Frustrated by the lack of embarrassing personal details and quotes that are outrageous when repeated out of context, the press has decided that the question of Supreme Court nominee John Roberts’ Federalist Society membership is incredibly important. The suggestion, of course, is that membership in the Society portends some extremists positions that are unacceptable for a Supreme Court justice. As president of the Georgetown Law Center Federalist Society, I can tell you that those who attempt to characterize the Society and its member with a broad, extremist brush show only their own ignorance and agenda.
As an excellent op-ed article by Federalist Society member Eugene Volohk explains, the Federalist Society embraces a wide variety of conservative and libertarian viewpoints. The Federalist Society was founded by libertarians and conservatives who felt marginalized by the left wing domination of the legal academia. It has certain founding principles- including broad statements about individual rights and the courts saying what the law is, not what they wish it to be- but those principles are so broad as to encompass the views of most Americans.
My personal experience illustrates the diversity of viewpoints of the people who are both members of the Federalist Society and speak at our events. I have argued with our previous chapter president about military tribunals in Guantanamo (I am against them, she is for them); I have debated with other members about abortion (I am against abortion, they were for it); I have argued with one of my current officers about Bush’s Medicare plan (I am against it, he is for it). At our National Student Symposium, noted liberal Alan Dershowitz debated the use of pre-emption and often took more hawkish views than the Federalist Society member who was debating him. On the panel before that, ACLU leader Nadine Strossen explained that the Society’s founding principles of protecting individual rights are in line with the ACLU’s mission.
I am a proud member of the Federalist Society- but that tells you little about me. You would not know my opinions on any particular issue, or my view of what the Constitution requires. All you would know is that I belong to a Society that believes that the liberal domination of the legal academy does not adequately represent my viewpoint. There are a lot of more controversial aspects to my views- but like with John Roberts- you will not know them by finding out if I paid my 5 dollar yearly dues to the Federalist Society.
(also posted at Watchblog