Ted Olson may joke about the Federalist's "secret handshake", but in reality, the Federalist Society has very quietly become the very center of conservative legal thought. Everyone who is anyone in conservative legal circles either is a Federalist, or addresses the group.
From this article:
[The Society] now boasts a membership of more than 25,000 that includes prominent members of the Bush administration, the federal judiciary and Congress. Supreme Court justices, Cabinet members and other top Bush aides take regular turns at the society's podium.This is a very powerful group - although they are not widely known at all...but, let's also not forget that this group stands for...
Chances are good that the next Supreme Court justice will be either a member of the society or someone who has addressed the group.
Olson himself has been mentioned as a potential nominee. Newly confirmed appellate Judge Janice Rogers Brown, also mentioned as a possible future justice, was among those in the luncheon audience recently.
Others on President Bush's reputed short list include Federalist Society members John Roberts and Michael McConnell, both appellate court justices. Still others on the list have addressed the group, including appellate Judges J. Harvie Wilkinson, Emilio Garza, Edith Hollan Jones and Samuel Alito, and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
While the society has no formal role in consulting with the White House, "the reality is, given the presence of Federalist Society members within the White House counsel's office and the Bush administration, they are playing a crucial role in selecting judges and likely justices," said Erwin Chemerinsky, a liberal Duke University law professor who has addressed the group.
Georgetown University law professor Mark Tushnet wrote in his book, "A Court Divided," that Federalist Society conferences serve as "something like the out-of-town preview of a Broadway show, where ambitious conservative lawyers strut their stuff."
"Appearing at Federalist Society events is one, perhaps the most important, of the ways in which a person who wants to get known as 'reliable' and promotable makes sure that his/her name gets put on 'the list'," Tushnet said in an interview.
The Federalist Society is key in the Constitution-in-Exile movement, which believes that the Constitution should be "returned" to it's pre-1930's/pre-1880's/pre-1800's (depending on whom you talk to) state. Of course, what they don't like to make to public is that this means a return to segregation, the elimination of civil rights, end of government infrastructure projects, lack of worker protections, etc.
[See some of my other comments on the Constitution-in-Exile at these posts: A bit of Reading... (the last recommendation, The Unregulated Offensive); and More on Raich...]
Many Federalist members/supporters (including Janice Rogers Brown mentioned above) support a return to Lochner. In essence, Lochner jurisprudence grants a so-called "freedom of contract" or "liberty of contract", which means that no contract can be regulated...which of course means basic civilized protections such as minimum wages, safe working conditions, child-labor laws, etc. are completely done away with. [See some of my other comments on Lochner at these posts: Just something I want to remember...; Speaking of Lochner...; On the Merits; and More on Raich...]
So, it's pretty clear that what the Federalist Society is attempting to do to the law is drag it back to the "good old days"...of course, when examined just a touch critically, it's clear those day's weren't so good.
In another post from some time ago, I mentioned how the Federalist Society has become one of the critical pieces of the right-wing's effort at control of power. In The Democrat's Problem... I said this about the Federalist's, and countering them:
[The Right] spend[s] wild amounts of money identifying young leaders, and putting them in positions of success – and targeting specific offices to challenge for and put their people in place. ... There have been some (still very limited) attempts to counter groups like the Federalist Society that identify young conservative leaders with groups like the American Constitution Society.The American Constitution Society was founded five years ago to begin to counteract the emerging role of the Federalist Society. As I believe I've mentioned before, it's stunning to me how a group who wants to return law to it's 1870's state could be taken seriously...but not only are they taken seriously, they are, in some ways, winning. This is a time of real upsurge in extreme conservative and libertarian legal thought. It is time for people who love the Constitution and believe in the Bill of Rights to stand up and make their voice heard - lest we find some of our basic American rights truly put into exile.