Bench Memos

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Miranda, Roberts, and the Federalist Society


I am sure I am not the only one who is exasperated and amused by various senators’ and journalists’ breathless and utterly uninformed assumptions about the Federalist Society, and by the raised eyebrows in certain circles about the possibility that Judge Roberts might sympathize, or have once been affilated, with that shadowy cabal of extremists. It is all so tedious. In any sane, honest world, the activities of the Federalist Society and the views of its members would be recognized for what they are–perfectly respectable, defensible, and–yes–conservative. I’m inclined to agree, then, with Manuel Miranda’s argument in today’s OpinionJournal that neither the administration nor Judge Roberts’s (many, many) supporters should be at all defensive about the Federalist Society. (That said, if Judge Roberts has never been a member, there’s no reason not to point that out.)

Speaking as a relatively recent law-school graduate, and as a law teacher, I think it needs to be emphasized, far and wide, how valuable and educational the work of the Federalist Society is. In my experience, the Federalist Society and its events are some of the (unfortunately) rare contexts where lawyers and law students are exposed to genuine debate, and presented fairly with mainstream conservative and constitutionalist thinking. In fact, as every informed observer knows, there is no cabal, there is no handshake, and there is no secret: The Federalist Society exists to improve and enrich students’ educations and lawyers’ conversations. The Society should be praised in the press, and not subjected to DaVinci Code-style treatment.

Here, by the way, is a must-read op-ed by Eugene Volokh, written a few years ago in the context of Viet Dinh’s nomination to serve as assistant attorney general.


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