A conservative women’s group that has supported President Donald Trump’s judicial appointees has launched a law center to help counter a growing number of liberal organizations in the legal community.
The Independent Women’s Law Center aims to develop female talent in the legal profession, “influence the debate about women and the law,” educate the public about “a truly independent judiciary,” and support nominees who “understand that the role of the court is to interpret the law, not make law.”
Unlike other conservative groups, it doesn’t take a stance on abortion, which center supporters say will allow it to appeal to a larger cross-section of women. But it does seek to push back on efforts to “convince the public that constitutionalist, originalist judges are a threat to women’s rights.”
“I think there’s once again a movement by progressive, feminist legal centers to attack and smear conservative judicial nominees and to tear down institutions that have been a part of our constitutional structure from the beginning,” said Jennifer Braceras, director of the new center. “We feel that the time is right to push back on their efforts.”
The center is a project of the Independent Women’s Forum, which was formed after the bitter 1991 confirmation battle of conservative Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court to provide an alternative group for women in law. Opponents of Thomas’s nomination amid the furor over allegations of sex harassment that defined his confirmation didn’t represent all women, the forum’s founders surmised.
The forum has previously said that it’s the “alternative voice” to the National Organization for Women, a group that champions issues like abortion and violence against women. NOW didn’t offer an immediate comment on the new center.
The National Women’s Law Center, which says it “fights for gender justice” and opposed Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court and other Trump judicial nominees, didn’t respond to a request for comment.
The conservative group is taking a more active role with Trump and the Republican-led Senate pushing ahead with his judicial nominations. So far, Trump has appointed 148 district and appeals judges as well as Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Most of his appointments have been white males, although his latest batch of nominees in September included several women to circuit and district court seats.
Braceras said she knows the administration is interested in appointing more conservative women to the bench, and the forum could help identify nominees. And while the forum would be thrilled to see more women appointed to judgeships, “judicial philosophy is the first criteria,” she said.
In addition to “smears” of judicial nominees, the women’s forum said discussion on the 2020 Democratic presidential campaign trail of expanding the Supreme Court to dilute or reverse the conservative majority and “renewed attacks” on the Electoral College, “make clear the need” to expand its leadership in the legal profession.
The law center also will focus on things like putting on events, writing op-eds, providing educational materials and filing legal briefs that advance its legal philosophy. It was always the intention to be more active in the legal space when the forum was formed, but the group’s limited resources were focused elsewhere, Braceras said.
Aiming to develop talent, the group already has met with women at Harvard Law School and has plans to meet with others to engage them in the forum’s work and help with their careers.
The group has recently filed briefs in, Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC, a case before the Supreme Court that asks whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination against transgender individuals, and a first amendment case in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals that will test whether a university’s speech policy suppresses conservative and libertarian views.