The Federalists are coming

The Federalist Society is holding its annual National Lawyers Convention in Washington, D.C. starting tomorrow. Unfortunately, a combination of business travel and family commitments will keep me from attending. Here is the awesome schedule of events. Justice Scalia will deliver the Barbara Olson memorial lecture on Friday night.
The Federalist Society became a bete noir of liberals around the time that Ken Starr was investigating Bill Clinton. There’s no denying that its members frequently conspire to be conservatives. Ironically, though, the organization also puts together some of the best, most ideologically balanced discussion panels you can find. Check out the schedule link in the preceding paragraph if you don’t believe me.
Liberals sometimes complain that the Federalist Society has too much influence in the judge selection process when Republicans are in power. I would state it differently — the organization enhances the ability of a president to select conservative judges to the extent that the president wishes to do so. Republican presidents are notorious for not picking conservative Supreme Court Justices — think of Justice Souter, Justice Stevens, and Justice Blackmun. This can happen because the president would rather pick a non-conservative or because he wants to pick a friend (or a friend of a friend) and doesn’t care about ideology. But it seems that, in some cases, presidents have intended to pick a conservative and simply failed to do so. The existence of the Federalist Society in its present mature and robust form makes it easier, I believe, for a president’s staff to identify conservatives who really are conservative.


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