As Democratic presidential candidates start fielding questions on who they would nominate to the U.S. Supreme Court, a liberal activist group has come up with some progressive options for them to consider — including Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner.
Krasner, who has drawn national attention as well as local controversy for his reform-driven agenda, was one of 32 attorneys on a list released this week by Demand Justice, a Washington-based judicial advocacy group dedicated to pursuing court reforms.
Demand Justice’s list is a response to Trump’s shortlist of 25 potential Supreme Court nominees, most of whom are men with conservative backgrounds. Trump has said he is seeking guidance from the Federalist Society, an influential conservative legal group. Demand Justice’s list includes civil rights attorneys and lawyers who have worked with groups like the ACLU and NAACP. Most are women.
“Our courts are filled with former prosecutors, but it’s been nearly 30 years since the Supreme Court has had a justice with a criminal defense background," Demand Justice cofounder Christopher Kang, a former deputy council to President Barack Obama, said in an emailed statement. “That is why Larry Krasner, who has been on the front lines fighting for a criminal justice system that works for everyone, is exactly the kind of bold champion for progressive values who can restore balance to the Supreme Court."
A spokesperson for Krasner did not comment on the unlikely prospect of the DA’s jumping from local prosecutor to the highest court in the land.
Demand Justice was founded in 2018 by Kang and Brian Fallon, who was national press secretary for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and also worked in the Obama administration. The group has proposed strengthening ethics code for judges, urged presidential candidates to name their Supreme Court picks, and called for the impeachment of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
The group describes itself as “a progressive movement fighting to restore the ideological balance and legitimacy of the federal courts by advocating for reform and vigorously opposing extreme nominees."
Krasner has drawn both praise and criticism since he was elected in 2017, one of a wave of reform-minded prosecutors to take office across the country in recent years. As part of his goal to reduce the prison population, Krasner has encouraged his staff to consider shorter sentences in plea deals and to carefully weigh when to bring homicide charges, shifts that have led to clashes with victims’ families.
Last week, Krasner downgraded charges against Michael White from murder to voluntary manslaughter in the high-profile Rittenhouse Square stabbing death of Sean Schellenger, a decision made shortly before the trial began. A jury acquitted White on Thursday of the manslaughter charge.
Rick Krajewski, a criminal justice organizer for Reclaim Philadelphia, a grassroots group that helped elect Krasner in 2017, acknowledged that it’s unlikely Krasner would end up on the Supreme Court. But he said promoting people like Krasner, who was once seen as a long-shot candidate and won the DA race with little establishment support or political connections, would encourage Democratic candidates to make bold choices when deciding on their nominees.
“He’s demonstrated that going big is possible,” Krajewski said.