|Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies|
|Purpose/focus||To promote 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.|
|President||Eugene B. Meyer|
(FYE August 2012)
The Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies, most frequently called simply the Federalist Society, is an organization of conservatives and libertarians seeking reform of the current American legal system in accordance with a textualist or originalist interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. The Federalist Society began at Yale Law School, Harvard Law School, and the University of Chicago Law School in 1982 as a student organization that challenged what its members perceived as the orthodox American liberal ideology found in most law schools. The Society asserts that 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."
The Society is a membership organization that features a Student Division, a Lawyers Division, and a Faculty Division. The Society currently has chapters at over 200 United States law schools and claims a membership of over 10,000 law students. The Lawyers Division comprises over 30,000 practicing attorneys (organized as "lawyers chapters" and "practice groups" within the Society's Lawyers Division) in sixty cities. Its headquarters are in Washington, D.C.. Through speaking events, lectures, and other activities, the Federalist Society provides a forum for legal experts of opposing views to interact with members of the legal profession, the judiciary, law students, and academics.
The society was started by a group of people including Edwin Meese, then Professor Robert Bork, David M. McIntosh, Lee Liberman Otis, Spence Abraham, and Steven Calabresi. Its membership have since included Supreme Court justices Antonin Scalia, John G. Roberts, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.
The Society looks to Federalist Paper Number 78 for an articulation of the virtue of judicial restraint, as written by Alexander Hamilton: "It can be of no weight to say that the courts, on the pretense of a repugnancy, may substitute their own pleasure to the constitutional intentions of the legislature.... The courts must declare the sense of the law; and if they should be disposed to exercise WILL instead of JUDGMENT, the consequence would equally be the substitution of their pleasure to that of the legislative body."
Its logo is a silhouette of former President and Constitution author James Madison, who co-wrote the Federalist Papers. Commissioner Paul S. Atkins of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission considered Federalist Society members "the heirs of James Madison's legacy" in a speech he gave in January 2008 to the Federalist Society Lawyers' Chapter of Dallas, Texas. Madison is generally credited as the father of the Constitution and became the fourth President of the United States.
The Society's name is said to have been based on the 18th-century Federalist Party; however, James Madison associated with Thomas Jefferson and the Democratic-Republican Party in opposition to Federalist Party policies borne from a loose interpretation of the Commerce Clause. The Federalist Society's views are more associated with the general meaning of Federalism (particularly the New Federalism) and the content of the Federalist Papers than with the later Federalist Party.
Founded in 1982, the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies is a group of conservatives and libertarians dedicated to reforming the current legal order. We are committed to 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. The Society seeks to promote awareness of these principles and to further their application through its activities.
Aims and membership
In its mission and purpose, the Federalist Society is unique. By providing a forum for legal experts of opposing views to interact with members of the legal profession, the judiciary, law students, academics, and the architects of public policy, the Society has redefined the terms of legal debate. Our expansion in membership, chapters, and program activity has been matched by the rapid growth of the Society's reputation and the quality and influence of our events. We have fostered a greater appreciation for the role of separation of powers; federalism; limited, constitutional government; and the rule of law in protecting individual freedom and traditional values. Overall, the Society's efforts are improving our present and future leaders' understanding of the principles underlying American law.
In working to promote the ideology set forth in its "Statement of Principles", the Society has created a network of intellectuals and others at all levels of the legal community. The Student Division has more than 10,000 law students as members, and the Society draws on the national office's network of legal experts to provide speakers for differing viewpoints at law school events. The activities of the Student Division are complemented by the activities of the Lawyers Division, which comprises more than 30,000 legal professionals, and the Faculty Division, which includes many professors of law and jurisprudence and other legal specialists in the academic community.
