Checks and Balances

Conservative and libertarian lawyers are joining together to speak out in defense of constitutional governance, traditional legal norms, and the rule of law.

|The Volokh Conspiracy |


Today's New York Times reports:

The annual convention of the Federalist Society, the conservative legal group, has long been a glittering and bustling affair. In the Trump era, though, the group has become more powerful than ever, supplying intellectual energy and judicial candidates to an assertive administration eager to reshape the legal landscape.

But as the group prepares to gather on Thursday for the start of this year's convention, more than a dozen prominent conservative lawyers have joined together to sound a note of caution. They are urging their fellow conservatives to speak up about what they say are the Trump administration's betrayals of bedrock legal norms. . . .

The group, called Checks and Balances, was organized by George T. Conway III, a conservative lawyer and the husband of President Trump's counselor, Kellyanne Conway. In recent opinion articles, Mr. Conway has criticized Mr. Trump's statements on birthright citizenship and argued that his appointment of Matthew G. Whitaker to serve as acting attorney general violated the Constitution. . . .

Among those joining this new group are John B. Bellinger, III, Phillip D. Brady, Carrie F. Cordero, Stuart M. Gerson, Peter D. Keisler, Marisa C. Maleck, Lori S. Meyer, Paul J. McNulty, Alan Charles Raul, Paul Rosenzweig, and Tom Ridge, as well as two Volokh contributors: me and Orin Kerr.

Our mission statement reads:

We are a group of attorneys who would traditionally be considered conservative or libertarian. We believe in the rule of law, the power of truth, the independence of the criminal justice system, the imperative of individual rights, and the necessity of civil discourse. We believe these principles apply regardless of the party or persons in power. We believe in "a government of laws, not of men."

We believe in the Constitution. We believe in free speech, a free press, separation of powers, and limited government. We have faith in the resiliency of the American experiment. We seek to provide a voice and a network for like-minded attorneys to discuss these ideas, and we hope that they will join with us to stand up for these principles.

Among our aims is to create room so more conservatives, libertarians, and fellow-travelers feel comfortable speaking out agaist legal abuses, attacks on our legal institutions and norms, and other threats to the rule of law.

Speaking for myself, this is not a reflexive anti-Trump initiative. I will continue to praise Administration actions that are praiseworthy, such as the announced nomination of Neomi Rao to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and reports that the Administration will support meaningful sentencing reform. But I also think it is imperative that those of us on the Right make clear that assaults on our laws and norms will not be tolerated, whatever the source. As Orin put it in the NYT story above: "The rule of law has to come first. Politics comes second."

More information wil be forthcoming on Checks and Balances website and Twitter feed.