Non-profit

Take Back the Court

Website:

www.takebackthecourt.today/

Location:

SAN FRANCISCO, CA

Tax ID:

84-2145297

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(3)

Formation:

2019

The Take Back the Court Foundation, referred to as Take Back the Court, is a left-of-center advocacy group which aims to add seats to the United States Supreme Court once Democrats gain control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate in order to effectively nullify Republican Supreme Court appointments. Take Back the Court has taken several radical stances, including denying the possibility of an independent judiciary and refusing to back Democratic candidates who refuse to consider “packing” the Supreme Court.

Take Back the Court’s advisory board is filled with Democratic activists and left-progressive legal scholars, but several high-profile liberal leaders, including Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and former Vice President Joe Biden, have come out in opposition to the organization’s mission.

History

In 2019, Aaron Belkin and Kate Kendell founded Take Back the Court in response to President Donald Trump’s appointments of Justice Neil Gorsuch and Justice Brett Kavanaugh. According to Take Back the Court, the Supreme Court has since “broken democracy” by failing to mandate liberal electoral system-related policies from the bench. [1]

The group refers to the Supreme Court as holding an “extremist majority,” and argues that the court was “stolen” from President Barack Obama, alleging that the Senate’s lawful exercise of its authority not to confirm Judge Merrick Garland, Obama’s 2016 nominee to the seat of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, was “an unprecedented theft in U.S. history.” [2]

Take Back the Court inconsistently applies its own principles along explicitly partisan grounds, arguing that “as soon as the Democrats return to power in 2020,” Democrats must abolish the Senate filibuster and pass a law to add seats in the Supreme Court in order to “nullify the stolen and illegitimate seats” and implement left-of-center laws. [3] Take Back the Court further openly advocates for partisan interests to shape the actions of the judiciary. [4]

Take Back the Court has been opposed even by left-of-center figures, including current Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In June 2019, Justice Ginsburg came out in strong opposition to the proposal to expand the Supreme Court, arguing that doing so would make the Supreme Court appear partisan and contradict the idea of an independent judiciary. [5] Take Back the Court tried to explain away Ginsburg’s opposition on the organization’s blog, arguing that “it is not her role to say that the Court has become a political institution co-opted by Republicans, or to call for reforms.” [6]

Take Back the Court has since taken several strong stances on the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination contest, criticizing former Vice President Joe Biden for expressing the idea that the parties should not attempt to change the constitutional principles legislatively. The organization responded by saying that Biden should not be taken seriously as a presidential candidate if he “doesn’t get that SCOTUS will trash the entire progressive agenda.” [7]

Studies

Take Back the Court does most of its work through publishing purported studies and polling results. In September 2019, they published a report claiming that Republicans blocked the nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court in order to overturn legislation designed to combat climate change. [8] The report argues that when future legislation is passed in 2021, after Democrats supposedly regain federal power, that Chief Justice John Roberts will declare it unconstitutional under readings of the Constitution that have not been given any weight since the 1930s, citing that conservatives used unprecedented legal arguments against the Affordable Care Act. [9] The argument ignores the fact that Roberts himself upheld the Affordable Care Act. [10]

Most of Take Back the Court’s “studies” are based in speculation about what the court might do regarding potential legislative acts based on prior actions on different cases. In March 2019, Take Back the Court speculated that the Supreme Court would strike down a potential house resolution (H.R.1) to prevent partisan gerrymandering. [11] The study speculates on potential arguments that justices might make, rather than those they have actually made, relying on principles from decades ago laid out by other justices no longer on the Supreme Court to claim that other conservative justices might follow the same reasoning. [12] Take Back the Court cites arguments from conservative think tanks, statements from other Republican officials, and philosophical ideals about federalism as “evidence” to argue that the Supreme Court will strike down legislation that aims to end partisan gerrymandering, relying on speculation rather than empirical evidence. [13] Other studies have focused on disparaging Chief Justice John Roberts as a “right-wing” conservative, arguing for Supreme Court expansion, and speculating that the Supreme Court may invalidate D.C. statehood. [14]

Polling

Take Back the Court has also conducted several polls on voter opinions of the Supreme Court. One January 2019 poll revealed that partisan priming has significant effects on low-information voters’ opinions of Supreme Court justices, and that voters who are given the partisan label of the President who appointed Supreme Court justices report lower overall faith in the Supreme Court’s neutrality. [15]

A May 2019 Take Back the Court messaging poll argues that after being told that Republican corporate interests resulted in the appointment of President Trump’s Supreme Court Justices, a majority of Democrats favor Court expansion. [16] Only 24 percent of voters who were not primed with any politically charged information supported adding seats to the Supreme Court. [17]

Take Back the Court has opposed the very idea of an independent judiciary, with director Aaron Belkin telling the Daily Signal that there can be no “objective” court, and that it is healthy for the public to see a political dimension to justice. [18] Belkin has further argued that when Democrats gain control of government once again, they should expand the court to have as many additional seats as justices President Trump is able to appoint because he “acquired the presidency illegitimately.” [19]

People and Funding

Because Take Back the Court was founded in 2019, funding data from the Internal Revenue Service is not yet available.

