Defending Our Democracy

March 6, 2017
2016 fair courts

Our courts have always played a crucial role in maintaining our country’s checks and balances. Judicial independence is crucial for protecting our democracy and in 2017, this is more critical than ever. 

In 2016, outside spending by interest groups dominated judicial elections like never before. This threatens the impartiality of our nation’s court system, a balance that is crucial to our democracy. 

Even so, Wellstone partners worked to successfully defend justices under attack in many states, including Kansas, Alaska, New Mexico, Arizona, and Florida.

Carin Schiewe, senior project manager for Wellstone’s fair courts project, emphasizes the gravity of this work in 2017: “We’re at a critical moment and the work that Wellstone is doing could make the difference.” 

“We’re at a critical moment and the work that Wellstone is doing could make the difference.” 

In December of 2016, Wellstone hosted a fair courts convening in Chicago, Illinois. 50 participants from 20 states came together to connect, build community and support each other in strategic planning for the year ahead.

By and far the most powerful takeaway for the fair courts participants was a powerful sense of community. In this moment, this work which always has felt isolating by nature, weighs heavily in its urgency. 

In addition to convening and supporting state-based fair courts work from across the country, Wellstone is also working to develop a training curriculum targeted at community organizers, with the goal of increasing the number of organizations that are engaged in protecting the courts. 

“We can’t just reach the people who already do fair courts work,” says Adriana Barboza, Wellstone’s Director of Movement Building, “so we’re building a framework around democracy issues, why it’s important, how the courts function, how a judge becomes a judge, etc. There’s a big “aha” moment for a lot of people when they see how it all fits together and connects to their issues.”

The curriculum is designed to connect activists with an understanding of how their existing work intersects with the courts. Adriana explains, “Community organizers need to see democracy issues not as separate issues, but issues that are woven into their everyday advocacy.”

2017 is a year where Wellstone will continue to dig in on the rules of the game – from protecting our courts to ramping up for redistricting battles and combating voter suppression, our movement building team is fired up to protect our democracy on all fronts.

Read more about Wellstone's Movement Building work