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John Roberts Does Not Belong To The Federalist Society:
The Washington Post reports:
  Everyone knows that, like all good Republican lawyers, John G. Roberts Jr. is a member of the Federalist Society, the conservative law and public policy organization where right-of-center types meet to denounce liberalism and angle for jobs in the Bush administration.
  And practically everyone — CNN, the Los Angeles Times, Legal Times and, just yesterday, The Washington Post — has reported Roberts's membership as a fact. One liberal group opposed to Roberts's nomination, the Alliance for Justice, has noted it on its Web site.
  But they are wrong. John Roberts is not, in fact, a member of the Federalist Society, and he says he never has been.
  This part of the story is particularly funny:
  Upon reflection, some Federalist Society members conceded that they had never actually seen Roberts at meet-and-greets such as the society's annual black-tie dinner.
  "That's a good question, let me think. Now that you mention it — no," was former Bush Justice Department official Viet Dinh's response when asked if he had ever spotted Roberts at any Federalist events.
  Hat tip: ACSBlog.
42USC1983 (mail):
Yep. I actually read all 27-pages of this questionnaire and no mention of the Federalist Society. Reading - it's a dirty job, but somebody has to do it.
7.21.2005 7:01pm
Eric Anondson (mail):
I saw someone post something like this in comments in a blog elsewhere, I wish I could remember where...

Schumer will ask without any sense of irony: "Mr. Roberts, are you now or have you ever been a member of the Federalist Society?"
7.21.2005 7:03pm
Adam (mail) (www):
It's not surprising that Dinh didn't remember something having to do with the Federalist Society; when he testified before Congress, he claimed that "I do not know, quite frankly, what it all stands for . . . I do not think it does have a stated philosophy, to my knowledge. It may very well have. I just simply do not know." He similarly claimed not to know where they stood on the political spectrum.

While I'm a liberal, I know that Dem bashing of the Federalist Society is nonsense, but claiming ignorance that it's a conservative-libertarian organization is equally nonsense.
7.21.2005 7:13pm
JohnAnnArbor:
Eric Anondson:

I did that over at Captain's Quarters.....
7.21.2005 7:47pm
aslanfan (mail):
I always found it strange that that Fed Soc describes itself as a group of conserv. and libertarian lawyers, while at the same time claiming that one part of its mission is to de-politicize the law (which I support). If you were going to de-politicize any other profession, would you only invite conservatives? Why not invite the modern counterparts of Felix Frankfurter, liberals who keep politics out of their legal analysis? I'm sure some exist, somewhere.
7.21.2005 8:39pm
Michael R. (mail):
Well, that's a definite plus for Roberts. All we need on the Court is another Federalist Society member chipping away at our rights.
7.21.2005 8:40pm
JohnAnnArbor:
Michael R.:

Which rights are they against?
7.21.2005 8:42pm
Justice Fuller:
Aslanfan,

Felix Frankfurter would find himself very welcome in a meeting of the Federalist Society. Actually, today his views would probably place him on the far right of the Federalist Socity -- against Baker v. Carr, against incorporation, etc.

There are lots of liberals who agree with what the Federalist Society stands for, but they usually keep quiet.
7.21.2005 8:45pm
Igglephan:
You know, they say that if you can remember the Fedsoc black-tie gala, you weren't really ever there.
7.21.2005 8:51pm
Ulrich Bonnell Phillips:
Eric Anondson wrote: Schumer will ask without any sense of irony: "Mr. Roberts, are you now or have you ever been a member of the Federalist Society?"

Roberts will respond: "I have no recollection of that Senator."

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino is quoted in the Washington Post article, "He has no recollection of ever being a member."

However, he may be a fellow traveler. Perino "said that Roberts recalls speaking at Federalist Society forums (as have lawyers and legal scholars of various political stripes). But he has apparently never paid the $50 annual fee that would make him a full-fledged member."

Born to be a Supreme Court Justice. Making sure he never offended anyone. How elite.
7.21.2005 9:15pm
Gesualdo Pears (mail):
He was a member of the Federalist Society at HLS, I think. Which is where the confusion all began.
7.21.2005 9:20pm
Ulrich Bonnell Phillips:
The BEST part of the story is:

"A related question is why Roberts would not want to be
a member."

"Some conservatives said that a Federalist affiliation,
while a definite plus within Bush administration
circles, could only provoke hostile questions from
Senate Democrats -- so Roberts, in keeping with his
low-key approach to conservatism, just steered clear."

""It's smart from his perspective," a former Bush
administration official said."



