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Federalist Society - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Federalist Society
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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[1] 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."[1] 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.[1] 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.[1]

Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies

The Federalist Society logo, depicting the silhouette of James Madison's bust Type Legal

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. [1] Location Washington, DC Eugene B. Meyer[3] Membership 40,000[2] President Website

1 Background 2 Aims and membership 3 Activities 4 Notable members 5 See also 6 References 7 Further reading 8 External links



Federalist Society - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The society was begun by a group including Edwin Meese, Robert Bork, Theodore Olson, David M. McIntosh, and Steven Calabresi, and its members have included Supreme Court justices Antonin Scalia, John G. Roberts, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.[4] The Society looks to Federalist Paper Number 78[5] 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.[6] The Society's name is said to have been based on the 18th-century Federalist Party;[7] 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.

Aims and membership

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 sides."[8] 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."[8] 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."[9]

Activities 2/6


Federalist Society - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Federalist Society members helped to encourage President George W. Bushs decision to terminate the American Bar Associations nearly half-century-old monopoly on 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 believed the ABA showed a liberal bias in its recommendations.[10][11][12] 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".[13] Judges Posner and Easterbrook have gone on to become the two most highly cited judges in the federal appellate judiciary.[14]

Notable members
Notable members of the Society have included:[9] United States Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (who served as the original faculty advisor to the organization)[15] Supreme Court Chief Justice John Glover Roberts, Jr.[citation needed ] 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 formerUnited 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 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[16] Professor Randy Barnett of Georgetown University Law Center[17] Bradley A. Smith, a professor at Capital University Law School who formerly served as Chairman of the Federal Election Commission[18] Roger Pilon, Director of Constitutional Studies at the Cato Institute[19] Other members include:[citation needed ] United States Ambassador to the European Union C. Boyden Gray Columbia Law School Dean David Schizer Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff 3/6


Federalist Society - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

University of California, Berkeley law professor John Yoo, who received a Bator Award from the Society for "excellence in legal scholarship and teaching"[20] former United States Secretary of the Interior, Gale Norton Antonin'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:[21] 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."[22] 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.[23] Membership in the Society is not a necessary condition for being listed in the leadership directory.[23]

See also
Conservatism in the United States American Constitution Society

1. ^ a b c d e "About Us, Our Background" ( . The Federalist Society. Retrieved 2008-08-20. 2. ^ "Our Background" ( . Federalist Society. Retrieved 2010-12-10. 3. ^ "Board of Directors" ( . About Us. Federalist Society. Retrieved 2008-04-09. 4. ^ Oliphant, James (2007-09-06). "Giuliani hitches star to conservative legal group" (,0,1519010.story) . Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2008-10-27. 5. ^ "Conservative & Libertarian Pre-Law Reading List" ( . Federalist Society. Retrieved 2008-07-28. 6. ^ Atkins, Paul S. (2008-01-18). "Speech by SEC Commissioner: Remarks at the Federalist Society Lawyers' Chapter of Dallas, Texas" ( . SEC. Retrieved 2008-07-28. 7. ^ Landay, Jerry (March 2000). "The Federalist Society" ( . Washington Monthly. 8. ^ a b Volokh, Eugene (June 3, 2001). "Our Flaw? Were Just Not Liberals" ( . Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-08-25. 9. ^ a b "Right Wing Organizations" ( . People For The 4/6


Federalist Society - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


11. 12.




16. 17.

18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23.

American Way. May 2006. Retrieved 2007-08-25. ^ Batkins, Sam (2004-08-12). "ABA Retains Little Objectivity in Nomination Process" ( _objectivity.htm) . Center for Individual Freedom. objectivity.htm. Retrieved 2006-08-20. ^ Lindgren, James (2001-08-06). "Yes, the ABA Rankings Are Biased" ( id=95000927) . Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2006-08-21. ^ "ABA Ratings of Judicial Nominees" ( . ABA Watch. Federalist Society. July 1996. Retrieved 2006-08-20. ^ Lott, Jr., John R. (January 25, 2006). "Pulling Rank" ( . New York Times. Retrieved 2007-08-25. ^ 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. ^ DeParle, Jason (2005-08-01). "Debating the Subtle Sway of the Federalist Society" ( . The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-05-11. ^ "Executive Privilege (continued)" ( . Federalist Society. 2007-08-17. Retrieved 2008-04-09. ^ "Is the DC Gun Ban Unconstitutional? - Event Audio/Video" ( . Federalist Society. 2008-01-04. Retrieved 2008-04-09. ^ "Debates - Crawford v. Marion County" ( . Federalist Society. 2008-02-04. Retrieved 2008-04-09. ^ Volokh, Eugene (2001-06-03). "Our Flaw? Were Just Not Liberals" ( . Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-04-09. ^ "Biography" ( . UC Berkeley School of Law. 2006. Retrieved 2008-05-11. ^ "White Papers" ( . The Federalist Society. Retrieved 2007-08-25. ^ Lane, Charles (July 21, 2005). "Federalist Affiliation Misstated" ( . The Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-08-25. ^ a b Lane, Charles (July 25, 2005). "Roberts Listed in Federalist Society '97-98 Directory" ( . The Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-08-25.

Further reading
Avery, Michael; McLaughlin, Danielle (2013). The Federalist Society: How Conservatives Took the Law Back from Liberals ( . Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press. pp. 304. ISBN 978-0826518774. Fiss, Owen. What is the Federalist Society? ( . 15 Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy 5 (1992) 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. 5/6


Federalist Society - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

External links
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 ( Retrieved from "" Categories: Legal organizations based in the United States Political organizations in the United States Federalism in the United States Student political organizations in the United States Libertarian organizations based in the United States This page was last modified on 21 March 2013 at 16:37. Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. See Terms of Use for details. Wikipedia is a registered trademark of the Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., a non-profit organization.