Several high-level Democratic operatives serve on Take Back the Court’s advisory board, including activists and far-left legal scholars. Kate Kendell and Aaron Belkin founded Take Back the Court, and Belkin currently serves as its director. [20] Kendell leads the National Center for Lesbian Rights, an LGBT-interest advocacy center which pushes left-progressive social policy through lobbying and litigation. [21] Kendell also worked as an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah. [22] Belkin is the founding director of the Palm Center, an organization designed to promote LGBT interests in the military. [23] Belkin also is a professor of political science at San Francisco State University. [24]

Take Back the Court’s advisory board consists mostly of legal scholars and professors, with Mark Tushnet serving as chair of the board. [25] Tushnet is the Cromwell Professor of Law at Harvard Law School who served as a former law clerk to Justice Thurgood Marshall. [26] In 2016, Tushnet wrote an opinion piece to advocate for massive liberal overhaul of the judiciary, advocating for liberal judges to compile a list of cases to be “overruled at the first opportunity on the ground that they were wrong the day they were decided.” [27] In the same opinion piece, Tushnet advocated treating conservatives like defeated Confederate soldiers after the Civil War and overrule their opinions on all matters of law, “aggressively” exploiting loopholes in case law, and asserting “f— [then-Supreme Court Justice] Anthony Kennedy.” [28]

Take Back the Court’s advisory board also features a number of left-wing activists, including W. Kamau Bell, a CNN Host and ACLU ambassador for racial justice. [29] Alicia Garza, a credited founder of the Black Lives Matter campaign, also sits on the board of Take Back the Court. Garza also serves as special projects director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance, a left-of-center labor advocacy nonprofit. [30] Wolfson is the founder of Freedom to Marry, the campaign which pushed to secure state recognition same-sex marriage in the United States. [31]

References

  1. “Mission.” Take Back the Court. Accessed November 6, 2019. https://www.takebackthecourt.today/mission. ^
  2. “Mission.” Take Back the Court. Accessed November 6, 2019. https://www.takebackthecourt.today/mission. ^
  3. “Mission.” Take Back the Court. Accessed November 6, 2019. https://www.takebackthecourt.today/mission. ^
  4. “Nine Presidential Candidates Are Open to Expanding Supreme Court.” PR Newswire, June 21, 2019. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/nine-presidential-candidates-are-open-to-expanding-supreme-court-300872938.html. ^
  5. Higgins, Tucker. “Ruth Bader Ginsburg Says She Opposes Proposals from 2020 Democrats to Expand the Supreme Court.” CNBC. CNBC, July 24, 2019.

    https://www.cnbc.com/2019/07/24/ruth-bader-ginsburg-says-she-opposes-expanding-the-supreme-court.html. ^

  6. Belkin, Aaron. “Take Back the Court Response to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Comments on

    Court Expansion.” Take Back the Court. Take Back the Court, July 24, 2019. https://www.takebackthecourt.today/blog/take-back-the-court-response-to-justice-ruth-bader-ginsburgs-comments-on-court-expansion. ^

  7. Belkin, Aaron. “If Biden Doesn’t Get That SCOTUS Will Trash Entire Progressive Agenda, He

    Shouldn’t Be Taken Seriously as a Candidate.” Take Back the Court. Take Back the Court, August 21, 2019. https://www.takebackthecourt.today/blog/biden. ^