The Society seeks to debate constitutional issues and public policy questions, and this commitment extends to inviting speakers who do not agree with the society's principles. For example, past invitees include Justice Stephen Breyer and law professor Alan Dershowitz, two legal authorities who disagree with many of the Society's views. Society member and UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh explained this willingness to discuss other views by writing, "We think that a fair debate between us and our liberal adversaries will win more converts for our positions than for the other side’s." In the words of Dan Lowenstein, a Democrat and political appointee of former California governor Jerry Brown, "The Federalist Society is one of the few student organizations putting on public events that contribute to the intellectual life of the law school." The Federalist Society's guide to forming and running a chapter of the society claims that the organization "creates an informal network of people with shared views which can provide assistance in job placement."
The Society is a membership organization that features a Student Division, a Lawyers Division, and a Faculty Division. The Student Division includes more than 10,000 law students at all of the 196 ABA-accredited law schools as well as 24 additional chapters based at international law schools, non-accredited law schools, satellite campuses for ABA-accredited schools, and a few undergraduate institutions. The national office provides speakers and other assistance to the chapters in organizing their lectures, debates, and educational activities. In the 2006-07 academic year, our student chapters hosted almost 1,000 events, with a total attendance of about 48,000 students.
The Lawyers Division consists of over 30,000 legal professionals and others interested in current intellectual and practical developments in the law. It has active chapters in sixty cities, including Washington, D.C., New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, San Francisco, Denver, Atlanta, Houston, Pittsburgh, Seattle, and Indianapolis. Activities include the annual National Lawyers Convention, a Speakers Bureau for organizing lectures and debates, and 15 Practice Groups. The Federalist Society established its Faculty Division in early 1999 with a conference that was attended by many of the rising stars in the legal academy. The objective of the Faculty Division is to provide events and other tools to help encourage constructive academic discourse. This encouragement will help foster the growth and development of rigorous traditional legal scholarship.
Finally, the Federalist Society provides opportunities for effective participation in the public policy process. The Society’s ongoing programs encourage our members to involve themselves more actively in local, state-wide, and national affairs and to contribute more productively to their communities.
|This section requires expansion. (June 2011)|
The Society's main purpose is to sponsor fair, serious, and open debate about the need to enhance individual freedom and the role of the courts in saying what the law is rather than what they wish it to be. They believe debate is the best way to ensure that legal principles that have not been the subject of sufficient attention for the past several decades receive a fair hearing.
The Society is about ideas, and though controversial at times, they do not lobby for legislation, take policy positions, or sponsor or endorse nominees and candidates for public service. While overall the Society believes in limited government, its members are diverse and often hold conflicting views on a broad range of issues such as tort reform, privacy rights, national security, and criminal justice.
The Society has a strong reputation for hosting speakers on all sides of the ideological spectrum. A number of the Society's most frequent and prominent speakers - from the Left as well as the Right - attest to the fact that the Society has contributed a great deal to free speech, free debate, and the public understanding of the Constitution. For example, Nadine Strossen, former president of the ACLU is a frequent participant in Federalist Society events. In her own words: “It has been my pleasure to speak at many Federalist Society gatherings around the country, and I think one thing your organization has definitely done is to contribute to free speech, free debate, and most importantly public understanding of, awareness of, and appreciation of the Constitution. So that's a marvelous contribution, and…in a way I must say I'm jealous at how the Federalist Society has thrived at law schools.” President Reagan had this to say: “The Federalist Society is changing the culture of our nation's law schools. You are returning the values and concepts of law as our founders understood them to scholarly dialogue, and through that dialogue, to our legal institutions.”
Federalist Society members helped to encourage President George W. Bush’s decision to terminate the American Bar Association’s nearly half-century-old practice of rating judicial nominees' qualifications for office. Since the administration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the American Bar Association has provided the service to presidents of both parties and the nation by vetting the qualifications of those under consideration for lifetime appointment to the federal judiciary. The Federalist Society alleged that the ABA showed a liberal bias in its recommendations. For example, while former Supreme Court clerks nominated to the Court of Appeals by Democrats had an average rating of slightly below "well qualified", similar Republican nominees were rated on average as only "qualified/well qualified." In addition the ABA gave Ronald Reagan's judicial nominees Richard Posner and Frank H. Easterbrook its lowest possible ratings of "qualified/not qualified". Judges Posner and Easterbrook have gone on to become the two most highly cited judges in the federal appellate judiciary.
