Are You Now or Have You Ever Been a Member of the Federalist Society?


The Federalist Society kicked off its annual National Lawyers Convention earlier today in Washington, D.C. with a big speech by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who promised a "renewed commitment to constitutional conservatism" from the GOP. Over at The Huffington Post, Amanda Terkel used the occasion as an opportunity to her remind her liberal readers that yes, the influential conservative legal organization was still around, and yes, it was still up to no damn good:

Many people who have heard of the Federalist Society probably first became familiar with the group during the Bush administration, when officials in the Justice Department came under fire for giving special consideration to candidates identified with the conservative legal group—part of the investigations into whether appointees politicized what were supposed to be apolitical programs within the federal government.

Beyond the implications with the Bush administration, the controversy highlighted the Federalist Society's importance in the conservative legal community and the role it plays in identifying future superstars….

"What the Federalist Society does really well, is it identifies that really really right-wing kid at Harvard Law School who is legitimately talented and who will do horrible things to the law but will do it very competently because they're a very talented lawyer," added [Center for American Progress legal analyst Ian] Millhiser.

It's true that some Federalist Society veterans have gone on to do terrible things to the law, but that's just as true for liberal lawyers celebrated by the left-wing American Constitution Society. It's a partisan fantasy to believe that this one organization and its allies have a monopoly on regrettable legal theories. It also ignores—as does Merkel in her article—the fact that Federalist Society events, which make up most of the group's activities both on and off campus, invariably follow a debate format. Thus you'll find libertarian or conservative legal scholars squaring off against their liberal colleagues (or against each other, since libertarians and conservatives do share some profound legal differences). That's an invaluable contribution to the intellectual climate of our law schools and universities, yet it's routinely ignored whenever critics are complaining about the Federalist Society's "horrible" success.