So is the Federalist Society now like being a member of the National Lawyers Guild? Or is this official SPINNING because Roberts is NOT a member? Like Schumer is going to be nice now.
7.21.2005 9:23pm
Marc J.:
I'm pretty sure that the Federalist Society didn't yet exist when he was at HLS.
7.21.2005 9:24pm
Kevin Murphy (mail) (www):
Hmmm .. I'd actually thought his reported membership to be a plus against all the "Souter" commentary. Guess I'll have to re-evaluate.
7.21.2005 9:39pm
Joshua:
Marc J. is correct: Roberts graduated in 1979, the Federalist Society was founded in 1982.
7.21.2005 10:26pm
frank cross (mail):
I hear that, at some events, they drink blood.
7.21.2005 10:27pm
DNL (mail):
Frank:

Only at some events? Damn, I'll keep my fifty bucks then.
7.21.2005 10:35pm
Robert Schwartz (mail):
Its just wonderful how the MSM will report a factoid without checking when it fits their template.
7.21.2005 11:19pm
Eric Anondson (mail):
Thanks JohnAnnArbor! Is there some way to edit past comments here so I can credit appropriately? Cool to see others who read the same blogs I do.
7.22.2005 12:04am
Laer (mail) (www):
#16 on my blog's list of MSM bias in its coverage of Roberts:

Why the interest in his alleged membership in the Federalist Society? Oh, sure, it might be a legit quest for information to flesh out his thin record. But if that were all there is to this little mistake, ask yourself if the media made such a big deal of Ruth Bader Ginsberg's true ACLU affiliation? And would they have written it up like this:

"Ginsberg is also a member of the American Civil Liberties Union, a fraternity/sorority of liberals, mostly attorneys, whose members often espouse the view that the Constitution should not be interpreted literally and and support "activist" judicial decisions that find implicity but unwritten rights in the document including the unwritten right to privacy from which abortion rights are derived."
7.22.2005 1:10am
Jerome C. Austriaco (mail) (www):

It's not surprising that Dinh didn't remember something having to do with the Federalist Society; when he testified before Congress, he claimed that "I do not know, quite frankly, what it all stands for . . . I do not think it does have a stated philosophy, to my knowledge. It may very well have. I just simply do not know." He similarly claimed not to know where they stood on the political spectrum.

While I'm a liberal, I know that Dem bashing of the Federalist Society is nonsense, but claiming ignorance that it's a conservative-libertarian organization is equally nonsense.


Adam, thanks for the link to the transcript. Have you read it past the portion that you've quoted? All your answers lie in that portion of the text. I challenge you to find one issue that the Federalist Society takes a position on. It cannot be done.

By the way, that IS a sincere thank you for the link. It shows just how ignorant my dear senator, Dick Durbin, really is. After proclaiming that he is not an expert on the Federalist Society, he immediately states that he does not believe that it is a debating society (after Dinh says it is) and that it "has an agenda" based on what he has read about it. Apparently what he reads about something holds more weight than conversing with a person that has firsthand knowledge about the topic.
7.22.2005 2:41am
Steve:
I'd say the "firsthand knowledge" of someone who doesn't even know the Federalist Society is a conservative organization shouldn't be accorded much weight.
7.22.2005 7:14am
Adam (www):
In three years at the University of Chicago Law School, I don't recall a single open debate hosted by the Federalists. Occasionally, they had two speakers representing opposite points of view, but that's not a debating society -- that's what the Antient and Honourable Edmund Burke Society was.

They brought in speakers. They networked. And they promoted a conservative-libertarian agenda. That's what the Federalist Society does.
7.22.2005 9:32am
Aultimer:
Let's not conflate the "conservative/libertarian" views of the Fed Soc with the current popular meaning of "conservative" (something like "dogmatic Christian/Catholic social views, strong hawkishness and big deficit economics). There may be many Fed Soc members who have those views, but the group's activities and writings are far more sober and limited in scope.
7.22.2005 10:21am
Justin (mail):
Saying Felix Frankfurter would be at the "far right" of the federalist society today is much like saying that Abe Lincoln was conservative because he didn't believe in gay marriage or affirmative action, and did not fight for the right for a woman's choice. You can't analyze political leanings based on today's issues for a previous politician, since they were fighting different battles. Suffice to say, Frankfurter was one of the most liberal Supreme Court Justices since Marshall at his time, and was, I believe, the first practicing athiest to hold a position of such power.
7.22.2005 11:04am
Chip (mail):
I find it troubling that he is not a member of the Federalist Society and that his supporters are so quick to remove Roberts from association. You simply cannot be a good Supreme Court Justice nominee unless you are a member, whether officially or not, of the Federalist Society.
7.22.2005 11:18am
Mike in NYC:
Question - If Roberts is really a mystery, why is the far-right, particularly the religious right, so excited about this nomination? What explains it?
7.22.2005 11:21am
Steve:
Just as with Souter, another judge whose credentials were not well-known, conservative groups with doubts have received various private assurances offered by those who claim to "know" where Judge Roberts stands. For example, this post at Redstate.org says: "There is also much we do not "officially know," but privately are sure of. We at RedState know Judge Roberts is right on life and is right for the Court."
7.22.2005 11:36am
Religious Right:
In all my glory, HEAR ME, Mike in NYC: We are not so excited about the nomination. We are excited that O'Connor is stepping down. Anybody Bush picks will at worst be a draw in comparison to SDOC.