Notable members of the Society have included:
- United States Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (who served as the original faculty advisor to the organization)
- Supreme Court Chief Justice John Glover Roberts, Jr.
- Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito
- Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas
- United States Circuit Court Judge Priscilla Owen
- United States Court of Appeals Judge Thomas Griffith
- United States Court of Appeals Judge Edith Clement
- Former United States Assistant Attorney General Peter Keisler, a co-founder of the Federalist Society
- Former United States Court of Appeals Judge Robert Bork
- Former United States Attorney General Edwin Meese
- Former United States Solicitor General Theodore Olson
- Senator Orrin Hatch
- President of Baylor University and former independent counsel Kenneth Starr
- Former U.S. Senator and Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham
- Congressman Dan Lungren
- Former Texas State Representative and Dallas lawyer Bill Keffer
The Society also has many prominent libertarians who are members and frequent speakers at Society events, such as:
- Professor Richard Epstein of the University of Chicago Law School
- Professor Randy Barnett of Georgetown University Law Center
- Bradley A. Smith, a professor at Capital University Law School who formerly served as Chairman of the Federal Election Commission
- Roger Pilon, Director of Constitutional Studies at the Cato Institute
Other members include:
- United States Ambassador to the European Union C. Boyden Gray
- Columbia Law School Dean David Schizer
- Former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff
- University of California, Berkeley law professor John Yoo, who received a Bator Award from the Society for "excellence in legal scholarship and teaching"
- Former United States Secretary of the Interior, Gale Norton
- Justice Scalia's son Eugene Scalia
- Former general counsel of the Office of Management and Budget and of the Department of Homeland Security Philip Perry
While not necessarily members, several figures in the public eye have written for Federalist Society publications:
- Shawn Mitchell, a Republican member of the Colorado state senate
- Hans A. von Spakovsky, a commissioner of the Federal Election Commission
- Shannen W. Coffin, general counsel to Vice President Dick Cheney
Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts was reported to have been a member of the Society, but Roberts's membership status was never definitively established. Deputy White House press secretary Dana Perino said Roberts "has no recollection of ever being a member." The Washington Post later located the Federalist Society Lawyers' Division Leadership Directory, 1997-1998, which listed Roberts as a member of the Washington chapter steering committee. Membership in the Society is not a necessary condition for being listed in the leadership directory.
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- Choi, Stephen; Gulati, Mitu (2003). "Who Would Win a Tournament of Judges (Draft)". Boalt Working Papers in Public Law (University of California) (19): 96. Retrieved 2006-08-20.
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- "William R. "Bill" Keffer". lrl.state.tx.us. Retrieved September 26, 2013.
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- "Debates - Crawford v. Marion County". Federalist Society. 2008-02-04. Retrieved 2008-04-09.
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- "Biography". UC Berkeley School of Law. 2006. Retrieved 2008-05-11.
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- Lane, Charles (July 21, 2005). "Federalist Affiliation Misstated". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-08-25.
- Lane, Charles (July 25, 2005). "Roberts Listed in Federalist Society '97-98 Directory". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-08-25.
- Avery, Michael; McLaughlin, Danielle (2013). The Federalist Society: How Conservatives Took the Law Back from Liberals. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press. p. 304. ISBN 978-0826518774.
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- Teles, Steven M. (2008). The Rise of the Conservative Legal Movement: The Battle for Control of the Law. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-12208-3.
- The Federalist Society
- List of chapters from the official website
- New York Times, August 1, 2005, "Debating the Subtle Sway of the Federalist Society"
- Federalist Society response to August 1, 2005, New York Times article
- Washington Post, July 29, 2005, "What the Federalist Society Stands For"
- 26th Annual Student Symposium Homepage, hosted by Northwestern University School of Law
- 25th Annual Student Symposium Homepage, hosted by Columbia Law School[dead link]