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William J. Brennan Center for Justice, Inc.

Grantee:         William J. Brennan Center for Justice, Inc.
Ranking:         19th highest grantee, 2005 – 2009
Received:        $4,571,000
Type:              Public Policy and Law Institute
Issues:            Campaign Finance Reform, Racial Justice, Criminal Law

About:  The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law proudly describes itself as “a singular institution” for its combination of advocacy, research, lobbying, and direct legal action.  This hybrid think-tank and public interest law firm openly advocates for left-wing causes while presenting itself as a “non-partisan” and scholarly entity and drawing on the institutional support of a law school.

Brennan Center activism ranges from filing amicus briefs and providing counsel in controversial cases, to producing biased research and testimony, to lending support to or directly organizing advocacy groups.

Soros’s “Open Society” ambitions are demonstrated throughout the Brennan Center’s ideological priorities:

  • Voter Empowerment:  The Brennan Center has taken a lead in opposing voter I.D. laws; promoting the right of felons to vote, and reforming redistricting in ways that “defend minority civil rights” and the Voting Rights Act.  Claiming that Florida’s H.B. 1355 will restrict the ability of blacks and Hispanics to register and exercise their right to vote, the Brennan Center is representing the radical group La Raza and others in legal challenges to the law.
  • Campaign Finance Reform:  The Center is leading both legal and activist challenges to the Citizens United decision.  It advocates for public funding for judicial and other campaigns.
  • Racial Justice:  The Center supports “increased racial and gender diversity on the bench”; produces research to support claims of racial profiling and discrimination, and lobbies against purported racial disparities in policing and prosecution.
  •  Poverty Activism:  The Center has represented A.C.O.R.N. in legal battles to impose “Living Wage” laws; tried to end fees and fines for low-income convicts, and lobbies for increases in public spending on and ever-widening range of legal services.
  • Opposing National Security Measures: The Center’s Liberty and National Security Program opposes anti-terrorism security measures put into place by the federal government and the N.Y.P.D. following 9/11.
  • Building Activist Networks:  The Center’s vaguely named Community Oriented Defender Network, a coalition of public defenders and community groups, opposes legislative restrictions designed to restrict the use of public funding to subsidize activism and lobbying by public defenders and other “offender services” providers.  The CODN argues that any “holistic” interpretation of criminal defense must necessarily include funding to lobby for “racial justice,” increased resources for offenders, and for reducing financial and legal consequences for crimes.  The CODN is one building-block in the growing field of “re-entry” services, a priority of the Holder Justice Department.  The CODN is modeled directly on Open Society strategies for maximizing public funding for partisan activism aimed at increasing the tax burdens and growing bureaucracies.

The Brennan Center’s affiliation with New York University School of Law typifies the extreme political double standard practiced by academics who loudly denounce educational endowments from conservatives while accepting funding — and even subsidies for direct action — from wealthy leftists for the promotion of openly leftist causes through the universities.

Mission Statement: The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law is a non-partisan public policy and law institute that focuses on the fundamental issues of democracy and justice. Our work ranges from voting rights to campaign finance reform, from racial justice in criminal law to Constitutional protection in the fight against terrorism. A singular institution — part think tank, part public interest law firm, part advocacy group — the Brennan Center combines scholarship, legislative and legal advocacy, and communications to win meaningful, measurable change in the public sector.

Soros Funding:  In addition to providing $2,075,000 in general support, the OSI provides more than $2,400,000 to subsidize several Brennan Center initiatives to:

  • promote universal voter registration
  • eliminate restrictions on voting rights for felons
  • reform electoral redistricting
  • increase racial and gender diversity on the bench
  • reduce the “role of big money in elections” through public funding of judicial elections and all federal, state, and local elections
  • mount legal challenges and promote opposition to the Citizens United v. FEC decision
  • oppose legal impact fees and fines for indigent offenders
  • “defend the first-amendment rights of non-profits” by opposing certain requirements attached to such funding, such as the anti-prostitution pledge attached to Global AIDS Act funding
  • research racial disparities in policing and prosecution
  • advance the agenda of public defenders’ offices, “related service providers” and activist groups through their Community Oriented Defender Network
  • overturn legislative restrictions on activism, lobbying, and class action suits by publicly-funded legal aid organizations


  • Michael Waldman, Executive Director
  • John Anthony Butler, Chief Operating Officer
  • John F. Kowal, Vice President for Programs
  • Nicole Austin-Hillery, Director and Counsel, Washington, DC Office
  • Elizabeth Goitein, Co-Director, Liberty & National Security Program
  • Faiza Patel, Co-Director, Liberty & National Security Program
  • Jeanine Plant-Chirlin, Director, Communications & Strategy
  • Frederick A.O. (‘Fritz’) Schwarz, Jr., Chief Counsel
  • Wendy R. Weiser, Director, Democracy Program
  • Sidney S. Rosdeitcher, Senior Policy Advisor
  • Lawrence Norden, Democracy Program Deputy Director
  • Laura Klein Abel, Justice Program Interim Co-Director
  • Rebekah Diller, Justice Program Interim Co-Director

Board of Directors:

  • Patricia Bauman, CoChair President & CEO, Bauman Family Foundation
  • Lawrence B. Pedowitz, CoChair Partner, Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz
  • Nancy Brennan Executive Director, Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy
  • Zachary W. Carter Partner, Dorsey & Whitney LLP
  • John Ferejohn Professor, NYU School of Law & Stanford University
  • Gail Furman Psychologist
  • Susan Sachs Goldman Helen Hershkoff Professor, NYU School of Law
  • Samuel Issacharoff  Professor, NYU School of Law
  • James E. JohnsonPartner, Debevoise & Plimpton LLP
  • Thomas M. Jorde Professor Emeritus, Boalt Hall School of Law — UC Berkeley
  • Daniel F. Kolb Davis Polk & Wardell, LLP
  • Ruth Lazarus Paul Lightfoot, Treasurer President & CEO, AL Systems, Inc.
  • Wendy Neu Vice President, Hugo Neu Corp.
  • Burt Neuborne Legal Director, Brennan Center for Justice Professor, NYU School of Law
  • Hon. Stephen C. Robinson
  • Steven A. Reiss, General Counsel Partner, Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP Richard Revesz Dean, NYU School of Law Stephen Schulhofer Professor, NYU School of Law John Sexton, ex officio President, New York University Sung-Hee Suh Partner, Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP Michael Waldman Executive Director, Brennan Center for Justice
  • Scott Wallace Co-Chair, Wallace Global Fund Adam Winkler Professor, UCLA School of Law

Program Advisory Board:

  • Robert A. Atkins
  • Alec Baldwin
  • Michele Balfour
  • David Barrett
  • Jeff Benjamin
  • Sheila L. Birnbaum
  • Robert E. Bostrom
  • Richard Cotton
  • Jeremy Creelan
  • Charles Dutton
  • Peter B. Edelman
  • Samuel P. Fried
  • Max Gitter
  • Gary B. Glass
  • Beth L. Golden
  • Mark Green
  • Matthew J. Hiltzik
  • Arianna Huffington
  • David A. Isaac
  • Elaine Kamarck
  • Brad S. Karp
  • Peggy Kuo      Edward Labaton
  • Theodore A. Levine
  • Loretta Lynch
  • Roland Poindexter
  • Roy L. Reardon
  • Lee Richards
  • Larry Rockefeller
  • Charles A. Stillman
  • Charles R. Wall
  • Paul Washington
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