Sunday, November 13, 2005

Federalist Society Complexion

Well, if you want to see the temper and character of an organization someone is involved with, look to see what speakers they sponsor and what sort of banter they consider appropriate.

As some of you may be aware, the current Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, John Roberts, had been widely reported, through several administrations, as being a member of the Federalist Society, a group formed in 1982 to, as one columnist put it, to change the "tilt to the left" that they (the Society's founders) saw in law schools.

FRom the Society's own website, in the "Our Purpose" page:

..."The Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies is a group of conservatives and libertarians interested in the current state of the legal order. 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. "

... In working to achieve these goals, the Society has created a conservative and libertarian intellectual network that extends to all levels of the legal community.

Roberts was listed as being part of the Society's "Leadership Directory" during the 1997-1998 period. Roberts has, however, denied any recollection of being a member (of course, the question then is just why his name appears in the directory?).

The Federalist Society, though publicly proclaiming that they are just a group who wants to keep our Constitutional system safe from judicial activists, keeps it's membership list secret.

I have a problem with an organization that claims that it wants to be influential at all levels of the law, through influencing the several legislatures, through judges' clerks, through influencing curriculum, through lawyers themselves, and through the judiciary itself, keeping the names of those who it claims as its members secret.

And, according to current nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court Samuel Alito's written questionnaire responses for his 1990 confirmation hearings as a member of the appellate courts, he, also, is/was a member.

Could the Miers debacle have so spooked the White House that they feel they need to push to the base so much that, when they were trying to paint Roberts as being a "s/h/e/e/p/ moderate in /w/o/l/f/'/s/ conservative clothing" that they now have to pimp Alito as a card-carrying anti-liberal?

Well, as to "appropriate banter" and "company they keep," recently, Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, in a speech before the society, very publicly decried the Massachusetts Supreme Court, in their ruling that the laws the Commonwealth that forbade same-sex marriage were contrary to the Massachusetts COnstitution, were ruling not ruling from points of law and the Massachusetts Constitution, but to promte their own values and those of ''their like-minded friends in the communities they socialize in." (see Boston Globe, 11/11/2005).

Also, in Romney's remarks, was this little gem:

''Our Supreme Judicial Court in Massachusetts, by a one-vote majority, found that in our constitution written over 200 years ago was a right for same-sex individuals to marry," the governor said.

'John Adams would be surprised," Romney said to laughs. ''Now my judicially, philosophically oriented liberal friends were happy, even celebratory. What's wrong, they say, with allowing judges to expand the constitution to do what they and other intelligent people think is the right thing to do? Well, the answer is there are a lot of things wrong with that "

By that reasoning, the courts should not have gotten involved in, as an example, regulating telecommunications, because, obviously, that was never an issue that was originally in either the Constitutions of either the United States or the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. And Brown V Board of Education should never even been scheduled for hearing.

Such obvious disdain, from this governor, for the Massachusetts Supreme Court is not exactly news to the voters in Massachusetts. Most of us just wonder whether Romney will follow the pattern of the last several Republican governors of the Commonwealth, and will leave his term early.

Frankly, a lot of progressive voters wonder how Romney get elected at all, especially after the poor background performance that was revealed during his failed run for the Senate opposite Ted Kennedy. He has, in office, lived to those diminished expectations.

Before the speech, Romney was introduced by Federalist Society member Gerald Walpin, who
... Introduced Romney by praising him for fighting against what he called the ''modern-day KKK . . . the Kennedy-Kerry Klan."

''Today, when most of the country thinks of who controls Massachusetts, I think the modern-day KKK comes to mind, the Kennedy-Kerry Klan," Walpin, who sits on the society's board of visitors, said to hearty laughter. ''One person who has been victorious against that tide in Massachusetts is Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney."

Romney, along with members of the audience, laughed at the joke and later thanked Walpin for the ''very generous introduction."

It was not until later, when the press got wind of the "banter," and pressed Romney about it, that he said: "I think it was unfortunate."

Another speaker before the Federalist Society recently was Karl Rove, who opined that:

We will see one of two things come to pass," he said. "The courts will on their own reform themselves and return to their proper role in American public life, or we will see more public support for constitutional amendments and legislation to rein them in."

This is an apparent reference to the frustration that many conservatives feel is an insufficient deference to the legislative branch, and the proposals of several in Congress to word bills with caveats that the bills cannot be reviewed by the courts. (I suppose that when the members of Congress take the oath to defend and uphold the Constitution they don't have to read it, after all)

But, to have an institution that claims to be dedicated to the rule of law have, as a featured speaker, an individual who is a central figure in the misuse of classified information and the revealing, apparently in a political ploy, the identification of a covert operative of the CIA, strikes me as being more than a little "edgy."

As I said, you can tell a lot about someone by what company they keep, and what jokes they tell.

No comments: