by Jasmine Banks, Executive Director, UnKoch My Campus
A new report by UnKoch My Campus calls on George Mason University to disaffiliate from its Law and Economics Center and encourages activists to organize against the appointment or election of judges trained by the program, among other recommendations.
For decades, the Law and Economics Center at George Mason University has hosted educational seminars for judges, attorneys general, and other judicial staff at both the federal and state levels. These seminars are funded and influenced by corporations and conservative foundations with the goal of cultivating a talent pipeline of ideologically-groomed lawyers, legal scholars, and judicial candidates to reshape our nation’s judiciary.
Attendance at just one of the programs between 1976-1999 led judges to issue longer prison sentences and overturn regulations protecting workers and the environment, according to a recent study comparing opinions issued by judges before and after attending George Mason University’s Henry G. Manne Programs in Law & Economics.
“This evidence demonstrates how wealthy donors are leveraging their capital to subvert accountability and shape our public institutions in favor of their private interests,” says UnKoch’s Executive Director, Jasmine Banks. “This infiltration deepens the structural inequities that undeniably harm Black, Indigenous, and Latinx communities. The corruption of our judicial system is a direct link to for-profit prisons, legislators who are anti-choice, and deregulation of environmental protection.”
Last month, the Washington Post exposed how our nation’s courts have been manipulated by one key conservative activist– Leonard Leo, the Vice President of the Federalist Society. Leo plays a critical role in advising Donald Trump on federal judicial nominees, and he has been using dark money funds to inject millions of dollars into mass advertising and media campaigns to garner support for the confirmation of those nominees.
This report builds on the Post’s reporting to highlight the ways Leonard Leo is using those same dark money funds, along with the Charles Koch Foundation, to influence George Mason University’s Law School. It also exposes the intent of the Law and Economics Center to “take advantage” of the “once-in-a-generation opportunity” provided by Donald Trump’s presidency “to shape the contours of federal law for decades to come.”
“A public university should not be facilitating this type of ideological-grooming of our nation’s judges,” Banks added. “We are calling on our peers who organize for racial justice, economic justice, and environmental and reproductive justice to join us in this fight. We will not allow this takeover to happen quietly. We demand transparency and accountability.”