The Brennan Center for Justice is a nonpartisan law and policy institute.
We strive to uphold the values of democracy. We stand for equal justice and the rule of law. We work to craft and advance reforms that will make American democracy work, for all.
Inspired by Justice William J. Brennan Jr.’s devotion to core democratic freedoms, the Brennan Center for Justice works to strengthen democracy, end mass incarceration, and protect liberty and security.
Brennan Center for Justice
The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law is a  law and public policy institute generally considered liberal or progressive. The Brennan Center's mission is to "work to reform, revitalize, and when necessary, defend our country's systems of democracy and justice." It was created in 1995 in honor of Supreme Court JusticeWilliam J. Brennan and envisioned as a hybrid organization combining a public interest law firm and traditional think tank. The Guardian has described the Brennan Center as "the foremost non-partisan organization devoted to voting rights."
The Brennan Center for Justice is a think tank, public interest law firm, and advocacy organization founded in 1995 by a group of former law clerks of Supreme Court JusticeWilliam J. Brennan, who died in 1997. To honor him, the Brennan Center was created as a living memorial to Brennan's ideals: "a commitment to a fair and inclusive democracy, support for the disadvantaged, and respect for individual rights and liberties."
The Brennan Center was designed "to create a new breed of public interest organization that had one foot in the world of ideas and one foot in ... policy advocacy," according to co-founder Executive Director Joshua Rosenkranz, who clerked for both Justice Brennan and then-judge Antonin Scalia on the D.C. circuit.
The Brennan Center advocates for a number of progressive public policy positions, including public campaign financing, nonpartisan redistricting, automatic voter registration, and an end to mass incarceration.
The Brennan Center opposed the U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. FEC, which held that the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting independent political expenditures by nonprofits. It also opposed the Supreme Court's ruling in Shelby County v. Holder, which invalidated Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act requiring jurisdictions with a history of discrimination to obtain approval before changing voting rules.
The organization endorsed the For the People Act of 2019, which proposed a slate of pro-democracy reforms, including the expansion of voting rights and curbing partisan gerrymandering. It also supports the passage of the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act, which would again require jurisdictions with a history of discrimination to seek federal approval for election changes. Center policy experts testified before Congress in support of both bills.
The Brennan Center's work is divided into three programs—Democracy, Justice, and Liberty & National Security. Past programs focused on criminal justice, poverty, and economic justice. The organization has focus on issues both at the national, state and local levels of government.
The Democracy Program at the Brennan Center focuses on ensuring equal access to voting, voting rights restoration, and combatting voter suppression. Through various collaborations with grassroots groups, advocacy organizations, and government officials, the program provides legal strategy, policy development, empirical research, and communications to advance policy reform goals. The goal of the program is to protect and promote voting rights, campaign finance reform, redistricting integrity, fair courts, while re-centering a First Amendment jurisprudence that puts the rights of citizens and not special interests at the center of U.S democracy.
The Brennan Center's Justice program works to end mass incarceration and other criminal justice policies that target communities of color. This program works to advance data-driven legal reforms, crafts new empirical analyses, suggests policy solutions, and engages in litigation to end mass incarceration. Through original research, they work to showcase "perverse incentives distort[ing] our justice system."
Liberty & National Security
The Brennan Center's focus on national security policies call for reforms that center constitutional values and the rule of law while also protecting people. Through highlighting the abuse of emergency powers by the executive branch and excessive government secrecy, this program focuses on protecting citizens' privacy, updating privacy laws to account for new technologies, helping counterterrorism authorities more narrowly target to terrorist threats, and securing adequate oversight and accountability mechanisms by strengthening the government's system of checks and balances.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Brennan Center raised public policy alarms caused by the virus, formulating strategies to protect voters and safeguard elections in the midst of the public health crisis, calling for reforms of the National Emergencies Act, and addressing unsafe prison conditions.
The Center released a five-tier policy framework — which included universal access to vote by mail, expanded early voting, and safe polling places — to protect and secure the 2020 election against the threat of COVID-19. The Center also estimated that $4 billion in federal funding was necessary to secure all elections in 2020. It then endorsed the federal HEROES Act, which passed the House of Representatives and allocated $3.6 billion towards measures.
In Pennsylvania, the Brennan Center intervened in a federal case brought by the Trump campaign to stop the state from installing drop boxes for mail ballots due to voter fraud concerns. In October, a federal judge upheld the constitutionality of Pennsylvania's drop boxes, rejecting the Trump campaign's claims of voter fraud as too "speculative." 
Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Liberty & National Security program, was quoted in USA Today weighing public health versus civil liberties, suggesting that some of the more "draconian" restrictions by states may be justified: "For many, many decades we haven't seen a public health threat as significant as what we're seeing now." In response to viral rumors suggesting President Trump would declare martial law, the Center argued that the possibility was unlikely, but the relevant laws should be clarified.
Lauren-Brooke Eisen, director of the Justice program, spoke to The Intercept about criminal justice reforms in light of COVID-19's spread throughout correctional facilities, suggesting that it is a crucial moment to reimagine the way the U.S. addresses crime and punishment. "Let's not go back to where we were," she told the outlet.
NEW YORK, NY 10271-0002 | Tax-exempt since Sept. 1995
Classification (NTEE) Higher Education Institutions (Educational Institutions and Related Activities)
Nonprofit Tax Code Designation: 501(c)(3) Defined as: Organizations for any of the following purposes: religious, educational, charitable, scientific, literary, testing for public safety, fostering national or international amateur sports competition (as long as it doesn’t provide athletic facilities or equipment), or the prevention of cruelty to children or animals.
Donations to this organization are tax deductible.
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