatives, online disclosures and more lower court judgeships.
7. Becoming a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. FTC was lucky to have support from the New Venture Fund for several years, and then earlier this year we became a standalone nonprofit entity. We have enough money to last us through the summer, but after that, well…we’ll let you know if we reach eight!