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tv   Discussion on Proposals to Change Federal Courts Structure  CSPAN  July 27, 2021 6:08pm-7:27pm EDT

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like? tell us about them. >> well, i remember a conversation i had with marjorie taylor greene. marjorie was a freshman. she was very active during the orientation, and she was very upset about what was going on and her and i chatted. she said, what can i do. how about you go back in the cloak room, film video, post it on social media, and if you have any influence on anybody out there, tell them to stop. >> this week we'll hear from madeline deen of pennsylvania, and zo lofton. views from the house, sunday at 10:00 p.m. eastern on c-span, or listen on the c-span radio app. a look now at some ideas on how to change federal courts, law and policy hosted this discussion on term limits for judges, and expanding districts
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and appellate courts as well as the supreme court! celebrating its 20th year of celebrating and shaping legal debate, nurturing the next generation of lawyers, judges and advocates, and ensuring that the law is a force to improve the lives of all people. now, in this year, we are focusing our work and this anniversary on our constitutions founding failures when it comes to race and equality in this country, and like all things that matter in the lives of americans, the courts have a tremendous impact with a now deeply conservative federal bench and as we face the growing proliferation of state laws that restrict access to the ballot box and seek to roll back reproductive rights, calls for reforming both the supreme court and the lower federal courts have grown in number in volume. many of the reform proposals are
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promising, and we add acs want to make sure we lift those up and have them thoroughly considered. we know that something has to be done, and something has to be done soon. but what is possible in the current political climate? we are grateful to have our esteemed panelists with us today to share their insights on this question. if you don't already, we encourage you to follow acs on social media, including on twitter @acslaw, you can find us online at there you can join acs and find more information about upcoming events and opportunities. so it's now my pleasure to introduce our moderator, jen bendari. jen is a senior politics reporter for "huff post" where she has focused among other things in the courts and judicial nominations. she has covered congress and the white house since april 2011, previously reporting for roll
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call and on the texas legislature for gallery watch in austin, texas. please welcome jen. >> thanks. good afternoon, everybody. welcome to today's acs panel on what's next for court reform. i'm jen bendry, senior politics reporter for the huff post, i'll be your moderator today. a couple of house keeping items before we begin. today's call is being recorded and the recording will be available after the call on acs's web site. if you want to ask a question, you can type it into the q&a box on the bottom of your screen at any time during this call. please don't use the chat function to submit questions because they might get missed. feel free to send any questions during the panel. i will try to pick up some as we go, and then i will save the rest for the end. finally, whatever this means i'm going to tell you, one hour of california cle credit is available for this call. please e-mail,
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with court reform in the subject line to receive your cle credit. if you're seeking credit in any other jurisdiction, to see if it provides with reciprocity. cle materials can be found on the event page of acs's web site, and will be shared with all participants in a follow up e-mail. okay, let's move on to our panelists. congressman mondaire jones is a freshman democrat from new york. he represents all of rockland county, and central and northern rock chester county. he went to stanford, and worked in the office of legal policy where he vetted candidates for federal judgeships and worked to reform the criminal legal system to make it more fair and equitable. then he went to another fancy school, harvard law and worked as a litigator in private practice. he won an award for his pro bono service investigating claims of
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employment discrimination. he's currently a member of the house judiciary committee, and he is the freshman representative to leadership in this congress making him the youngest member of the democratic house leadership team. next is chris kang, he is the cofounder and chief counsel of demand justice, a progressive judicial advocacy group. he served in the white house as deputy counsel to president obama and special assistant to the president for legislative fairs. chris oversaw the selection, vetting and confirmation of 20 of obama's judicial nominees, who set records for -- he helped spearhead the confirmations of supreme court justices, sotomayor, kagan, and previous director of the national council of -- chris serves on the board of advisers for the acs, and people's parity project.
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next up is leah litman, an assistant law professor at the university of michigan school of law, federal post conviction review and federal sentencing. she is one of the co hosts and creators of strict scrutiny, a podcast about the u.s. supreme court and her writing for popular audiences has appeared in the "new york times," "the washington post" and lots of other impressive publications. leah graduated sue ma cum laude, and clerked for jeffrey sutton for the 6th circuit and anthony kennedy of the u.s. supreme court. she maintains an active pro bono practice and serves on the board of academic advisers of the american constitution society. finally we have nancy zurkina strategic consultant, and was the executive vice president for the leadership conference on civil and human rights from 2002 to 2017. nancy was a part of its various
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lobbying efforts, including task forces on hate crimes, affirmative action and judicial nominations since the 1990s. during the mid-70s she worked at several public interests groups including common cause and women's equity action league and was the director of public policy and government relations at the american association of university of women. she was aauw's chief lobbyist and managed coordination of the equal rights amendment, women's vote project and civil rights act of 1991. let's give our panelists an active round of applause from our computer screens. let's get to this. the primary questions facing this panel is what is next for court reform? what is possible to do and how can progressives effect change on this front, whether it's a push for adding more seats to the supreme court, setting term limits for supreme court justices or adding seats to various lower courts. congressman jones, i'm going to start with you. there is some talk about you
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introducing a bill in the house that would add seats to the supreme court, and set term limits for supreme court justices. can you talk about what's going on with this bill, when it's done, any idea when it might be introduced, any details at all? >> i appreciate the question, and i'm grateful to be here alongside virtually so many incredible people who have long admired talking about an issue of the utmost importance, and that is saving our democracy through expanding the united states supreme court: and i do think about this from the standpoint of our democracy, which is this baseline standard that i think we all used to take for granted until recent years, and due to the right wing takeover of the united states supreme court, we have seen our democracy under siege. we've seen it with citizens united. we've seen it with the shelby decision in 2013 which gutted
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the crown jewel of the voting rights act, which we are now working in earnest to revive which i hope will pass, the john lewis voting rights act, and that i believe if we had in tact f we had not had that 2013 decision, we would not have seen sb 202 in georgia become law. because it would have been stopped in its tracks under a preclearance provision. this is a right wing takeover that is and has been antidemocratic, right. we know that the vast majority of recent presidential elections have resulted in the popular vote going to democratic presidential candidates. we know that democratic senators represent 40 million more people than republican senators, and yet, we've seen this right wing takeover of the supreme court, and folks like myself, and many advocates across this country want to do something about that.
