Justice, Civil and Human Rights Organizations Sound Alarm on Trump Administration, Congress’ Attacks on Access to Courts

Earthjustice, ACLU, The Leadership Conference, Public Citizen discussed 50-plus current threats


Maggie Caldwell, 415-217-2084, OurCountryOurCourts@earthjustice.org

Four of the country’s leading environmental, civil and human rights, health and safety, and civil liberties organizations united at an “Our Country, Our Courts” event last night at the Newseum to shine a spotlight on attempts to limit Americans’ access to courts. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) joined the organizations to raise the alarm about growing and concerted efforts by the Trump Administration and some in Congress aimed at undermining access to the judicial branch of government.

Franken, who headlined the event, emphasized how the courts “level the playing field for ordinary Americans” and the coordinated attacks on people’s ability to access the justice system. He also noted his disappointment with the Senate’s recent vote to overturn a rule allowing consumers to bring class-action lawsuits against wealthy corporations and financial institutions for predatory practices and wrongdoing. President Trump signed the repeal into law yesterday.

Leaders from Earthjustice, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and Public Citizen joined HuffPost’s Jennifer Bendery for a panel discussion about the imminent threats against the federal justice system. They also released a short brief describing the need to defend the public’s access to justice from the directives issued by the Trump Administration and more than 50 pieces of legislation that Congress has introduced in the first 10 months of 2017 that would restrict people’s ability to take a grievance to court. Some of the bills would force individuals into binding arbitration clauses, ban or limit class action lawsuits and demand unfair limitations on cases and settlements.

Each organization reiterated its commitment to representing the public interest and continue their partnership as attacks on the courts keep putting Americans’ judicial rights at risk.

Notable quotes and photos from the event are below. View the event in full:


“House Republicans also appear set on passing a broad range of proposals that all have one end in mind: Eroding the ability of everyday Americans to have their claims heard in a public court of law. From requiring that losers pay all to significantly restricting members of a class action, these efforts if passed into law would deter consumers, workers and those harmed from reckless actions impacting our environment from vindicating their rights under the law.”
— Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.)

“This is just a very tiny current sampler in what’s going on in a very sophisticated and growing movement to restrict our access to using the courts to achieve the kind of justice that all of our organizations work for.”
— Trip Van Noppen, President, Earthjustice

“We have to demand that our lawmakers stand up for the integrity of our democracy. Our first line of defense is making sure those people … don’t make this condition worse and worse. We have to stand up and ensure that our decision-makers, our lawmakers protect us by not allowing our right to go to court to be stripped away.”
— Patrice Simms, Vice President of Litigation, Earthjustice

“If the courts stop being that first line of defense, we are going to find ourselves in a really difficult situation because Congress should also be acting as a check on the President’s powers but at the moment doesn’t seem to be doing so. We really need to be relying on the courts at this moment.”
— Shayna Strom, National Advocacy Director and Deputy Political Director, ACLU

“The CFPB arbitration rule was very clear…It was the CFPB saying they have evidence that there is an unequal balance of power between financial institutions and average individuals, and that’s why they wanted to give people the right to ban together. Just think about it. If an individual is shafted a $15, $20 or $30 [bank] fee, they are not going to go to court over that—and the banks know that. But if there are 200 people, or 300 people who can join together, that’s when banks have a problem.”
— Remington Gregg, Counsel for Civil Justice and Consumer Rights, Public Citizen

“To me that’s exactly what the CFPB fight is all about—leveling the playing field for ordinary Americans. In the public court of law the average American can stand up to the deepest pockets.”
— Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.)

“[In courts] the American people get to see the facts that are being presented and compare them with the tweets that the president is doing on the very same subject. There is a transparency that comes with the court process – there is actual fact-finding and fact determinations made that you also don’t see in arbitration.”
— Kristine Lucius, Executive Vice President for Policy, The Leadership Conference on Human and Civil Rights

“The powers in this Administration, the wealthy corporations, and those who are making the decisions in Congress and in the federal agencies are no match for people working together. That’s why we’re all here and we have all got to join together to make sure we can continue to play a role in the direction of our democracy.”
— Patrice Simms, Vice President of Litigation, Earthjustice


Lawrence Jackson for Earthjustice
Trip Van Noppen, Earthjustice President, delivers opening remarks at the Our Country, Our Courts event, Nov. 2, 2017.

Lawrence Jackson for Earthjustice
Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) headlines the Our Country, Our Courts event, Nov. 2, 2017.

Lawrence Jackson for Earthjustice
Remington Gregg, Public Citizen counsel for civil justice and consumer rights, center left, speaks during the panel at the Our Country, Our Courts event, Nov. 2, 2017.

Lawrence Jackson for Earthjustice
Patrice Simms, Earthjustice Vice President of Litigation speaks during the panel at the Our Country, Our Courts event, Nov. 2, 2017.

Lawrence Jackson for Earthjustice
Audience members listen to the panel at the Our Country, Our Courts event, Nov. 2, 2017.

To learn more about this effort, visit OurCountryOurCourts.org. And, read the short brief the organizations released.

Our Country Our Courts panel
Jen Bendery, HuffPost senior political reporter, left, opens up a panel discussion with leaders from The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Public Citizen, Earthjustice and ACLU at the Our Country, Our Courts event, Nov. 2, 2017. (Lawrence Jackson for Earthjustice)

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Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people's health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.