People For the American Way

People For: Biden Judges Offer Glimmer of Hope on Lower Courts  

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 14, 2022

Contact: Press Department at People For the American Way

Email: [email protected]

Phone Number: 202-467-4999

Washington, DC –While the far-right dominated Supreme Court continues to wreak havoc with Americans’ rights and freedoms, Biden judges on the lower federal courts are ruling in ways that are having dramatic positive impacts on individual people’s lives, according to a new report from People For the American Way.  The report, “Biden Judges: A Glimmer of Hope on the Lower Courts,”  highlights 11 cases in which Biden judges’ decisions have upheld workers’ rights, fair elections, environmental and corporate justice, and the rights of individuals to protection against government abuses and improprieties.

“It is heartening to see new judges on the federal courts protecting people’s rights and making a positive difference in real people’s lives, especially when the Supreme Court is on such a dangerous and destructive path,” said Elliot Mincberg, People For the American Way senior fellow and the author of the report. “This is why it’s so important for the Senate to continue prioritizing the confirmation of President Biden’s lower court judicial nominees between now and the end of the year. These are perilous times for our democracy, and the lower courts are a vital line of defense against forces that want to turn back the clock on our rights.”

“Courts matter, who sits on those courts matters, and elections really matter because they determine all of those things,” said Ben Jealous, president of People For the American Way. “One of the biggest reasons to get out and vote this November is that we will be choosing the people who have power over who gets confirmed to federal courts. We’re already seeing how Biden judges are helping real people in real cases, and we have to keep that momentum going.”

The new report notes that as of September 13, the Senate has confirmed 80 Biden nominees to federal courts, 20 of them for circuit courts. As of September 13, the Senate had yet to take action on 16 such nominees, while 4 more vacancies awaited nominations.

Highlights of the report include the following cases and more: 

Elections:  In a case with enormous implications for our elections, Judge Toby Heytens held that citizens and states can bar people from holding office if they have taken part in an insurrection such as the one that took place on January 6 – a ruling that overturned one by a Trump judge.

Workers’ Rights and DiscriminationIn one featured case, Judge Candace Jackson-Akiwumi cast the deciding vote that overturned a Trump district judge in an age discrimination case filed by a 61-year-old worker.  In another, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson (while sitting on the DC Circuit) wrote a unanimous decision protecting federal workers’ bargaining rights and overturning a Trump-era rule that would have allowed their managers to “pile on extra hours, limit telework, cut comp time, and slash benefits.”  

Environmental and Corporate Justice: In one timely case, Judge Candace Jackson-Akiwumi wrote a decision ruling that students who paid tuition for in-person classes should be able to seek refunds for classes cancelled due to COVID-19. In a case with significant implications for the environment, Judge Toby Heytens reversed a Trump district judge and determined that citizens could use the Clean Water Act to sue a corporation that was polluting the water.

Protecting Individuals Against Government Mistreatment: In a case involving alleged political attacks on an environmental activist, Judge Veronica Rossman’s decision allowed the activist to take officials to court for their abuses, including holding closed meetings and filing trumped-up criminal charges against her. In another case, Judge Lucy Koh cast the deciding vote that allowed an individual to file a complaint in federal court when his state-appointed lawyer did not provide effective representation.

About People For the American Way People For the American Way is a progressive advocacy organization founded to fight right-wing extremism and build a democratic society that implements the ideals of freedom, equality, opportunity and justice for all. We encourage civic participation, defend fundamental rights, and fight to dismantle systemic barriers to equitable opportunity. Learn more: