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Kelly Franklin, Director of Media Relations, Berkeley Law, 646-262-3441

National figures from law, politics, news and higher education
to gather to discuss growing threats to the judiciary

Berkeley, CA (April 26, 2022) — Nearly 40 major figures from the legal, judicial, political, academic and media worlds will gather in Chicago on May 26 to discuss growing threats to the independence and impartiality of courts in the United States and other democracies, and how to fight back. 

Democracy’s Last Line of Defense: A Symposium on Why and How to Preserve the Rule of Law and an Independent, Impartial Judiciary will take place Thursday, May 26, at The Old Post Office in Chicago. Full details, including a link to register, can be found here

Confirmed speakers include:

  • Judge Jeremey Fogel (ret.) moderating a panel on the Future of the Supreme Court
  • Dean of UC Berkeley School of Law, author and frequent commentator Erwin Chemerinsky
  • Former United States Senator Doug Jones (D-Ala.), who will give the keynote
  • Six current and former justices of state and U.S. territorial supreme courts, four of them chief justices, including Tani Cantil-Sakauye of California and Anne M. Burke of Illinois
  • Ukraine Supreme Court Justice Ganna Vronska
  • Current American Bar Association President Reginald Turner and former ABA President Judy Perry Martinez
  • Former Republican National Committee Chair and Montana Governor Marc Racicot
  • Current and former state and federal judges
  • Equal Justice Society President and Co-Founder Eva Paterson
  • NYU School of Law Stokes Professor of Law Melissa Murray
  • Mother Jones Magazine Bureau Chief and MSNBC on-air analyst David Corn
  • Former Newsweek legal affairs editor David A. Kaplan, author of “The Most Dangerous Branch: Inside the Supreme Court in the Age of Trump.” 
  • Berkeley Law Professor Andrew Bradt

The daylong event will feature panel discussions on a wide range of threats to the impartiality and independence of courts, including partisan pressure, disinformation spread through social media, and racial bias. For example, the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law reported that in 2021, legislators in 16 state introduced 37 bills that would have put pressure or restrictions on judicial decision-making, targeted individual judges for unpopular rulings, or taken away courts’ authority to manage their own rules or resources. Five such bills were enacted.

The penultimate portion of the symposium will have speakers and audience members mix in groups to brainstorm ideas on how to counter these threats.

Registration for the symposium is $395 for law firm professionals and $145 for all others and includes a reception the evening before at the Fairmont Chicago at Millennium Park.

The event is being organized by the Berkeley Judicial Institute of the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, the International Academy of Trial Lawyers, the Berkeley Law Civil Justice Research Initiative, The National Judicial College, and Robins Kaplan LLP.

Hon. Jeremy Fogel (ret.), Executive Director of the Berkeley Judicial Institute, said: “As a nation, we are confronting historical challenges to our institutions. An extraordinary faculty has agreed to participate in this program, which will explore those challenges and propose ways of meeting them.  We hope that you’ll join us in Chicago.”
Roman Silberfeld, Chair of the Advisory Board of the Civil Justice Research Initiative, immediate past president of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers and a partner at the law firm Robins Kaplan LLP, said: “Many people know about the decline of democracy and ascent of totalitarian regimes across the globe. Fewer realize that independent, impartial judiciaries act as a guardrail for a free society. This event is about finding ways to guard the guardrail.”

National Judicial College President Benes Aldana noted that a survey of the College’s more than 13,000 alumni suggested that 9 out of 10 judges believe judicial independence is threatened.

“Judges understand the stakes of having courts rigged to serve partisan or other special interests rather than the rule of law,” he said. “This symposium is just one example of our standing up for judicial independence, which the Model Code of Judicial Conduct compels all judges to do.”

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