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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Should the Republican Party be Allowed to Actively Propagandize Inside Law Schools?

The Federalist Society is just the Republican Party with a Different Name

Although I am not a conservative and deeply disagree with the morality underlying conservatism, I am a proponent of free speech. Ideas need to be discussed openly in order for humans to come to any sense of real truth.

Conservative groups dedicated solely to the open exchange of ideas, therefore, are just fine with me. The problem is when a group uses the shield of "exchanging ideas" to cover its true purpose of promoting a specific political agenda. The Federalist Society does exactly this, as I have argued before. Here is the Federalist Society's self-stated purpose:

The Society's main purpose is to sponsor fair, serious, and open debate about the need to enhance individual freedom and the role of the courts in saying what the law is rather than what they wish it to be.

I have no problem whatsoever with this purpose. There's nothing wrong with debate about individual freedom and the role of courts. (Indeed, I too take the position that activist judges subvert the role of courts. I just look at the facts, instead of the imagination of Republicans, and the facts prove that Republican judges are activist judges, not the liberal judges.) The problem is that this isn't the society's true purpose at all: the true purpose of the Federalist Society is to transform the independant judiciary that we now have into a craven Republican machine.

Some have disagreed with me here. They insist that the Federalist Society is about ideas, not politics. From the Federalist Society's website:

Q. Does the Federalist Society take positions on legal or policy issues or engage in other forms of political advocacy?
A. No. The Society is about ideas. We do not lobby for legislation, take policy positions, or sponsor or endorse nominees and candidates for public service. While overall the Society believes in limited government, its members are diverse and often hold conflicting views on a broad range of issues such as tort reform, privacy rights, and criminal justice.

I took the liberty of bolding take policy positions. Why? Because recently Karl Rove gave a speech before the Federalist Society. If Federalists were making arguments before that the group is only about ideas and not about politics, that argument was eliminated by the presence of the ultra-political Karl Rove. Allowing Rove to speak was, in effect, taking the policy position that Rove is a legitimate speaker.

First, Karl Rove is at the center of a massive criminal investigation that involves the loss of key assets in the War on Terror. Rove has cancelled virtually all public appearances so as to isolate himself from the storm. Any organization hosting Karl Rove at this point is endorsing his conduct and accepting him as a reputable man.

Second, Karl Rove is not a lawyer. He didn't even graduate from college. In short, someone like him has absolutely no business telling anyone about the "proper role of courts" because he lacks the education necessary to understand the delicate composition of our nation's judiciary. Rove comes at the issue from a political perspective, not an idea-based perspective. This directly contradicts the Federalists' self stated mission.

Third, Rove's remarks prove my point that the goal of the Federalist Society is to increase the power of the Republican party, not to provide any sort of legitimate debate on ideas. Rove joked that with so many Federalists inside the administration, White House chief of staff Andy Card could call a staff meeting there. Rove also said that among the president's greatest contributions "are the changes he's brought about in our courts and our legal culture" and added that "those changes would not have been possible were it not for the Federalist Society."

Fourth, Rove chose to make his first public remarks since Libby's indictment at the Federalist Society event. It shows just how loyal the Federalist Society is to the Republican Party. If the Federalists truly were an organization with a wide range of thinkers, a controversial figure such as Karl Rove wouldn't have received the standing ovation that he did.

In light of the Federalist Society's mission of pushing the Republican agenda, I'm not sure it deserves a place on law school campuses. Surely, no one would allow the Democratic Party to set up shop on campus. Would Republicans be ok if the Democratic Party instead called itself the "American Society"? And although we have liberal groups on campuses, they are dedicated to individual issues, not just to helping support Democrats at all costs. The Federalists don't even pretend to address issues other than to attack the entire judicial system as too liberal. And how incredibly unethical is it to mix the law with active partisan politics? Choosing judges and lawyers based on a "litmus test" of Federalist Society membership is morally reprenhensible.

People need to at least be aware that the Federalist Society is dedicated to politics, not ideas. Many of my own classmates were duped into joining based upon the belief that the Federalist Society had some sort of relation to Alexander Hamilton. The group's self-stated independant purpose is a way to covertly recruit members and skirt rules against political endeavors.

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