WASHINGTON, DC – A new report from Accountable.US highlights right-wing activist Leonard Leo and the Federalist Society’s significant influence over recent Fifth Circuit decisions, including a case putting life-saving reproductive care at risk. 

Earlier this week, three judges with ties to the Federalist Society ruled in State of Texas v. Becerra that doctors and hospitals can choose not to provide emergency abortions.

The Fifth Circuit is a microcosm of the ethical issues and extremism plaguing the courts. Far-right judges backed by Leonard Leo and the Federalist Society are imposing extreme, dangerous policies on everything from reproductive freedoms, to ghost guns, to racial discrimination in voting.”

said Accountable.US president Caroline Ciccone.

The three-judge panel in Texas v. Becerra included Judge Kurt Damian Engelhart and Judge Cory Wilson, who both disclosed membership in the Federalist Society, and Judge Leslie Southwick, a contributor to the organization. Accountable.US’ research also tracks Leo and the Federalist Society’s influence on major recent cases around access to the abortion pill, voting rights, and ghost guns. 

The rulings include: 

  • Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA: Three Federalist Society-affiliated judges on the Fifth Circuit imposed restrictions on the abortion pill mifepristone. This includes Judge James Ho, a Trump appointee who held his swearing-in ceremony at right-wing megadonor Harlan Crow’s home
  • Petteway v. Galveston County: The Fifth Circuit ruled en banc to allow Galveston County, TX to gerrymander its maps along racial lines, with ten Federalist Society-affiliated judges making up the majority. This decision limited minority voting power and eliminated Texas’ only majority-minority district. 
  • Farland v. Vanderstock: A three-judge panel of Federalist Society-affiliated judges on the Fifth Circuit ruled that ghost gun distributors could continue selling gun-building kits, which are usually unregistered and harder for law enforcement officials to trace. Judges ruling in favor included Don Willett, who appeared on Leo’s shortlist for the Supreme Court and reported taking free FedSoc travel in 2021. 

Earlier this year, Accountable.US highlighted how Leonard Leo used the Federalist Society as a hub for corruption, money, and extremism during the Society’s annual conference. Learn more about the Federalist Society on MonitoringInfluence.org and more about Leo on LeonardLeo.org

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