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July 21, 2005

Roberts NOT a Federalist Society member!

The Federalist Society has become the pre-eminent legal fraternity for conservatives and libertarians.  It has pretensions to being a think-tank, but really, it's a gigantic networking club - and it has been incredibly successful.  From its humble beginnings as a law school debating group in the late 1970s, it has grown to encompass thousands of members, and has been enviously described by lefties as "the best-organized, best-funded, and most effective legal network operating in this country."  Justices Scalia and Thomas are members, as are numerous right-leaning appellate and district court judges, Senators, law professors, well-connected D.C. lawyers, and law students.

John Roberts fits into a lot of those categories, and so everyone pretty much assumed that OBVIOUSLY he was a member. 

But, as it turns out, they were all wrong.  Roberts is not, and apparently never has been, a member of the Federalist Society, although he has addressed the groups' gatherings on more than one occasion (which says nothing - lots of liberal luminaries have addressed their meetings too).

What to make of this?  Was not joining a strategic move by Roberts, in anticipation of the possibility that he might someday be nominated to a federal judgeship and that it might be easier at that point not to have been a member so that he wouldn't be asked about it?  Frankly, that seems a bit far-fetched to me - the FedSoc hasn't always been the intensely connected, political organization that it seems today to have become, nor has Roberts always been on the track to the federal bench (after all, there was a time when Democrats won elections).  And the FedSoc has lots of members who are, and who want to be, federal judges.  Roberts' 2003 Judiciary Committee forms list the Republican National Lawyers Association and the legal advisory board of the National Legal Center for the Public Interest (a right-leaning think tank though with some left-leaning members on its advisory board) as groups of which he is a member, and he was also a "member" but "did not have any substantive responsibilities" with the lawyers groups supporting the Bush-Quayle '88 and Bush-Cheney 2000 campaigns.  So it's not like he has always shied away from membership in groups that could conceivably cause controversy down the road.

Is there something that bugs him about the Federalist Society?  (If so, it'd be great to know what it is.)  Did he just never get around to sending in his fifty bucks?  Hard to say.  But his non-membership does carry just a hint of a suggestion of the possibility that he's not the hard-core, team player, belt-and-suspenders right-wing activist that the Dobsonites so desperately want on the Supreme Court.

Posted by David at 01:08 PM in Law and Lawyers | Permalink


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