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It’s no secret the Left weaponizes the court system to create unpopular and dangerous policies they cannot pass democratically.
I faced this endlessly as an attorney in the Trump White House, where the Left used the courts to demand, among other things, an open border, an end to abundant and reliable energy, and the erasure of women, including women’s sports.
Today, as the director of Independent Women’s Law Center, a nonprofit that advocates in court for the continued existence of women’s spaces, my eyes are wide open to the cost of bringing and maintaining lawsuits.
So who’s funding the insanity?
America’s biggest law firms rake in billions of dollars from corporate clients and use the profits to make our world less free, less upwardly mobile, more dangerous, and more racially divided. Remember, lawyers are a liberal bunch, donating more than 80% to Democrats during the 2020 cycle.
Law firms goad their woke attorneys into working sweatshop hours for corporate clients by promising the opportunity for “pro bono” work (i.e. free or discounted work) for causes they care about: defunding the police, ending border security and pushing gender ideology.
In 2022, the top 200 law firms contributed more than 5.01 million pro bono hours. But law firms aren’t spending the hours you’d hope in local court representing individuals down on their luck.
To the contrary, prestigious law firms spent an overwhelming number of pro bono hours writing amicus briefs, at free or reduced rates, in the Supreme Court. Perhaps not surprisingly, new scholarly research demonstrates that the overwhelming majority of these briefs advocate high-priority progressive causes.
Professor Derek T. Muller canvassed amicus briefs filed in the Supreme Court between 2018 and 2021. Two-thirds of all pro bono amicus briefs filed by big law firms during this four-year period supported a liberal activist position.
The skew is even more pronounced in hot-button issues, like whether Catholics can participate in foster care, whether law-abiding Americans have the right to carry firearms, or whether a 1964 law protecting employees from sex discrimination covers transgenderism. Ninety-five percent of the briefs in those cases urged the justices to legislate from the bench policies that lack popular support, cook up constitutional “rights” never mentioned in our actual Constitution, and disregard the constitutional rights clearly listed.
Amicus briefs are only a snapshot of the well-financed, concerted effort by Big Law to advance the radical agenda. Big Law also devoted countless hours to litigation and advocacy on behalf of Leftist causes.
For example, in one recent case I worked on, Kansas had enacted a reasonable election integrity law prohibiting activist groups from pre-filling ballots, often riddled with errors, and mailing them to voters.
Simpson Thacher, one of the world’s largest law firms (making $2.15 billion annually) sprinted into Kansas to challenge the state’s democratically enacted law. Deploying almost 10 attorneys for a full-blown federal trial cost the firm 2,000 hours, and, assuming an average rate of $800 an hour, $1.6 million (and counting, because the case is ongoing).
Who funds Simpson Thacher? Their paying clients: Dell Technologies, J.P. Morgan, Citigroup and Wells Fargo to name a few.
And Simpson Thacher doesn’t even rank on Professor Muller’s offender list. Paul Weiss leads the pack, alongside WilmerHale, Covington, Latham & Watkins, Sidley Austin, Morrison & Foerster, and Ropes & Gray. Covington, for its part, brags that it stopped the Trump administration from determining how many illegal aliens reside in America, litigates to stop voter ID, and defends sanctuary cities.
These firms’ clients include Chevron, Oracle, Bristol Myers, Monsanto, Intel, Dow Chemical, Instacart, Bain Capital, and more pharmaceutical and Silicon Valley companies.
These companies (and countless lesser-known businesses) are paying hundreds of thousands of dollars, sometimes millions, in legal services, some of which goes to fund efforts to sue police departments out of existence and turn the cities in which these companies are located into sanctuary cities.
Sounds like a bad deal to me.
Most CEOs are not politically radical. Sure, they parrot leftist slogans and kneel before the ESG gods so their companies can continue to secure low-interest loans and do business with Biden’s cash cow agencies. But these individuals and their businesses thrive under precisely the opposite policies being pushed by Big Pro Bono.
Muller’s research should serve as a wake-up call to every company seeking to access free markets and eliminate red tape. And it should alarm CEOs who care about the democratic process and American ideals despised by the Left.
There are lots of law firms out there. Why reward the worst offenders and hire them? At the very least, there’s no need to pay full price.
If Leftist litigators want to turn America into California, they should at least sell clients on their plan. But so long as American companies ignore the ways in which their lawyers spend their money, the Left will continue to have unlimited resources to make policy inside the courts and outside the legislative process.
May Mailman is director of the Independent Women’s Law Center (iwlc.org) and served as a legal adviser in the White House.