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we want to save democracy itself from a supreme court majority that is hostile to democracy. and while i won't commit to a specific deadline by which legislation will be introduced, it is an ongoing conversation with myself and my colleagues. >> have you been able to find any republicans who are even vaguely interested in doing something like this? even if just conversations or is this truly purely a democrat, you know, a democratic pushed effort to make changes to the court? >> it is a pro-democracy effort to make changes to the supreme court in the same way that changes have been made at least seven times prior to this point, and in an environment where despite 77% of the american public supporting the american rescue plan and not a single republican member of the house or senate voting for something as popular as that, the same of course with hr 1, now senate 1, in that chamber, i don't expect
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republicans to do the right thing, to work to save our democracy because i think they understand quite clearly that when we have a democracy, when people who are eligible to vote are able to exercise that right to vote they are put out of business nationally when it comes to elections. >> so can you talk a little bit about why you decided as a freshman to make supreme court reforms your priority. that's not typically something you see with a freshman coming to congress, making the supreme court, at least one of their top priority issues. >> this is personal for me. i'm someone who's part of a community, and the example i'll use, the lgbtq plus community that waits every june to see whether we will have rights taken away from us or rights granted to us that we should have had from the beginning. of course i'm also an african-american in this country
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whose voting rights are increasingly under assault by a minority of people who have through anti-democratic efforts have influence and control over our government. and so, you know, to also add to what you asked earlier when we think about the timing of this, it's the first time in approximately 10 years that there is unified control of government by a party that wants people to be able to exercise the right to vote, and so the urgency is clear. and that is precisely why i've shown leadership on this. >> so you do plan to introduce a bill related to this. you just don't have any of the details available yet, is that right? >> there will be a bill that will be introduced is my prediction, and i'm very excited for that to occur in the near future. >> okay. and something that you've argued for, and i know that chris kang, i know that you guys have pushed for this too.
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you have argued for adding four seats to the supreme court, why four? >> well, four seats added to the supreme court is required to have a majority of justices who are committed to protecting our democracy. it is just a fact that the court is even more hostile to democracy than it was when it gutted the voting rights act in the 2013 shelby v holder decision. and so this is not a partisan power grab in the way that mitch mcconnell and a few others have described it. in fact, it is an effort to get us back to that baseline standard that i described earlier of people being allowed to exercise their constitutional right to vote. and of course, if you were to ask the average american, they would tell you that, yeah, of course, we want all lgbtq people to be treated equally under the law. we want women to be able to make health care decisions without the right to do so being
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infringed upon. we want folks to be able to vote safely in the midst of a once in a century pandemic. and so on and so forth. but we have six people now on the supreme court who are hostile to that and who are working and have been working in earnest to undermine those rights and the foundation of our society. >> i was just going to add, i think it's also worth remembering that as representative jones said, congress has changed the size of the supreme court seven times before. and the last five times congress changed the size of the supreme court, it did so to add, it did so to make sure the number of seeds matched the number of circuits in the country. certainly supreme court justices don't ride the circuits the way they used to. there are in fact 13 circuits right now, and so there's a historical parallel, and a reason why 13 also makes sense
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right now. >> so, okay, chris. so why do you think right now is the time to be pushing for reforms like this, and also can you tell me if demand justice is pushing for anything different than congressman jones is pushing for or are you guys echoing each other on this? >> i think first and foremost, we're in lock stop with congressman jones, and calling for four seats to be added to the supreme court. i think that's fundamentally the first and necessary supreme court reform that has to happen. in addition to that, we think there should be a binding code of ethics for the supreme court. the supreme court doesn't have one, and we think the term limits should be something that should be seriously considered to help depoliticize the process. first and forest, wthink we need to add seats to restore balance to a court that has become so out of touch, and tilted toward these partisan corporate interests. the reason to do this now is we have this opportunity where
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democrats control the house, the senate, this is an opportunity maybe twice in a century where we can have big fundamental change in our country. that's why we have to have this fight now, and we have to start pushing right away. >> okay. so this question is for you, chris, and also you congressman jones. let's talk a little bit about the realities of this congress. you've got at least two democratic senators already insisting they won't make any changes to the filibuster and without changes to the filibuster in the senate you can't pass legislation to make these kinds of reforms, so where do you go from there, where that's kind of the baseline of this otherwise democrat-run government? >> it was just a few days ago that senator manchin was talking about a talking filibuster, which does represent a reform to that jim crow relic. i remain optimistic in the way that i have been optimistic since we took back the united states senate that people like
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joe manchin and senator sinema who is a member of the lgbtq community and a history maker, don't want to stand in the way of voting rights and equality act which would enshrine protections in our federal antidiscrimination law, and so many other things we take for granted or had taken for granted and in some cases are fighting for in a civilized society, and i also understand that when people run for office, they strongly prefer to be in the majority. and we will not have a democratic majority if we don't pass senate bill one, the senate counter part to hr 1, the for the people act. wee a republican party that is increasingly unhinged when it comes to what it will do to stay in power. they have out sized control over the number of state governments that will allow them to really
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draw the maps in many places throughout this country. and continue to draw districts that will elect people like marjorie taylor greene, and other fringe members of that party such that they will continue to win this civil war that is happening within the republican caucus. you know, i think about the fact that 2/3 of my house republican colleagues voted to overturn the presidential election. just hours after nearly dying alongside me earlier that day at that violent insurrection at the capitol. if we had independent redistricting we would get better people in congress, including people like the folks who voted to overturn the election. >> i'll add, look, i'm not naive about the political reality here but i also think it's a mistake to start with what you think is currently politically possible in this moment and work backwards, as advocates and, fundamentally all of us are advocates, who study an issue,
