Carol Platt Liebau: Federalist Silliness

Monday, July 25, 2005

Federalist Silliness

Here, in a breathless report, The Washington Post puts forth its most dynamic "scoop" on John Roberts -- he is listed as a member of the "steering committee" in the Federalist Society's 1997-98 handbook! So there!

This is a profoundly silly topic. The Democratic obsession with The Federalist Society is just one more manifestation of the paranoia that seems to be affecting the party at its core.

Here is the statement of The Federalist Society's purpose. And here is the core of that statement:

The Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies is a group of conservatives and libertarians interested in the current state of the legal order. It is founded on the principles that the state exists to preserve freedom, that the separation of governmental powers is central to our Constitution, and that it is emphatically the province and duty of the judiciary to say what the law is, not what it should be.

Ooooh. Pretty controversial, huh? S-c-a-r-y ('specially the way that last part of the quote echoes Chief Justice John Marshall).

I knew some of the leaders of the Society -- Gene Meyer and Leonard Leo -- from back in my days in Washington. The group isn't some dark, secretive brotherhood featuring odd initiation rituals and requiring loyalty oaths. It was founded to offer non-lefties an organization through which they could learn, meet, gather and network, especially on law school campuses, where for a long time there was almost complete left-wing hegemony.

Its counterpart on the left is the American Constitutional Society -- and if participation in the Federalist Society disqualifies one for the Supreme Court, then take a good look at the list on the linked page . . . because none of these people should ever be expecting (or should have ever expected) any consideration as a potential Supreme Court nominee. That means you -- Mario Cuomo, Laurence Tribe, Abnber Mikva (former D.C. Circuit judge and White House Counsel), Patricia Wald (former D.C. Circuit judge) . . . the list goes on.

In any case, being a member of the Federalist Society (and/or participating in some of its activities) says very little about someone's ideology -- because liberals as well as conservatives are offered the opportunity to take part in vigorous (but courteous) debates (note the contrast -- one doesn't, I believe, see many conservatives invited to interact in any way with the National Lawyers' Guild).

And like many organizations, it's eager to associate itself with people of influence -- which may explain how Judge Roberts came to be listed in its directory without having knowingly become a member.


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