A judicial panel decided Thursday that federal judges won’t be barred from membership in the Federalist Society, leading Senator Ben Sasse (R., N.E.) to mock Democrats for their “smear campaign” against the conservative organization.
“I’m glad the Judicial Conference decided not to participate in a vicious liberal smear campaign against the Federalist Society,” said Sasse, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Oversight and Federal Courts, in a statement Friday. “Senator Whitehouse can hyperventilate about the Illuminati all he wants, but the Federalist Society is a group of law students and lawyers with diverse opinions who formed a debate society.”
“Because they take the Constitution and the rule of law seriously, they’ve been the target of a ruthless blitz that will ultimately erode confidence in an independent and fair Judiciary,” he said, adding that The Judicial Conference made the right call.
Sasse led a group of 29 senators who demanded the panel abandon the proposal to restrict membership from the Federalist Society as well as the liberal American Constitution Society, while allowing membership in the American Bar Association, which Republicans have called a liberal advocacy organization.
In March, 200 judges signed a letter criticizing a draft of the proposal that was leaked in January, saying “It is inconsistent to disallow Federalist Society membership and permit ABA membership because of public perception of the Federalist Society as a conservative organization.”
“To make matters worse, this double standard rests on a critically flawed factual premise, for it is simply not true that the Federalist Society takes legal or policy positions,” the judges wrote.
The Judicial Conference tabled the proposal after a comment period that yielded 300 responses from judges, Director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts James C. Duff said in a July 30 memo. The panel will maintain existing policies on membership in outside organizations.