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you look at the problem, you see the supreme court that's so out of balance, that's losing its legitimacy, more and more americans think the supreme court bases their decision on politics rather than law. you see a problem and then you have to find the solution. the solution shouldn't be what you think is politically possible in the moment. what is the solution that's necessary to fix the problem, and that solution is legislation to add four seats to the supreme court. so we have to start. we have to start somewhere. i remember being so excited when congressman jones, then a candidate, about a year ago, wrote a piece talking about why we need to expand the supreme court for democracy reform. now he's committing to taking the next step and introducing that legislation. then all of us are going to have to work. we're going to have to push and call our congressman, call our senators, get enough cosponsors to get through, and after we get it through the house, we can talk about the senate, we can talk about whether or not we have the votes. if we start with the premise
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that, you know, we can only start with what joe manchin and kyrsten sinema at this moment in time ten republican senators will agree to then we're never going to achieve the change necessary to save our democracy. i think that we have to be realistic about the work that has to be done but we have to start with the steps we're taking and i really am so glad to have somebody like congressman jones leading this fight. >> let me say first of all, thank you very much, congressman jones. it is a very important bill you and mr. nadler and mr. johnson are going to be introducing soon. and it makes a lot of sense. but as we all know, it's an up hill battle. that doesn't mean that we shouldn't fight it, but it does mean that without eliminating that filibuster, we can't succeed, and we can't succeed in
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voting n climate change, in guns and many other issues. what has to happen particularly on judicial nominations is to build a greater grass roots network in support of this so that progressives across the country understand what's at stake and why it's important and we can't -- we can try now, but we have to look at ethics reform that i think chris mentioned and we have to also look at the lower courts. i will stop there but we also have the imperative of the nominations, and making sure that trump's 234 don't stand by
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themselves and president biden's on his way. he has nominated a diverse slate, not as diverse as some of us might like, but diverse in background and experience and race, and ethnicity. so we have to build this movement in order to make it happen. >> if i could just pick up on something that all of the panelists have said. congressman jones mentioned the importance of independent districting commissions, you know, in order to ensure that politicians aren't picking their voters and voters are instead picking their politicians. and also to prevent these districts from electing fringe candidates when they're totally safe, you know, districts. that's really important to the health of our democracy. it's also true that independent districting commissions face a threat from the u.s. supreme the
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court. it was by a bear majority several years ago that an opinion written by justice ruth bader ginsburg up held the state's authority to create independent districting commissions. professor noah feldman at harvard wrote an op-ed in bloomberg saying that hr 1 or senate bill 1 including its creation of the independent districting commissions could be invalidated by the current supreme court that's been very skeptical of congress's efforts to increase the franchise, protect voting rights and expand voting rights. if you care about making our elections more democratic, if you care about making our country more democratic, which i think is the first and foremost concern that we should be focusing on, that has to include some consideration about what you're going to do about the courts, given, the likelihood that this court could invalidate congressional efforts to protect voting rights. >> i'm glad you mentioned that. it was just a few months ago,
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shortly after i had been elected to congress in the general that i made a call to someone who would be leading on hr 1, and i said, look, there's this arizona case about commissions from a few years ago that gives me great pause with respect to what the supreme court will do. how can we limit the jurisdiction of the supreme court in hr 1, and that is precisely what my office worked to do, and i'm proud of what we were able to get in there in terms of language, but it is no substitute for getting a majority on the supreme court that actually cares about preserving our democracy. >> so one of the questions that's come in asks any comments on justice breyer's comments. i have his remarks handy. he said people who are interested in expanding the
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supreme court to dilute the power of the conservative majority need to quote unquote think long and hard about the risks of doing this. the risk of doing this is it makes justices appear more political, which would erode public confidence in the court. does he have a point? >> i was very surprised, to tell you the truth, that he weighed in on something as political as this, as the court. the fact of the matter is his statement and statements of others show us just how much work we have to do in convincing the american people of the inequities, and the inequities are shown in what congressman jones talked about. democrats represent 40 million more people. chris talked about the
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imperative that was found years ago of evening the ports with a circuit court. so i was surprised by it. i was surprised by his lack of evidently knowledge of history. so yes, i'm very surprised. >> did any of the other panelists think that he had a point there or do you feel like he's missing the point of this? >> it was not rooted in anyone's experience over the past several decades and i looked around as a did a double take, because similarly to nancy, i didn't understand why he was weighing in on the prerogative of the legislature as a member of the third branch of government, so i wish he would just stop talking about that and stick to actually adjudicating cases. >> i mean, on the other hand,
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look, i don't know what else he would say. he's got to go back into conference. he has to keep hearing these cases. i understand he's going to say what he has to say but i also think that even he knows better. there's no question that this court already is so hyperpoliticized after wanting, you know, mitch mcconnell steal one seat through barack obama, pushing through brett kavanaugh and moving through justice barrett, less than a week before election day, 60 million votes have been cast. that is what has over politicized our court. that is why people are losing confidence in our court, and thinking it makes rulings based on politics rather than law because of what republicans have done, not because of the conversation we're having about restoring balance and legitimacy. so i think he knows better. he's seen citizens united, shelby county, partisan
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gerrymandering, he's seen it all, and he says what he thinks he needs to say. hopefully this is the precursor to the announcement we're hoping stephen breyer is making here. and if that happens, everything he said last night is fine with me. >> i would just add to that, you know, a few things. i think justice breyer has to wake up every day and go to work at the court, and if he believed there was no chance of getting colleagues votes, it would be hard for him to go to work. if that's what he needs to tell himself, that's fine. if it's true that the public believes the current court is apolitical and represents everyone's interests equally, it represents a real failure of progressive organizers and media to accurately convey what is court is doing and what is happening. if that's the challenge he's inviting, right, we should be up to the challenge, and then finally, i think there's also a way you can read his remark as in some ways an invitation to his conservative colleagues to not do all of the crazy things
