The Fund for Justice and Education (FJE) is a subsidiary organization of the American Bar Association (ABA). Formed as an entity that would allow the ABA to raise funds from public and private organizations, as well as individuals, the FJE funds and runs various special projects for the ABA, most notably the Rule of Law Initiative by which it implements left-of-center legal policies in countries with less developed legal systems.
The American Bar Association (ABA) began in 1878 primarily as an organization dedicated to improving the education of lawyers and establishing ethical standards for the profession.1 The Fund for Justice and Education (FJE) was established in 1961 as the Fund for Public Education. It was formed to allow the ABA to apply for and receive tax-exempt grants and gifts from individuals, private foundations, and government entities.2
The American Bar Association began a hard turn to the left in the 1980s. Though the organization had been giving ostensibly non-partisan ratings of federal judicial nominees since President Dwight Eisenhower requested they do so in 1953, the ABA recently has been accused of rating nominees as much on ideology as on competence and professionalism. Left-leaning nominees typically receive higher ratings than conservatives.3 The ABA has also taken liberal positions on policy issues that have little or nothing to do with its original mission of improving legal education and maintaining ethical standards for lawyers.
The FJE has followed the ABA leftward. The FJE has received funds from the European Union to work to abolish capital punishment,4 produced reports on using the law to fight climate change,5 and advocated for moving selection of state and local judges from election by the people or open selection by elected officials to recommendation by trial-lawyer-dominated committees.6
According to the organization’s tax return for its 2014 fiscal year, the FJE’s top three program activities by spending were the Rule of Law Initiative (ROLI), the Commission on Immigration, and the Center on Children and the Law. The breakdown of program spending was as follows:7
|Rule of Law Initiative||$32,288,144||77.9%|
|Commission on Immigration||$3,670,800||8.9%|
|Center on Children and the Law||$2,613,850||6.3%|
Rule of Law Initiative
According to the ABA, “The mission of the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative is to promote justice, economic opportunity and human dignity through the rule of law.”8 ROLI works in several countries, including Moldova, Mali, Libya, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Guatemala, Haiti, and the Philippines, where the rule of law—especially regarding human rights—is weak, either because an authoritarian government dominates the legal system or there is no longstanding tradition of an independent legal system.
However, in addition to strengthening legal systems, the ROLI seeks to build left-leaning priorities within those systems. For example, ROLI seeks to improve “development outcomes in areas ranging from environmental protection and public health to decent work, gender equality, and poverty alleviation.” ROLI also works to advance LGBT priorities, including same-sex marriage.9
Commission on Immigration
The Commission on Immigration funds and runs several projects for providing pro bono legal services to illegal aliens. Among them are the South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project, the Immigration Justice Project of San Diego, and the Children’s Immigration Law Academy. The general purpose of all these projects is to assure that illegal aliens have legal representation in immigration proceedings.10
Center on Children and the Law
The Center on Children and the Law deals with a number of child-related issues ranging from adoption and foster care to fetal-alcohol syndrome and representation of children and parents. Included among these areas are representation of children in immigration matters and LGBTQ youth in foster care. 11
According to Charity Navigator, in fiscal year 2015, the FJE received over 80 percent of its funding from government grants.12 The FJE’s 2015/2016 and 2014/1015 Annual Reports indicate that these grants came not only from federal government departments and agencies such as the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, State, and Justice, but also from state and local governments and agencies such as North Carolina, the Supreme Court of Ohio, the Louisiana Supreme Court, Connecticut, and the Connecticut Department of Children and Families.
Additionally, the FJE also received grants from foreign governments and international agencies, including the governments of Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Norway; Prince Sultan University of Saudi Arabia; and the United Nations Development Programme.
The FJE receives its remaining funds from various ABA sections, private organizations, and individual contributors. The private organizations include the left-leaning Open Society Foundations endowed by liberal billionaire investor George Soros, the Ford Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Vera Institute of Justice, the Proteus Action League, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. 13 14
- Baldwin, Samuel E. . The Founding of the American Bar Association (1917). Yale Law School. The Digital Commons. Accessed October 20, 2017.
- Fund for Justice and Education.” DEVEX. Accessed October 20, 2017. https://www.devex.com/organizations/american-bar-association-fund-for-justice-and-education-21898
- Cox, Christopher. “FIRST, LET’S KILL THE ABA.” Weekly Standard. February 16, 1997. Accessed October 20, 2017. http://www.weeklystandard.com/first-lets-kill-the-aba/article/9526 .
- Markay, Lachlan. “European Union Financing Efforts to End Death Penalty in U.S.” Washington Free Beacon. October 30, 2013. Accessed January 02, 2018. http://freebeacon.com/issues/european-union-financing-efforts-to-end-death-penalty-in-u-s/
- American Bar Assocation: Standing Committee on Environmental Law. Global Warming II: How the Law Can Best Address Climate Change. Chicago, IL: ABA, 2008.
- Pero, Dan. “PERO: George Soros vs. judicial elections.” The Washington Times. September 10, 2010. Accessed October 25, 2017. http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/sep/10/george-soros-vs-judicial-elections/.
- American Bar Association Fund for Justice and Education, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990), 2014, Part III
- “Rule of Law Initiative/Our Origins and Principles.” American Bar Association. 2017. Accessed October 27, 2017. https://www.americanbar.org/advocacy/rule_of_law/about/origin_principles.html
- American Bar Association . ABA Rule of Law Initiative: Annual Report 2016-2017. Washington, D.C.: ABA, 2017. 2017. Accessed October 27, 2017. https://issuu.com/abaroli2/docs/roliannualrept2017_lowres/4?ff=true&e=30267181/52036452.
- “American Bar Association Commission on Immigration Projects and Initiatives.” American Bar Association. 2017. Accessed October 27, 2017. https://www.americanbar.org/groups/public_services/immigration/projects_initiatives.html.
- “American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law—What We Do” American Bar Association. 2017. Accessed October 27, 2017. https://www.americanbar.org/groups/child_law/what_we_do.html.
- “Rating for American Bar Association Fund for Justice and Education.” Charity Navigator. Accessed January 02, 2018. https://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summary&orgid=3241.
- ABA Fund for Justice and Education. ABA Fund for Justice and Education Annual Report 2014/2015. Chicago, IL: ABA, 2015.
- ABA Fund for Justice and Education. ABA Fund for Justice and Education Annual Report 2015/2016. Chicago, IL: ABA, 2016.