Federalist Society Rising
Now I have friends who are in the Federalist Society, but I thought this article was pretty interesting since you don't see many in the mainstream press (certainly not featured on the Yahoo homepage). Some notable points:
On its face, the Federalist Society is just another think tank in a town awash with them. But critics see something more - a well-oiled juggernaut out to remake the courts in the image of Robert Bork, the Supreme Court nominee rejected by the Senate in 1987, who predicted that a new generation, "often associated with the Federalist Society," would transform the legal profession:Yes, they are quite clear: there is no such thing as a Right to Privacy. Life, Liberty, & the pursuit of Happiness? Yes. Privacy? No. Read more about how the 'Right to Privacy' was (according to the federalists) a construct of the courts in Griswold v Connecticut a case dealing with (drumroll please...) contraception!
"It may take 10 years, it may take 20 years for the second wave to crest, but crest it will, and it will sweep the elegant, erudite, pretentious and toxic detritus of nonoriginalism out to sea," he said in a 1987 speech. Judge Bork now cochairs the society's Board of Visitors with Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) of Nevada, a member and former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
More than a third of the judges President Bush has sent to appeals courts are members of the Federalist Society, say Democratic staffers on the Senate Judiciary Committee. (That compares with zero for his predecessor, President Clinton.) It's a talking point the Bush White House takes so seriously that it asked news organizations to retract reports that Judge Roberts has ever been a member.
Its founding principles include promotion of limited government, separation of powers, the rule of law, individual freedom, and "the idea that the courts should say what the law is, not what it ought to be."
But, as Judge Roberts is finding out, such affiliations can cause problems in a highly charged political environment that has often marked the nation's capital since its early days.
For example: The Freemasons, a fraternal organization that counted George Washington and Benjamin Franklin among its members, created such suspicion in the late 1820s with its secret rites that it prompted an organized backlash. "The first national convention of any political party was the anti-Masonic party," says Senate historian Donald Ritchie. The third-party movement nearly killed the Freemasons before the organization recovered in the late 19th century.
Early in his first term, President Bush announced that he would not be calling on the American Bar Association to screen judicial nominees - a break with nearly 50 years of presidential practice. Critics worry that that mantle has passed to the Federalist Society - directly or indirectly.
Recently, the society's executive vice president, Leonard Leo, took a leave of absence to help the Bush White House with the Roberts nomination. Critics say it's another sign of the society's influence in the Bush administration's overhaul of the nation's courts.
"It's not a secret conspiracy. The Federalist Society is quite clear about where they want to go on issues like civil rights law and corporate regulation. Their views are in the public, but the public hasn't paid attention," says Ross.