  8. “SCOTUS Likely to Overturn Climate Change Legislation.” Take Back the Court. Accessed November 6, 2019. https://www.takebackthecourt.today/scotus-will-overturn-climate-change-legislation. ^
  9. “SCOTUS Likely to Overturn Climate Change Legislation.” Take Back the Court. Accessed November 6, 2019. https://www.takebackthecourt.today/scotus-will-overturn-climate-change-legislation. ^
  10. Mullaney, Tim. “Don’t Worry: The Supreme Court Won’t Condemn Us to Climate Disaster.” MarketWatch, September 19, 2019. https://www.marketwatch.com/story/dont-worry-the-supreme-court-wont-condemn-us-to-climate-disaster-2019-09-19. ^
  11. “Supreme Court May Invalidate H.R.1.” Take Back the Court. Accessed November 6, 2019. https://www.takebackthecourt.today/supreme-court-may-invalidate-hr1. ^
  12. “Supreme Court May Invalidate H.R.1.” Take Back the Court. March 2019. https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5ce33e8da6bbec0001ea9543/t/5d02cc1f5e7910000147db44/1560464415512/supreme_court_HR_v6.pdf ^
  13. “Supreme Court May Invalidate H.R.1.” Take Back the Court. March 2019. https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5ce33e8da6bbec0001ea9543/t/5d02cc1f5e7910000147db44/1560464415512/supreme_court_HR_v6.pdf ^
  14. “Studies.” Take Back the Court. Accessed November 6, 2019. https://www.takebackthecourt.today/studies. ^
  15. “Partisan Priming has Significant Effects on Voters’ Opinions of Justices.” Take Back the Court. January 29, 2019. https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5ce33e8da6bbec0001ea9543/t/5cffba62dab73e000160983c/1560263268095/Partisan+priming.pdf ^
  16. “Democratic Voters Approve of Court Expansion.” Take Back the Court. Accessed November 6, 2019. https://www.takebackthecourt.today/democratic-voters-approve-of-court-expansion. ^
  17. “Democratic Voters Approve of Court Expansion.” Take Back the Court. May 8, 2019.https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5ce33e8da6bbec0001ea9543/t/5cffba426301730001b7fc2e/1560263235111/Democratic+Voters+Approve+of+Court+Expansion.pdf ^
  18. Lucas, Fred. “Left Targets High Court With ‘Packing’ Threat, Activist Nominees ‘Shortlist’.” The Daily Signal, October 17, 2019. https://www.dailysignal.com/2019/10/16/the-left-targets-supreme-court-with-packing-threat-shortlist-of-activist-nominees/. ^
  19. Lucas, Fred. “Left Targets High Court With ‘Packing’ Threat, Activist Nominees ‘Shortlist’.” The Daily Signal, October 17, 2019. https://www.dailysignal.com/2019/10/16/the-left-targets-supreme-court-with-packing-threat-shortlist-of-activist-nominees/. ^
  20. Chronicle Staff Report. “Bay Area Political Events: Impeachment Town Hall, Taking Back the Court.” SFChronicle.com. San Francisco Chronicle, September 30, 2019. https://www.sfchronicle.com/politics/article/Bay-Area-political-events-Impeachment-forum-14473055.php. ^
  21. “Kate Kendell.” Center for the Study of Social Policy. Accessed November 6, 2019.

    https://cssp.org/team/kate-kendell/. ^

  22. “Kate Kendell.” Center for the Study of Social Policy. Accessed November 6, 2019. https://cssp.org/team/kate-kendell/. ^
  23. Belkin, Aaron. “Aaron Belkin.” AaronBelkin.org. Accessed November 6, 2019. http://aaronbelkin.org/. ^
  24. “Faculty.” Department of Political Science. Accessed November 6, 2019. https://politicalscience.sfsu.edu/people/25287/aaron-belkin. ^
  25. “Advisory Board.” Take Back the Court. Accessed November 6, 2019. https://www.takebackthecourt.today/board. ^
  26. “Advisory Board.” Take Back the Court. Accessed November 6, 2019. https://www.takebackthecourt.today/board. ^
  27. Tushnet, Mark. “Abandoning Defensive-Crouch Liberal Constitutionalism.” Balkinization, May 6, 2016. https://balkin.blogspot.com/2016/05/abandoning-defensive-crouch-liberal.html. ^
  28. Tushnet, Mark. “Abandoning Defensive-Crouch Liberal Constitutionalism.” Balkinization, May 6, 2016. https://balkin.blogspot.com/2016/05/abandoning-defensive-crouch-liberal.html. ^
  29. “Advisory Board.” Take Back the Court. Accessed November 6, 2019. https://www.takebackthecourt.today/board. ^
  30. “Advisory Board.” Take Back the Court. Accessed November 6, 2019. https://www.takebackthecourt.today/board. ^
  31. “Advisory Board.” Take Back the Court. Accessed November 6, 2019. https://www.takebackthecourt.today/board. ^

Directors, Employees & Supporters

  1. Alicia Garza
    Advisory Board Member
  2. Sean McElwee
    Director of Research and Polling
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: May - April
  • Tax Exemption Received: July 1, 2019

  • Available Filings

    No filings available.

    Take Back the Court

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