Beware The Federalist Society....But Don't Run Screaming
For those of you who don't know, the Federalist Society is a loose collection of conservative lawyers and law students. It holds debates on legal issues, sends people to the media to represent the conservative legal view, and serves as a networking tool for conservative true believers.
The recent media coverage of the Federalists (no relation to the party of Alexander Hamilton) and whether or not soon-to-be Justice John Roberts was a member (answer: he didn't pay the dues, but he did serve on its steering committee) has been overblown. It has treated the Society as some sort of secret cabal, doing backroom deals in the halls of power to complete their conspiracy to destroy the Constitution. The Federalists even hired the same public relations firm as the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (a.k.a. the people who lied about John Kerry's war record). Oh, the horror!
Such guilt-by-association gets us nowhere. Two of my dearest law school friends, Chris Raab and David Jetter, are leaders in Duke's chapter of the Federalist Society. Now, I'm not the most observant person in the world, but I haven't seen Chris and David engaging in any secret handshakes or maniacal laughter. They are simply nice guys who happen to totally disagree with me on most legal issues. In other words, I'd take a bullet for them, but I wouldn't vote for them.
The truth of the Federalist Society is much more mundane than many uninformed liberals will lead you to believe....and much more dangerous. The true threat of the Federalists lies in their efficiency at networking and putting the most hardcore, scary conservatives on the fast track to power.
Conservatives in power know they can turn to the Federalist Society to find "pure" conservatives to appoint to judgeships and similar positions of power. That's why fully one-quarter of Bush's judicial nominees were recommended by Federalist Society leaders. You can bet that John Roberts and any other nominee with the Federalist Society's support will be fully vetted and given the conservative stamp of approval. No more David Souters for these guys! (Souter was a Reagan appointee who, like Roberts, had a small record. Souter turned out to be a moderate liberal. The Federalists will ensure that Roberts is not another Souter.)
And make no mistake, the Federalists have been successful. Ken Starr was a member of the Federalist Society. So was Ted Olson, who successfully argued Bush v. Gore and then was appointed Solicitor General. So were 15 of the 41 appeals court judges confirmed under Bush.
This is bad. Liberals are nowhere near as organized or disciplined.
No, the Federalist Society does not take stands on issues as an organization. It doesn't have to. And it doesn't have to be the evil, conspiratorial organization portrayed by liberals. It just has to keep doing what it is doing....networking in broad daylight and recommending/promoting the people who will interpret freedom and justice right out of the Constitution.