- Assets: -$4,542,042 (negative) (2013)
- Grants Received: $2,097,914 (2013)
- Grants Awarded: $0 (2013)
- Foundation that awards grants to many consumer advocacy groups
- A project of the American Association for Justice, the world’s largest trial bar
Committed to “strengthening the alliance between trial attorneys and consumer advocacy organizations,” the Civil Justice Foundation (CJF) is a nonprofit charity that awards grants to “grassroots organizations that are at the forefront of the consumer advocacy movement — particularly to groups who have difficulty securing traditional funding because they are newly organized and/or address a controversial issue.” Created in 1986 by members of the American Association for Justice, (which was then known as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America), between 1986 and 2009 CJF gave more than $1.4 million to 112 consumer-interest groups, usually in amounts ranging from $1,500 to $20,000. To this day, CJF still functions as a project of the American Association for Justice.
Some notable recipients of CJF grants include:
- Aviation Consumer Action Project: an organization founded by Ralph Nader to sue the airline industry for stricter regulation
- People Organizing to Demand Environmental Rights: a social, environmental, economic, and racial justice organization based in San Francisco
- Florida League of Conservation Voters Education Fund: CJF’s aid to this organization was intended to support its “workshops and meetings to strengthen the capacity of environmental groups to educate and register voters.”
- Government Accountability Project: CJF’s contributions to this project were earmarked for programs “to document food safety and working conditions in poultry processing plants from the perspective of North Carolina workers.”
- Gray Panthers: A national organization of “intergenerational activists dedicated to social change,” the Gray Panthers began as an anti-Vietnam War protest movement and now fights for universal health care and “living wage” policies.
- Educational Fund to End Handgun Violence: an anti-National Rifle association group that works to place more restrictions on gun manufacturers and buyers
- Center for Economic Justice: an “advocacy and education center dedicated to representing the interests of low-income and minority consumers as a class on economic justice issues”
- CalPIRG: Founded by Ralph Nader, this organization is a California state chapter of U.S. PIRG and supports universal health care, environmental activism and legislation, and congressional redistricting.
- Government Accountability Project (GAP): CJF’s grants to this project were intended to help “establish [GAP’s] Scientific Integrity Pilot Program which provides public interest guidance to institutions and potential whistleblowers.”
The current President of CJF is Jim Bartimus, an attorney who specializes in medical negligence litigation. Bartimus was formerly a Board of Governors member of AAJ, Director and President of the American Board of Trial Advocates, and President of the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys.
Preceding Bartimus as CJF President was Fred Schenk, a lawyer primarily involved in asbestos litigation.
Each year, CJF presents a Community Champion Award to “outstanding consumer advocates who demonstrate a compassionate commitment to injury prevention and who have performed extraordinary work to preserve the right to justice for injured consumers.” In 2005 the organization gave this award to former Vice Presidential candidate John Edwards, in recognition of his “efforts to make a difference for American families.” During 20 years as a trial lawyer, Edwards was involved in 63 cases where he won more than $152 million in verdicts and settlements, amassing a personal fortune of some $70 million in the process.
A notable member of the CJF Board of Trustees is Fred Baron, one of America’s wealthiest and most successful trial lawyers. Baron co-chaired the Kerry–Edwards Victory ’04 Committee, and prior to that he had chaired the finance committee for John Edwards’ 2004 presidential campaign.