The Dark Money Left’s Court Packing Obsession


On April 7, the Senate confirmed Ketanji Brown Jackson as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. You would think that the left-wing dark money groups who pushed for her confirmation would be content to finally have their handpicked justice. But you would be wrong. 

A mere three days later, Demand Justice  — a top booster of Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination and one of the most corrupting dark money influences on the judiciary — renewed its call to pack the Supreme Court, launching a digital ad calling for Congress to “Back up Justice Jackson” by doing so. 

The same day, Demand Justice published an op-ed by Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-NY) entitled “Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson Needs Four New Colleagues Right Now.” Jones’ reasoning: “A justice like Ketanji Brown Jackson deserves to be in the majority… so [w]e must send her four new colleagues now.”

Demand Justice is not the only dark money group currently agitating for court-packing. Take Back the Courts, a left-wing group founded in 2019 to advocate for eliminating the legislative filibuster, has also regularly called for adding justices to the Court on the heels of Jackson’s confirmation. 

Perhaps we should take a step back. Where, exactly, did this push to pack the Supreme Court come from, and when did it begin?

Radical dark money groups initially launched their court packing scheme in 2018, after Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed as a justice. Having failed in their effort to derail Kavanaugh’s confirmation, they set their sights on an alternative means by which to capture the Supreme Court. 

In recent years, the most visible such group has been Demand Justice, which is richly endowed by the vast Arabella Advisors network. Arabella was founded by Eric Kessler, a former Clinton Administration official. It is a for-profit company that uses nonprofit funds to funnel millions of dollars to the sprawling network of liberal dark money groups that it manages. During the 2020 election cycle, the Arabella network helped direct more than $1.2 billion to elect President Biden and Senate Democrats — a mind-blowing sum.

In the fall of 2018, Arabella-incubated Demand Justice hosted a conference gathering liberal activists to explore various plans for so-called “court reform,” which, according to news reports, included “bold strategies such as court-packing and impeaching Justice Brett Kavanaugh if and when Democrats control Congress and the White House.” So much for representative democracy and the rule of law.

Conference panelists included then-DNC head Tom Perez, Lisa Graves of the Center for Media and Democracy (yet another far-left dark money group that does not disclose its donors), and liberal commentator Elie Mystal. Mystal is now a member of Demand Justice’s board of directors and made news recently for referring to the Constitution as “kind of trash.”  Demand Justice’s executive director, Brian Fallon, said that Mystal inspired the organization to push for court packing after Kavanaugh was confirmed. (Mystal today says he wants to add as many as 20 new justices to the Court.)

The left-wing push to pack the Court picked up steam during the 2020 election season. In February of 2020, Demand Justice co-hosted a New Hampshire candidate forum, along with other dark money allies such as the Center for Reproductive Rights, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and All* Above All Action Fund. The court provided a platform for candidates to discuss court-packing and other so-called “reforms.”

With the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg before the 2020 election, President Trump had the unexpected opportunity to appoint Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the Court — his third Supreme Court appointment in four years. This change in the Court’s composition sent the radical Left into overdrive with its court packing campaign.

Also during the 2020 campaign season, these very same dark money groups began the process of identifying their favored nominees to the Supreme Court if Joe Biden were to be elected. Enter Ketanji Brown Jackson. 

Jackson was on Demand Justice’s shortlist for the Supreme Court before Biden was elected. The group dreamt of replacing Justice Stephen Breyer, the most moderate member of the Court’s liberal wing. After Biden’s election, the organization led an unseemly but successful campaign to pressure Breyer off the Court, complete with a billboard truck near the Supreme Court exclaiming, “Breyer Retire! It’s time for a Black woman Supreme Court justice.” The strategy was hardly a mystery — and apparently it worked. In early 2022, Justice Breyer announced his intention to retire.

Only days before President Biden announced his pick to succeed the retiring Justice Breyer, a coalition of liberal dark money groups —including some of the same ones pushing court packing — sent a letter to Biden making it clear that Jackson was their preferred pick for the Supreme Court.

And the dark money Left got what they wanted. Biden did indeed nominate Jackson, and Demand Justice pledged to spend $1 million or whatever was needed to ensure her confirmation. Today a confirmed Ketanji Brown Jackson waits in the wings and will take her seat sometime in July, after the conclusion of the current Supreme Court term. 

Jackson is only 51, so the Left should be thrilled at the prospect of a justice who will likely embrace their radical agenda for decades to come. But for them, that is not enough. They won’t be happy until the Supreme Court is well and truly packed with hardline liberal allies who will deliver the policies they want. 

And the dark-money Left is willing to put a wrecking ball to the Court in order to get what it wants. 

Carrie Campbell Severino is President of the Judicial Crisis Network.

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