Why Courts Matter

This year during the 2018 Legislative Conference, the Women’s and Fair Practices Departments focused their programming on the importance of the judicial system in our fight for social and economic justice. Under the banner of ‘Why Courts Matter’ AFGE’s civil rights arm used its annual luncheon and workshop during the conference to highlight how the courts impact nearly every aspect of our lives.  

Cecelie Counts, legislative representative at the AFL-CIO, spoke during the Civil Rights Luncheon about the history of the judicial system. She went on to talk about how some of the federal judges appointed to office often rule against the interest of working families, go to work for large corporations after federal service, all while collecting a life-long pension of their full federal salary.  

This highlighted the importance of worker mobilization on not only legislative issues but the importance of who we elect in office, which in turn will influence who is nominated to serve as a federal judge for a lifetime appointment.  

The conversation continued with the departments’ two-hour workshop that focused on the same topic. 

At the start of the session AFGE Program Coordinator Jorae Williams asked attendees to consider the following: 

  • At the time of the workshop, there were 146 judicial vacancies with 50 nominations pending 
  • Each person confirmed will essentially have a lifetime appointment  
  • If a person gets confirmed who is in their 30’s or 40’s, they could sit on the bench for the next 30 - 40 years and be responsible for shaping the civil rights of this country for generations to come. 

The formal presentation, led by Cedric Lawson, field manager with the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and Anisha Singh, senior organizing director for Generation Progress, expounded on the everyday importance of our federal courts and organizing efforts around judicial appointments.  

There are more than a dozen Why Courts Mater coalitions around the country, including in battleground states such as Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Attendees were encouraged to join these efforts by contacting their senators, raising awareness, educating others, and incorporating these issues into the work they are already doing.

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