PS-All that noise you think you hear us making is farts from NARAL and the ACLU who somehow know what we RR'ers don't know--that Roberts is a nazi who is going to campaing for Roe's dissolution, and for locking gays in prison, and for disenfranchising blacks.
7.22.2005 1:22pm
AST (mail):
NOT a member? Next you'll be telling us he's NOT a Catholic!

What's this country coming to when the news media report such easily-checked falsehoods? If he's not a FS member, he'd d___ well better join ASAP.

And while he's at it, the John Birch Society. How's this battle to be fought without more ammo than he's given the left so far? I hope Schumer et al will stand firm on demanding every document he's ever had anything to do with, including his class notes from law school, his exam answers and his doodles.
7.22.2005 3:37pm
Ulrich Bonnell Phillips:
Robert Novak piles on the Federalist Society in his July 23 column: "A link to the Federalist Society, which has been highly critical of the Supreme Court's liberal decisions, could be used to attack Roberts's judicial objectivity."

The Washington Post that "Alfred F. Ross, president of the Institute for Democracy Studies in New York, a liberal group that has published reports critical of the society" has given the Post "a copy of the Federalist Society Lawyers' Division Leadership Directory, 1997-1998. It lists Roberts, then a partner at the law firm Hogan &Hartson, as a member of the steering committee of the organization's Washington chapter and includes his firm's address and telephone number. Yesterday, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Roberts "has no recollection of being a member of the Federalist Society, or its steering committee." Roberts has acknowledged taking part in some Federalist Society activities, Perino said."

"Federalist Society Executive Vice President Leonard A. Leo said that either he or another official of the organization recruited Roberts for the committee. Roberts's task was to serve "as a point of contact within the firm to let people know what is going on" with the organization. "It doesn't meet, it doesn't do a whole lot. The only thing we expect of them is to make sure people in the firm know about us," Leo said. Membership in the sense of paying dues was not required as a condition of inclusion in a listing of the society's leadership, Leo said. He declined to say whether Roberts had ever paid dues, citing a policy of keeping membership information confidential. Whelan, who has been a member of the Federalist Society but said he had no recollection of his own membership on the steering committee, said the society is tolerant of those who come to its meetings or serve on committees without paying dues. "John Roberts probably realized pretty quickly he could take part in activities he wanted to" without being current on his dues, Whelan said."
7.25.2005 12:58am
Joe (mail) (www):
Curious Update: "Over the weekend, The Post obtained a copy of the Federalist Society Lawyers' Division Leadership Directory, 1997-1998. It lists Roberts, then a partner at the law firm Hogan &Hartson, as a member of the steering committee of the organization's Washington chapter and includes his firm's address and telephone number.

Yesterday, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Roberts "has no recollection of being a member of the Federalist Society, or its steering committee." Roberts has acknowledged taking part in some Federalist Society activities, Perino said."
7.25.2005 3:07am
cmn (mail) (www):
Well, I know for a fact that Roberts attended the Federalist Society national lawyers' convention in DC in late 1999 (or was it early 2000), because I ran into him there and had a brief conversation, having met him a year earlier when I summered at Hogan. Does this make him a "member?" Membership consists of nothing but paying yearly dues and getting a newsletter. Perhaps we need a congressional inquiry into whether he ever carried the little perforated membership card in his wallet.

This whole discussion is ludicrous because membership in the FS (at any degree of involvement) tells you absolutely nothing about a person's political or jurisprudential views more precise than is conveyed by labels such as "conservative" or "right of center." There is no crucial issue on which you couldn't find FS-sponsored speakers who would give you diverging answers. Take Novak's comment above about how the FS has been critical of the Court's liberal decisions. Would that be liberal decisions like Laurence v. Texas, for example? The decision that our own Randy Barnett (who has long been associated with and sponsored as a speaker by, though I can't speak to whether he is a "member" of, the FS) praised and defended as exemplifying his own theory of liberty-based jurisprudence?

The FS is, or ought to be, a non-issue in deciding whether to confirm Roberts. It does not have a single coherent ideology, unless one expresses it in terms so broad that it would be difficult for anyone who accepts the legitimacy of the Constitution at all to reject them completely. It does not engage in or sponsor litigation like the ACLU. Its members are therefore not subject to any conceivable "conflict of interest" in becoming judges. (Not, mind you, that I think membership in the ACLU should prevent you from becoming a judge. This is an a fortiori argument.) It has no secret handshake or masonic rites of initiation, unless you count annual cocktails on Ted Olson's lawn.
7.29.2005 4:22pm