President Bush, the Senate and the Federal Judiciary: Unprecedented Situation Calls for Unprecedented Solution

Federalist Society Role

Members of the Federalist Society play key roles in the White House and the Justice Department, including Attorney General John Ashcroft and Soliticitor General Ted Olson. According to one report, moreover, 17 to 20 of the first set of candidates interviewed for judgeships by the Administration's team were "directly recommended by the Federalist Society's Washington headquarters." And indeed, six of President Bush's first 11 nominees to the federal court of appeals have been members of the Federalist Society.

The prominent part that Federalist Society members have played in the administration's selection of judicial nominees signaled the administration's early intentions, and subsequent nominations have confirmed them. The predominance of Federalist Society members and activists in the Justice Department, the White House, and throughout the Bush administration is relevant because this increasingly influential organization is providing much of the legal and intellectual firepower for the far right's efforts to transform American law and society through the courts.

Media from across the political spectrum agree that, despite its protestations that it is little more than a debating society, the organization carries tremendous clout. The Washington Times' Insight magazine identified the group as the "single most influential organization in the conservative legal world." An article in Washington Monthly identified the Society as "quite simply the best-organized, best-funded, and most effective legal network operating in this country." Grover Norquist, among the nation's most influential right-wing political strategists, confirmed the group's influence when he said, "If Hillary Clinton had wanted to put some meat on her charge of a 'vast right-wing conspiracy,' she should have had a list of Federalist Society members and she could have spun a more convincing story."

Through a network of right-wing lawyers, government officials, scholars and judges, the Society seeks to fundamentally remake the American legal system. Earlier this year, the organization sponsored a conference called "Rolling Back the New Deal." The leading voices of the Society share an ideology that is hostile to civil rights, reproductive rights, religious liberties, environmental protection, privacy rights, and health and safety standards, and would strip the federal government of the power to enforce these rights and protections. And they are poised to succeed.

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