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that many of us think are bound to happen, so he's saying don't be the conservative court that some people are warning about, and expecting you to be, you know, and that's why they are considering expanding the court. >> so i want to ask a question, you have written about the importance of adding seats to the lower courts, which are not as sexy as the supreme court and often don't get as much attention but are usually important. the judicial conference recommended we create 79 permanent judges across the country. the last time congress passed a bill to expand the number of seats on district in appeals courts was 1990, and i have already seen smatterings of republicans and democrats in congress who support doing something here. so i'm curious is this where you think progressive's political energy should be directed right now instead of the supreme court? >> i think progressives can and should walk and chew gum. i don't think these things have to come at the expense of another. i do think it would be a mistake to overlook the appellate court
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and lower courts. the supreme court is 60 cases in a year, the court of appeals heard something like 50,000 cases. most cases will be finally resolved in the court of appeals, and it's important we make the courts democratic and accessible to everyone. currently those courts are not representative of the legal profession. they're not representative of the american people. there have only been i believe eight black women who have served as court of appeals judges. president biden's last batch of nominees almost increased the number of black women who have ever served as court of appeals judges, something like 3% of district court judges or court of appeals judges or 8% have served as public defenders. fewer than 2% as civil rights lawyers. these are background in the legal profession we need represented on the federal courts. your professional background and your personal background informs how you view the law.
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there's been empirical research about people representing corporate interests are more likely to rule for employers rather than employees or more like to sentence criminal defendants to more time. it's these reasons we need to make the lower federal courts representative of the people, and not to mention, the increasing case loads, and the fact cases have increased over the next 40 years, and the number of judges have not. >> let me say, if i may, that the fact of the matter is that we ought to be pushing for supreme court reform. because that's the only way it's going to happen over time. we ought to be looking at expanding lower courts. it is a bipartisan issue. but right now, we have a crisis. and the crisis is that 30% of the circuit courts are trump
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courts. 25% of the district courts. there is an imperative to work, all of us, to get those judges that biden is nominating confirmed. there are judges going on senior status. some that were appointed by clinton and obama. and that will serve us well in getting the numbers up. the right has been single minded through the federalist society to pack the courts. okay. they've done it. it's not okay. but it's happened. we have to fight back. and if progressives don't, it's at our peril. >> people who care at our
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democracy, though, it is at our peril. i saw someone comment in the chat saying he doesn't want democratic courts. again, this is not a partisan, you know, if you want people to be treated equally under the law, you want people to be able o exercise the right to vote, my god, has georgia not clarified the status for people? i think it has based on the conversations i have been having and so i'm really committed to making sure that this is described accurately as something that is essential to having a democracy moving forward. given the hostility that people on the supreme court, a majority, including a majority that is more conservative than the one that decided shelby in 2013 actually cares about these sort of bedrock principles that, again, of us had just taken for
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granted. i hope it doesn't take something truly truly terrible in a decision coming down from the supreme court whether this term or next term to get people to wake up, but my prediction is that there will be legislation already introduced by the time that happens, so that we can continue to rally around them. bill has added a comment asking, we have had nine justices seemingly forever, would it be wiser to adjudgeships at the apalate, do you think there's a risk to try and walk and chew gum by pushing for all reforms versus perhaps a more pragmatic approach when you see flickers of bipartisan support for it? do you see the argument for doing that even if you don't agree with it? >> no. because shame on congress if we can't introduce multiple bills at the same time, and i am really hardened to see a number
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of my judiciary committee colleagues on the other side of the political aisle talk about the need to expand the lower courts as professor litman mentioned, you know, since about 1990, we have seen 38% uptick in the district court case loads and i think appellate have increase the, the last time we expanded to more courts, as a recent clerk myself in the southern district of new york, i know how overworked those judges are and of course, additionally, beyond the practicality of needing more people to adjudicate cases so we can deliver justice in this country and resolve controversy, we have the opportunity to have a judiciary that reflects the lived experiences of what the speaker calls beautiful diversity of the united states of america and i think lived experiences and leveraging those so people understand how the law
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operates in people's lives or doesn't operate is critical to doing one's job better on the bench. and of course we can also talk about and advocate in advance the cause of supreme court expansion, which continues to be, i think, a necessity. we don't have the luxury of waiting when it comes to this in. in fact, i will submit we have waited too long. >> congressman jones is vice chair of the subcommittee, and they already held a hearing about lower court expansion in february, so this is definitely something that's on the radar and continuing to move, and i think one of the questions is not only like whether it's going to happen but to what scope is it going to happen. you mentioned that the administrative office of the courts sort of headed by john roberts has asked for 79 new
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judgeships to be created. i think that's a good start, that has to be the baseline. when you look as congress ann jones said, and leah said, like, case loads have exploded over the last 30 years, and what john roberts is proposing here with these 79 courts, new judgeships is only a fraction of what's necessary. you know, during the carter administration, congress expanding the courts by a third. that actually is keeping line with the increasing case load since 1990, with the increasing population since 1990. i think we need a much bigger, more robust expansion of the lower courts to really get to this administration of justice. you know, if you don't have your court case heard for years, that has a big impact not only on criminal justice but also on civil justice. these are conversations that have to be happening at the same time as the one we're having right now on supreme court reform. >> and there has been, as you said, jen, bipartisan support for expanding the courts.
