Justice at Stake




Tax ID:


DUNS Number:


Tax-Exempt Status:


Budget (2015):

Revenue: $2,042,794
Expenses: $2,490,865
Assets: $1,143,511





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Justice at Stake was an advocacy group promoting restrictions on judicial selection for state courts. The organization supported indirect selection of state judges by panels stacked by state bar associations and opposes judicial elections and federal-style judicial appointment processes.1

The organization was suspected to have a liberal bent, and it had received financial support from left-wing foundations including ones associated with billionaire financier George Soros.2 The group opposed Supreme Court jurisprudence allowing more organizations to exercise election-related free speech, in alignment with the liberal agenda.3 Senior staff at Justice at Stake have liberal records, having worked for the Clinton administration, the Human Rights Campaign, and the Brennan Center for Justice, among other liberal groups.

JAS claimed it was a counterweight to special interest groups who are, “spending millions to influence decisions and elect judges to serve their narrow interest.”4 Critics claimed that the “merit selection” or “Missouri Plan” advocated by Justice at Stake empowers the trial bar and more progressive special interests.5

In 2017, Justice at Stake shut down its operations due to a lack of fundraising and decrease in donations. 6 As of 2023, the status of the organization remains defunct.


The group focused on judicial elections and the influence of money in races for court seats nationwide. JAS publishes periodic reports on campaign contributions to judicial candidates nationwide.7

The group ran public relations activities on behalf of Justice at Stake’s agenda. Scott Greytak, senior policy counsel for JAS, used the popularity of “Making of a Murderer” to urge policymakers and the public to move away from a judicial system that elects judges.8

The group also took an active role in advocacy on ballot measures that increase democratic accountability in state court systems. Justice at Stake spent $27,000 backing a Nevada measure to replace nonpartisan election of judges with a panel selection process.9

A Justice at Stake board member, Robert S. Peck, was lead counsel for liberal Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Shirley Abrahamson, who unsuccessfully challenged a ballot measure that shifted the Chief Justice position from the longest-serving justice to the justice chosen by a majority of the Court.10 Abrahamson had been Chief Justice, but the Court voted to elevate conservative Justice Patience Roggensack after the ballot measure.11


JAS reported just more than $1.7 million in revenue in 2014, and spent more than $2.65 million.12 The group reported more than $1.4 million in revenue for 2013, and spent more than $2.7 million that year.13

Justice at Stake partially disclosed its contributors. Since its inception in 2000, the following entities have donated to JAS, according to the organization:14

Justice at Stake received some contributions from donor-advised funds, including the Fidelity Investments Charitable Gift Fund.15 Donor-advised funds were used by contributors to mask their involvement in causes.


Attorney Susan Liss served at the JAS executive director, a post she took in 2016.16 She boasted a long resume as a staffer to notable Democrats. She served as the director of federal-state relations for Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, as chief of staff to Second Lady Tipper Gore, and as counsel to Vice President Al Gore.  She also worked for progressive legal policy shop the Brennan Center.17 She reportedly boasts close ties to former Secretary of State John Kerry.[1]

Prior to Liss, Liz Seaton acted as interim executive director, whilst Seaton remained a senior adviser to Justice at Stake when Liss took the position. She previously worked for numerous LGBT rights groups including the Human Rights Campaign and liberal legal policy advocacy group American Constitution Society.18

Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor served as the group’s honorary chair. She had previously served as spokesperson on a progressive-backed campaign in Nevada for the merit selection program and was defended by Justice at Stake when opponents of the measure alleged her involvement violated judicial conduct guidelines.19


  1. Simon, Ammon. “Re: Governor Brownback’s Stellar Judicial Appointment.” National Review. August 30, 2013. Accessed April 04, 2017.
  2. Lott, Maxim. “Billionaire George Soros Trying To Stack the Courts, Critics Say.” Fox News. June 27, 2011. Accessed March 21, 2017.
  3. “U.S Supreme Court & Other Litigation.” Justice at Stake. Accessed April 04, 2017.
  4. “Justice at Stake’s Mission – JAS,” Justice at Stake, accessed November 22, 2016,
  5. Marx, Gary. “2010 State Court Election Roundup.” National Review. November 04, 2010. Accessed April 04, 2017.
  6. Weiss, Debera Cassens. “Justice at Stake, a group dedicated to impartial courts, closes amid funding woes.” Abajournal, June 27, 2017.
  7. “The New Politics of Judicial Elections, Bankrolling the Bench,” The New Politics of Judicial Elections, 2016, accessed November 22, 2016,
  8. Greytack, Scott. ‘Making a murderer’ Ignores Impact of Judicial Elections,” Wisconsin State Journal, January 25, 2016, accessed November 22, 2016,–/article_3c711a54-3a7d-58ec-81ae-3617f22be417.html.
  9. National Institute on Money in State Politics. “JUSTICE AT STAKE.” Follow The Money. Accessed April 05, 2017.
  10. “The Monarch of Madison.” The Wall Street Journal. April 09, 2015. Accessed April 05, 2017.
  11. Marley, Patrick. “Patience Roggensack to stay chief justice for now, after judge rules.” Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. May 15, 2015. Accessed April 5, 2017.
  12. Justice at Stake, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990), 2014
  13. Justice at Stake, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990), 2014
  14. “Justice at Stake Funders.” Justice at Stake. Accessed April 05, 2017.
  15. Data compiled by subscription service, a project of Metasoft Systems, Inc., from forms filed with the Internal Revenue Service. Accessed April 5, 2017.
  16. “Susan Liss, Executive Director – JAS,” Justice at Stake, accessed November 22, 2016,
  17. “Susan M. Liss to Join Justice at Stake as Executive Director – JAS,” Justice at Stake, accessed November 22, 2016,
  18. “Liz Seaton, Senior Advisor.” Justice at Stake. Accessed April 04, 2017.
  19. Whelan, Ed. “Misplaying the Victim Card on Behalf of O’Connor.” National Review. November 01, 2010. Accessed April 05, 2017.
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Nonprofit Information

Available Filings

Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
2015 Dec Form 990 $2,042,794 $2,490,865 $1,143,511 $69,659 N $1,953,265 $0 $252 $150,238 PDF
2014 Dec Form 990 $1,706,223 $2,565,601 $1,612,984 $91,061 N $1,691,312 $0 $14,911 $680,787 PDF
2013 Dec Form 990 $1,446,673 $2,731,491 $2,458,078 $76,777 N $1,440,230 $0 $6,443 $184,850 PDF
2012 Dec Form 990 $2,945,681 $1,878,615 $3,793,546 $127,427 N $2,944,913 $0 $768 $183,070 PDF
2011 Dec Form 990 $2,531,571 $1,382,149 $2,638,989 $39,936 N $2,529,825 $0 $1,746 $258,983 PDF
2010 Dec Form 990 $1,863,815 $1,446,293 $1,508,947 $59,316 N $1,862,120 $0 $1,695 $150,346 PDF

Additional Filings (PDFs)

Justice at Stake

1220 19TH ST NW STE 320
WASHINGTON, DC 20036-2462