Rick Garnett on the Federalist Society:
In a piece on Bench Memos that deserves wide circulation, Professor Rick Garnett movingly criticizes the marginalization of the Federalist Society by the White House. Here is an excerpt:
. . . Too often, this Administration, prominent nominees, and even Federalist Society members nominated for important positions in government have treated the Society as if it were something out of "The DaVinci Code", or the ultra-secret gaggle of powerful reactionary Rasputins that some on the left imagine, or just a goofy band of train-spotters. In my view, this Administration and the conservative Senators, who owe the clear thinking and dedication to the rule of law of their best staffers, lawyers, and advisors in no small part to the Federalist Society, have an obligation to stop this silly "Federalist Society? Never heart of it!" pose, and forthrightly to endorse, defend, and praise the Society.
The Federalist Society has been — as many honest, left-leaning law professors would concede — an immense benefit to the intellectual culture and the jurisprudential debate in our law schools. It has supplied countless thoughtful, intelligent, conservative lawyers to the bench, the academy, the bar, and public service. It has provided an invaluable forum for a genuine exchange of ideas, and also some accountability for the American Bar Association and the American Association of Law Schools. Its events, debates and panels are always diverse and provocative. . . .
Just as important, the Federalist Society has provided, in no small part, the intellectual heft for a large part of today's conservative movement in politics. For an Administration that owes its existence to this movement to, time and again, treat the Society like a goofy yearbook photo or an embarasing secret is more than irritating — it is shameful. If the Federalist Society really were a politically useful but in fact weird and non-mainstream outfit, then perhaps the "Fed Soc? Who?" attitude would be understandable. But, if course, the Society and its ideas are — among informed and thinking people, anyway — entirely respectable and, while certainly conservative, entirely "mainstream."
If Ms. Miers really does harbor the tiresome, skittish, establishmentarian, protect-the-guild wariness toward the society described in the accounts mentioned above — rather than respect for its work, admiration for the vision of David McIntosh, Steve Calabresi, Spence Abraham, and others who founded the Society more than 20 years ago, and gratitude for the dedication of hundreds of law students today who often take real hits in order to stand up for and strengthen the Society and its intellectual mission — then I am inclined to think that she has not earned (no matter what church she attends, no matter how good a person and impressive a lawyer she is, no matter how much she abhors abortion, no matter how loyal she is to this President, and no matter how Rehnquist-like her record turns out to be) conservatives' support.
Many of my students have worked very hard and sacrificed time for the Federalist Society. In so doing, they have improved their law school and the education of their classmates. (It's worth noting that left-leaning students benefit, too, from an exchange of views and from the competition and challenge that the Society provides). Having worked for, voted for, taken hits for, and defended this Administration and the legal and moral principles for which it purports to stand, these students deserve better than a nominee who appears to regard — again, if the accounts are accurate — them and their ideas as a source of irritation rather than a source of inspiration. (Of course, I hope the accounts of Ms. Miers's views about the Society are wrong). . . .