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todd young, a republican, indiana, introduced a bill in the 116th to add 65. it isn't enough. but there is bipartisan support. and even daryl isa introduced a bill. so i think that we can pursue all three points. supreme court, lower court, and get these judges, biden judges confirmed so that we can get rid of the trump stain on the judiciary. >> i think it's always useful to think about how different types of reforms relate to lower court reform, just like we were talking about voting rights, potentially relates to supreme court reform. so for example, hr 1, and sb 1, the bill that congressman jones has been talking about, and we have been talking about would make partisan gerrymandering
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claims recognizable in federal court, so that would create an entire new set of claims that people would be litigating in federal court. if you want the claims to be adjudicated in a timely manner, we need to hear judges make claims, given that courts are overwhelmed. similarly, we're abolishing qualified immunity or giving cause of action to federal officers who violate your rights. we're going to need more federal judges to be on hand to adjudicate or think of this in terms of criminal justice crisis created by coronavirus where you have people languishing in jail waiting for bail, being exposed to the risks of coronavirus because the federal courts are simply too overwhelmed to adjudicate their cases and address their motions for compassionate relief. that's not a sustainable state of affairs and that's not what we should be accepting in our current system. >> if we pass the fair act, arbitration in this country. you are going to see the
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proliferation of litigation that is a good thing because we should not have forced arbitration agreements in this country. and so that too is just another example of why we need to increase a number of lower court judges. >> here's a question from steve, he sounds. here's what he says, in our lobbying and activism, not to mention talking to friends and family how do we get past the widespread view that this is just a cynical political ploy to pack the court for partisan purposes and will only lead to packing or unpacking when republicans are back in control. do you have any thought on this any of you? >> if we pass senate bill 1, the for the people act, we will allow people to vote in this country and that means that the gop will be out of business nationally, and you won't see republican majorities and so i don't anticipate that when that happens you'll see republicans do the same thing because they won't have the opportunity to do
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so. i'm thinking about the fact that john paul stevens and others were appointed by republican presidents and they were independent minded, and they were pro democracy, and they ruled in reasonable ways, and so this isn't just about, you know, democrats getting their judges and republicans getting their judges. this is about making sure that people who are not partisan hacks in the way that brett kavanaugh revealed himself to be railing against hillary clinton are appointed to the highest court in the land. and the fact that the american public doesn't have faith in the supreme court because of its retrograde rulings is also untenable for our democracy. >> i agree, like, i think that what we're trying to do here is not a partisan power grab as
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much at trying to restore balance to the court to ensure fair elections and to ensure voting right, and look, i think you know, congressman jones is perhaps right on the politics of what happens if these voting rights are restored, and sort of everybody who would like to vote, and is eligible to vote can but i think even the broader question that i think came up in the q&a about what happens next, and aren't we sort of on the road to, you know, a 200-member supreme court. i think two things, one we're sort of living in the worst case scenario right now where we have a supreme court that's so out of balance, so tilted for partisan interests, and corporate interests, we have to do something to restore balance. i think if you're able to expand the supreme court, and add in term limits, then you have a longer term, potentially depoliticalization of the supreme court vacancy points. if every president was able to nominate two supreme court justices in his or her term,
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then you don't need to add seats, you know, when you take control. you just need to win the next presidential election. you'll be able to change the make up and it would be nor representative of where the country is as a whole. it starts with adding four seats, the idea of term limits, and bipartisan support for the idea that you can have term limits for supreme court justice, have justices move on to senior status that's going to be determined, though, by the supreme court, and i think the 6-3 partisan supreme court is not likely to rule in any way that would diminish its power. you have to add through democracy, and determine whether or not other forms such as term limits might be possible. >> so somebody is asking something that i have wondered about which is how can term limits for supreme court justices be reconciled with article 3 life tenure. can congress impose a seniority
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classification or up to the court itself or how? >> the text of the constitution says federal judges will serve for good behavior. what that means is federal judges can't be removed at will but it doesn't necessarily mean they get to serve for life, and there is considerable historical support that what this means is they get to serve for the term of their appointment, you know, and that term of their appointment could be decided by congress before their appointment begins. you can still consistent with the text of the constitution have federal judges serving for good behavior during the term for which they're actually appointed if congress passed a statute of there was a constitutional amendment defining the terms of a court appointment for 18 years. during the 18 years they would serve for good behavior. it's just that we call that language in colloquial terms life tenure, but that's not actually what the constitution
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says. >> okay. i have a question for you, nancy. you've worked on issues like this through a number of congresses and difference administrations, what have you learned from working on this over the years, and what do you say to the reality that even biden himself has said he's not a fan of court packing. and how you work with an administration when this is what the commander in chief is saying. >> again, let me and you probably heard this actually come through. i started life as a field organizers. so that's where i basically come from. things don't happen. change doesn't happen unless there is a grass roots push for it, and that's why i have said
