Piper Fund has renamed our state courts program to Judicial Integrity, which much more closely reflects the work we have been supporting. For more than a decade, the Piper Fund and Piper Action Fund have stood with and supported state allies across the country who have pushed back against a litany of attempts to corrupt or usurp the authority of state courts. Our commitment to this work is stronger than ever, given the increased attacks on these courts.
We have seen that as our grantees are organizing to advance a strong judicial system in their states, they are working not just for an independent judicial system that honors the separation of powers, but also one that moves ethically and with integrity—centering justice and fairness.
Across the nation, strong forces are at work, leading organized, well-funded efforts to consolidate power and erode our system of checks and balances. Wealthy special interests are spending millions to try to influence our courts and twist them in their favor. Piper Fund and Piper Action Fund have been at the forefront of confronting these attacks—in states across the country, from Alaska to Florida—by helping advocates protect our courts, seemingly against all odds. To accomplish this, we:
With backing from Piper Fund and Piper Action Fund, groups are scoring consequential victories in states facing well-funded and relentless attacks. One type of attack focuses on removing judges because extremists fear how they will rule on court decisions. For example, since June, there have been proposals to oust state supreme court justices in Iowa, Wisconsin, and North Carolina. The attempts to remove state judges don’t stop at the highest courts—they also focus on lower courts. In Florida, there was an active proposal to consolidate judicial districts. Progress Florida Education Institute, a Piper Fund grantee, successfully worked with other groups to voice public opposition to the proposal. If the proposal had advanced, there would be fewer districts in that state and, consequently, fewer judges. The removal of judges without a compelling reason is extremely concerning and is just one tactic being used in these active attempts to consolidate power by extremists.
We are far from living in a democracy where state courts have not been politicized. As such, in addition to supporting groups to push back against the attacks, we bolster reform efforts that increase judicial integrity and reduce the ability of special interests to influence the outcome of judicial decisions, including fair recusal and judicial ethics.
Over the 10 years of Piper Fund’s Judicial Independence program, we have held true to a focus on the importance of state courts, maintaining a separation and balance of powers, and ensuring that judges bring high qualifications—including being accountable to a code of ethics. We have seen that as our grantees are organizing to advance a strong judicial system in their states, they are working not just for an independent judicial system that honors the separation of powers, but also one that moves ethically and with integrity—centering justice and fairness. Recognizing this more comprehensive approach, we have chosen to rename our program Judicial Integrity—knowing that what we want to see in a well-functioning court system goes beyond independence to include a judiciary that moves in an ethical, accountable manner as a strong pillar of democracy.