September 28, 2023

The Heart of the Progressive Legal Movement

Russ Feingold President

A cursory glance through the news on any given day underscores our country’s defining struggle between pursuing the promise of a multiracial democracy and succumbing to the rising threat of authoritarianism. Never in my lifetime has the fate of the United States felt so uncertain. What keeps me motivated and convinced that democracy will persevere is the power of the progressive legal movement and the impact of our members. This is why I am asking you to become a member of ACS today.

ACS and its members have never been more important than they are today. Here’s why. There is an organized, well-funded far-Right movement focused on preserving conservative, white rule in this country. It’s a movement that is keenly aware that it represents a minority of Americans and cannot rely on popular support to achieve its goals. Instead, it must hijack our institutions, gerrymander electoral maps, and pursue radical rewriting of the Constitution in order to preserve white supremacy. We see this in how the Right packed the Supreme Court with partisan ideologues, how conservatives have gained control of state legislatures through gerrymandering and voter suppression, and how conservatives are abusing their power to remove or threaten to remove elected officials who dare to oppose their agenda. Overriding all of this is the enduring threat of election subversion, with factions of the far Right increasingly indifferent, even hostile to the will of the American people.

What do these threats have in common? The law. That’s why ACS and the progressive legal movement are so vitally important. It is not enough to object to the far Right’s manipulation of our laws and institutions. We need an organized movement to counter the Right’s work to control our courts and legislatures. We need a nationwide network of lawyers, judges, scholars, students, elected officials, and advocates committed to upholding the rule of law, vindicating our fundamental freedoms, and securing the promise of a multiracial democracy. That’s ACS.

Over the past year, I have met with dozens of our ACS chapters, from Texas to Wisconsin, from New York to Arizona. I am consistently inspired by the engagement and expertise of our chapters. Each chapter is engaged on both the most impactful national issues, from the need for Supreme Court reform to the threat of an Article V convention, and on legal issues playing out locally in their states and communities. In addition to hosting dozens of programs every year that shape the legal debate, our chapters host candidate forums come election time, participate in peaceful protests on campus and in their communities to support allies and progressive reform, and connect ACS members with job opportunities and resources.

Here is just a sampling of how our nearly 200 student and lawyer chapters are advancing the progressive legal movement:

  • An ACS Student Chapter in Philadelphia is preparing to host a Leaders from Law program, recruiting and training law students and new lawyers interested in running for office.
  • The ACS Washington State Lawyer Chapter is organizing an information session on preserving interstate abortion access.
  • An ACS Student Chapter in Boston is working on solutions for the student debt crisis with leading experts and elected officials.
  • Ohio ACS chapters are planning an informational program on statewide ballot initiatives ahead of this November’s election.
  • A Washington, DC Student Chapter volunteered for Constitution in the Classroom, teaching civics lessons to DC-area high school students.

In addition to their day-to-day advocacy and mobilization, our chapters are part of our progressive legal pipeline. Today’s law students and lawyers are tomorrow’s judges, elected officials, and non-profit leaders. The Right has understood the importance of a legal pipeline for decades, investing in future generations to ensure long-term control of our institutions. We are the counterpunch, with the country’s foremost progressive legal pipeline. It is this pipeline that has made us the only progressive organization in the country with 55 working groups in 42 states working to identify and recruit diverse, qualified judicial candidates. Of President Biden’s 143 appointed judges thus far, roughly a third were recommended by ACS or are otherwise affiliated with ACS. And we are expanding this work to more and more states, identifying and recruiting diverse, qualified candidates for state courts that are on the frontlines of today’s legal challenges.

Let me be clear, ACS is not only for lawyers. Our laws and legal systems impact all of us. You don’t need to be a doctor to advocate for healthcare reform. You don’t have to be a scientist to engage on climate policy. And you don’t have to be a lawyer to join the progressive legal movement and advocate for Supreme Court reform, upholding the rule of law, and vindicating our fundamental freedoms.

If you are already a member of the American Constitution Society. Thank you! Your support makes ACS possible, from our chapters to our issue advocacy and to our work to diversify the federal bench.

If you are not a member of ACS, I urge you to become a member today. We need your expertise, your voice, and your support. Join ACS today.