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several times that we have to build the will among progressives, and what we saw with amy coney barrett was a bigger outpouring than i have ever seeing against any supreme court nomination. kavanaugh was certainly big but this was massive, and i think we have an opportunity to build on it, to build on the sentiment that was expressed in the fall against barrett. and and i think that progressives have to be hounding the white house and senators and letting them know that these are important issues court reform, and in terms of what we know
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about the filibuster, that's where we are now. but with a mass movement, i truly believe that we can actually get it done. and i've worked on many issues and i will tell you, unless there is a push from the field, from the constituents, it doesn't happen. i don't know if that fully answers your question. i can talk about several administrations but i hope that answers your question. >> let's talk about a time frame here. we're going to have a democrat controlled government for two years at a minimum, and i feel like you have to operate in that mindset if you're trying to push something through because the senate could flip or the house could flip in 2022, so do you think two years is enough time
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to make a big push on these issues and expect to get something done or do you think that it's worth the push even if it's an up hill battle and two years is simply not enough time to build enough grass roots energy to actually push all of these things at once. >> i think there is a unique opportunity for paradox of the close congress. the house and senate are unfortunately looking very much alike in terms of the close margins. pelosi, i think, it's 212 to 219. that's very very close. and obviously it's 50/50 in the senate. this is a unique opportunity to pressure those two members, and others to understand the importance of the courts, what's
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at stake, and why we need court reform. it's going to be tough. i'm working on civil rights bills, and i have worked on many, leading a lot of the lobbying efforts. it rarely happens in one congress. but if you don't do it, if you don't start, and if you don't start from a positive viewpoint as i think chris said, it doesn't get done. so it's tough, but not unprecedented. >> here's another question from the attendee, do you think term limits will be politicized because then the supreme court is an election issue. is this a concern you have thought about and discussed with other progressives when you thought about pushing for term limits at the supreme court? >> it's something that, you know, i've thought about, but i think you can also think about
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making supreme court appointments more political as also a way of making them more democratic. you actually want the people to have a say about which presidents are selecting supreme court justices, rather than leaving it up to fate, like when a justice decides to retire or if they happen to get ill, so yes, it might be more political in the sense that we're actually having public conversations about whether we want future presidents to appoint a premium court justice but that's also another way of letting the people decide and letting the people have a conversation and a say into who they want selecting the supreme court justices. >> i think the supreme court vacancies are already political, part of the presidential election, and widely regarded as one of the reasons that donald trump won in 2016. he ran on the supreme court and the ability to fill the seats. as we look at the broader conversation with where we are in the progressive movement, joe
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biden said the supreme court was an issue to them, the whole conversation and the grass roots mobilization and movement around the courts is moving in a progressive direction, which is why i think that, you know, you say we have two years, sort of like a year and change at this point, time is ticking, but i think this is enough time, and i think this is enough time, i think the supreme court is going to continue to hand down sort of anti-democratic, anti-civil rights, anti-human rights opinions here that's going to unfortunately add fuel to this debate about the need to expand the court, so i absolutely think that we have enough time here to get something done. >> anyone else? two years works? >> if it's what you have, you take it. >> it is what you have. >> okay. >> the time period has been defined for us, in fact. >> true. >> here's another question from a very frustrated sounding
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michael. this long time progressive lawyer thinks this discussion is a waste of time. the filibuster which should be eliminated won't be eliminated this term. can you focus on other changes that are more possible. so what do you say to the to happen but is really focused on that filibuster problem. >> does michael holy oneness to do things for reconciliation? i would be concerned. but it seems like the logical conclusion. we have to make sure that we are pressing people who are on the fence about the filibuster or who need more encouragement to get where they need to be so we can have a democracy, and secure voting rights. so that we can save the planning from catastrophe. we face crises right now. it would be and an avocation of
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my role not to be pushing for things for things that at least reforming the filibuster. we have just reached the conclusion that joe manchin and christiansen are never going to do the right thing on this issue. that's not how progress is obtained, that's not a legislating works, that's not how government works. i would just encourage my friend michael to keep the faith. >> and i would encourage michael, i totally agree with the congressman. i would encourage michael to help get in the fray, help with confirming these judges. join the progressive bandwagon. and help on all three fronts. if you are discouraged and you feel like you can't help on the supreme court or the lower courts, at least get more biden
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judges on the court. >> i would just add that it's a little bit strange to me to have these abstract questions on whether we want to filibuster or not. to me that issue was so deeply connected with what you want to get done. so in order to think about whether it's worthwhile modifying to filibuster, we have to think about the possible legislation that we would like to enact, and is it possible to get the truth with the filibuster, and if not -- you asked us whether two years is enough time? if it's enough time, it's going to be because we are putting in the work and spending the energy convincing people that these are things worth fighting for. and saying to care about voting, right swell in order to protect voting rights, you have to think about the courts. if you care about criminal justice reform, that involves
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doing something about the courts as well. so i think part of what we are trying to do is doing the organizing, and doing the kind of convincing that is part of movement building. this is how i tell myself that what i am doing is worth the time. [laughs] >> okay, here is a question i have and somebody else through this out there. would he make them proposing terminus to federal judges other than to supreme courts? her so many federal judges that they're the just don't get attention. usually in the news, it's usually the supreme court that gets the headlines, but there are hundreds and hundreds of federal judges. and if you look at president trump's record of judicial nominations, there are people on the bench who should not be there from this judicial process. that's a whole other conversation to talk about removing judges, because it
