Courts Undermined, America Uneasy: ACLU’s Anthony Romero on Defending Democracy

Here’s a letter from Anthony Romero, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Be sure to come see Romero speak at the NYU Reynolds Speakers Series!

April 27 at 5:30pm //  NYU Wagner Rudin Forum for Civic Dialogue, 2nd Fl // The Puck Building, 295 Lafayette St. // RSVP here



128-romero-thumb-163x204-127.bmpTo the NYU Reynolds Community:

I’m delighted to have the opportunity to speak about “Defending Civil Liberties in an Uncertain Age” at the NYU Reynolds Program in Social Entrepreneurship on April 27.

These are a few of the issues that are currently on my mind at the moment.  I’m looking forward to discussing these topics at greater length later this month.

Bush and Obama Undercut the Judiciary

• For eight years, President George W. Bush eagerly diminished access to the courts, in order to shift power into his own hands.  What’s more surprising is the eagerness with which the Obama Administration has taken the baton from Bush.  And perhaps most dishearteningly, federal courts have been almost eager emasculate themselves.

• This is the result:  An executive branch wielding increasingly unchecked power, a rising wall between the American people and the American justice system, and a growing distance between the vision of our Founders and the lives of our people.

• In just one example of this, the Obama Justice Department recently urged the D.C. Court of Appeals to reverse a lower-court ruling that three detainees being held at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan were entitled to challenge their detention under habeas corpus.

Congress Complicit in Weakening the Courts

• Congress has also too often been willing to weaken not only its own authority, but that of the federal courts.  Beginning with the USA PATRIOT Act, Congress has repeatedly deferred to the Executive in constraining access to basic justice for American citizens and those in American custody.

• Last fall, at the Obama administration’s request, Congress gave Defense Secretary Robert Gates the authority to exempt from public disclosure photographs whose release the ACLU had won in a FOIA lawsuit- reversing a Second Circuit ruling ordering the government to turn over the photos over.

A Vigorous Democracy Demands Checks and Balances

A Congress that teams with the executive branch to broadly restrict the power of the judicial branch throws the balance off.  We cannot remain a vibrant, moral and prosperous nation unless we have access to a court system willing to stand up to power and restore balance when justice is at stake. 

I’m looking forward to a vibrant discussion about these and other issues on April 27.


Anthony D. Romero
Executive Director, American Civil Liberties Union


Leave a Reply