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sensed extremely unlikely in rare, but have any of you in your conversations with progressive activists or academics fought about a serious push on the idea of terminus with federal judges? i personally have not heard much about that and it should be part of the conversation? >> chris go ahead. >> i was just gonna say, it pans on the problem that you are trying to solve. i think that's one of the reasons why comes up in the supreme court context so much -y. judges can time their retirements there's only nine of them, time they retirements to be replaced with one of them has the same a delayed ideological view. they are serving much longer than what was intended, so the conversation makes more sense to be certain centered around the supreme court. i don't think the problem is
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the same and the focus isn't quite there. i think the bigger problem, of the lower courts and the lack of judges, that's why we're talking about expanding to lower courts and expanding the administration of justice, and to have more judges to reflect the diversity of our country. >> anyone else? make the case for lower court judges? so here's a question that i have the reports on the courts and judicial nominations. i really want to make it interesting to people in its own right i'm sorry to say i'm constantly looking i think a long time ago i think it was down rather decades ago when on
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dave letterman. dave letterman asked him from one piece of advice to be in the spring journalist. aspiring to. experts rather said something like to call the journalist is to take something that's important and make it interesting, it's not to take something interesting and make it important. i think about that when i come to judicial nominations because it is very important, but it is not as flashy has other subjects. my question for you guys. you guys all work in various fields connected to the courts and the way our courts function. how do you approach the subject in terms of making people care about what our courts are doing and why they are important, and why they should get involved? because it's not something the people are readily going to be a cycle excited about. there are things that are happening all the time little disenfranchising people and are not fair. people unfair feel are pretty disconnected about what's going
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on in the courts. to have a rule of thumb the use to make people pay attention to the stuff. not just talking about court reform. i'm talking about the judicial rights of government. it's important what is your philosophy and taking this very important thing in making an interesting? >> what we tried to do is to take different court decisions and damage that they are doing to progressives to make them under stand the importance of the court i still think there is an opportunity now that we really haven't had before with trump's taking over the course. and it's become more and more apparent as the time goes on
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and i think we have to keep building on what happens this fall, in times of outrageousness of barrett's nomination. >> saving the planet. a woman's right to choose. . champion by organizations like the double and a double naacp. all of those are in peril. we don't have expansion of the supreme court of the united states. and so, the connection is not difficult to make, in fact it is intuitive i say we generally
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a better job of messaging that people it should not take the supreme court over taking our white discord now has the votes to do we should be rallying support around court expansion and not fighting with ourselves over something we know that is necessary. >> congressman, imagine i am a disinfected folder. i'm sitting in my hatch watching the simpsons drinking beer. someone's talking about the courts and i say whatever! but i'm gonna be hurt by things
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going on in the courts. what do you say to make me sit up and say i didn't know that? what do you just say to someone in a regular conversation, already not actually talk about this? >> i to talk about it for fun. it's my job now i would ask you about your life because government has failed you you're likely to produce any number of reasons by a robe that are in danger danger of a supreme court. maybe your boss could you over, maybe not able to unionize. and so you have a supreme court that would stand in the way of the that we need to pass in the
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senate. maybe made its overturn marriage equality or it's imminent. maybe you have children and you want to see them have a livable feature. but you're not going to secure that for them in the absence of a supreme court that would not withhold climate legislation and epa regulations. that requires having conversations with people and not talking above them so to speak we need to do more of that. >> chris, leah nancy? do you have elevator conversations they can quickly get people to pay attention to the courts about. >> i can't say it is eloquently as my previous speaker. i think one of the challenges
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is a people think, the courts are such a big institution, i'm not a lawyer and i don't understand. people don't have that same sense. i'm not a doctor so i don't care about the affordable care act. i'm not an accountant so i don't care about tax cuts. there's something about the court that seems like it's out of touch and out of reach. >> it's boring? >> what is it that people care about? and every single issue the people care about that motivates them is going to be decided by the courts of the day. we spent a lot of time talking about the filibuster, and i think that's a useful parallel in a different regard. try to explain to people what a filibuster was or why need 60 votes in the senate and that was almost impossible. we are at the moment where we can say we are too far from
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getting rid of the filibuster. we've have come a long way. we're only in april, and republicans haven't actually filibustered anything yet. we are getting there. people care about climate change, gun violence, economic justice, police reform. they understand that filibuster reform will be necessary to enact that change. they're also beginning to understand that the courts are gonna be necessary to uphold that change at the end of the day. and i think the same kind of educating, where we're saying we don't need to worry about the courts, we're saying what do you care about and let me explain to you why the courts are important that issue that will really bring them around. >> ivan i honestly think that we have not played sufficiently against the bad decision that have come down. i don't think broadly enough how we talk to that voting rights. health care.
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health care does get people upset. choice is high on progressives and climate change is something that comes across that is much more of a bipartisan issue now. not with leaders, but with some of the evangelicals and republicans i haven't done as good a job as i should've in highlighting faces,. and as i said we have the opportunity now unfortunately, because of trump and mcconnell 's and the federal societies successful efforts in packing the courts. >> okay, we have another question here this i don't want
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to get to into the weeds but these are things you guys can address. how about agreeing with flipping the ninth circuit for instance for the ninth circuit is a horror show in terms of size and i know. there's -- i think that republicans have proposed doing this, because the do you guys think that if you're looking for ways to build bipartisan support, do you think that that kind of trade-off is worth it? to break about the ninth circuit which i don't know -- yes, if that's it would take to increase -- by the hundreds. then absolutely, i think it is worth breaking up the ninth circuit. one of the main obstacles to breaking up the ninth circuit which currently covers washington, oregon, california, nevada, idaho, montana, it's
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just difficult because california is in the center. but it is also biggest. if that is the biggest obstacle to breaking up the ninth circuit, and if that is truly the only obstacle to getting bipartisan support and a filibuster approved majority to expanding the court of appeals, and by all means it is worth it. i'm not totally convinced that if you agreed to break up the ninth circuit that you're going to get massive 60 vote threshold in the senate or bipartisan support in the house, but indulging the hypothetical, yes, that would be very worthwhile. >> isn't this something that -- i seem to remember former senator lake, even john mccain had a bill to break apart that court. is that not -- you probably know more about this than me, but i don't remember that being proposed in exchange. is that something that you guys know that democrats have thought about? or have been open to doing in the past? >> it is -- it's not come off in the court
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subcommittee as something that would be a precondition for lower expansion. >> you talk about some ideas that things that may have come up as trade-offs, or however you'd like to call it, trade-offs, bargaining chips, things that would bring some republicans over into this camp of wanting to expand the lower courts? are the things you've seen or talked about with republicans or more than any of you have heard, you know from republicans that they'd be willing to do with the democrats would also be willing to do in order to move the whole thing forward? >> well, there's not been an introduction of a lower court expansion bill in the house, where democrats do have the majority. so, i don't want to get ahead of ourselves here. [laughs] and talk about trade-offs were none has been made. >> well, i suppose that i mean prior to this bill in this year, it's been an ongoing issue in the ninth circuit, maybe nancy -- -- have you watched this one for a
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while? i feel like i've seen bills for years break up the ninth circuit. and they're typically from republican senators. so, i'm not sure -- it seems to go nowhere. so -- is that something that is a viable, in your opinion, something that is a good idea for ways to actually move forward with a bipartisan bill? >> i don't really think so. let me say that they have -- republicans have been introducing bills like that, particularly when there is a republican president -- and i remember when bush was president and i don't know if chris remembers this that they tried to push, and it was constructed so unfairly that it wasn't -- you know let's expand and here is the trade-off. it was very one-sided, and
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allowing bush to appoint all of those judges. rightfully, progressives and democrats opposed. so, while i say it is a bipartisan issue, it would have to be worked out. especially now that we have a democratic senate. >> okay. i will ask one last question, because we are almost out of time. anonymous attendee says that he or she listened carefully and was an persuaded by representative mondaire's optimism about senators manchin and sinema. i want this panel to be more specific about what pressure can be put on them to get with the program on the filibuster and their for court reform. in fact event, or we do not need spin. so, i suppose my question -- i will build from that and just say, congressman, and the rest of you, do you think that there needs to be a co-occurring
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filibuster reform at the same time as pushing for these court reforms? are you guys feel like that is a separate track and while it is related that is not really the goal of people pushing for court reform? >> well, okay, i suppose i will start. we need to be pushing to repeal the filibuster, and at a minimum we should be performing it such that it is not an obstacle to the legislation, that the democratic majority in the house already has. the equality act, universal background checks, the george floyd justice and policing act. you name it. and that is not something that is going to happen overnight. it is not something that is going to happen absent of pressure from the public, including from the anonymous author of that comment. and so, we have to make sure that we are mobilized, in my
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understanding is that there are some folks that are feeling the pressure with respect to their vote to not overturn the ruling of the parliamentarian in the senate on the question of 15 dollar minimum wage. we have to keep the pressure on. and we have to make sure that people know how popular these policies are. and of course, we have to make sure that folks who still need to be persuaded, understand that there will be no good faith engagement by this republican party. not the party of donald trump, on any number of the questions that matter. the questions of great import to our society including democracy itself when it comes to the for the people act. so, let's keep the pressure on. i do think that that is a separate discussion from whether we need to expand the size of the supreme court and we can do both things at the same time. i say that as a member who has staff devoted to any number of issues.
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>> in terms of the filibuster, i believe that if republicans shill and continue to chill in the senate the same kind of intransigence that they shill on the covid bill and on the latest one for the nine trillion covid bill, and on all these issues, i think that there will be possibly, a greater willingness to streamline it, change it, and what i'm hearing manchin saying, and this is my interpretation, and i have worked with the senator quite a bit. is that he does not want to do it. it is bad, he wants bipartisanship. but i honestly think that if
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they are as agree just as i think they will be. i mean, mitch mcconnell when obama became president, the first thing he said is, we will make sure he doesn't succeed. that was his first speech on the floor. he is acting like that now. and if it is the same kind of obstruction, i believe in the next two years, even manchin will be amenable to some kind of change. we will see. >> i've also seen broadly than i think there's a lot of attention understandably put on senators sinema and manchin in the best way to put pressure on them is to get the other 48 senators lined up first. right? we had to put in the hard work. we got to put in the work to go from, you know, no bill to a bill that passes the house. one in the senate, and it will take a lot of work.
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so, for folks out there looking for what the next step is i will very self-servingly recommend that you go to demand justice dot org. we will have an organizing call on saturday the 17th at 3 pm. congressman jones is smiling because he is going to be there. ed markey is going to be there. black lives mother summarize movement and a visible are going to be there, we are going to start putting in the work. once we put the work indigo member to member, senator to senator, building this movement. and when we have a movement, when we have a majority of the house, when we have 48 senators in the senate then let's start coming up with a strategy to get senators sinema and manchin on board. that is the weight is going to work. person by person, neighbor to neighbor, a call to call, to remember, senator, to get it done. that's what i encourage people to demand justice dot org. the link to sign up us at 3 pm sunday this evan teen. >> okay, guys. we are out of time. i think that that is my question -- last question. what is the case to make that
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court reform is part of infrastructure? go. >> race to the future! >> [laughs] you could win on this one, at this point. okay, so, we are out of time, i'm going to hand the virtual microphone back to russ. thank you for this wonderful panel. back to you, russ. >> hello, that was a wonderful conversation. i'd like to congratulate you, it was lively, comprehensive, and i thought inspiring in a number of ways. i have been there, nancy, as you know, and seen how difficult it is to do things. i love chris's discussion about solidifying your base of support and then worry about the others later. john mccain and i, and when it took eight years, you know, it was just two guys. and then it grew. so, you know, we do not take sides on this. we are not democrat, republican, that doesn't mean i can't listen to people who are being very creative and exciting in
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their thinking. so, thank you, and jen, thank you for a wonderful job of moderating this. [applause]


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