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FACT CHECK: Dems Debunked On Fed Soc Attacks

During this morning’s Judiciary Cmte meeting on Judge Gorsuch, Senators Dick Durbin and Sheldon Whitehouse attacked The Federalist Society, portraying the conservative national legal society as some kind of secretive, extreme “front group” behind the Gorsuch nomination.

But here’s a fact check: all eight sitting U.S Supreme Court justices, appointed by both Democrats and Republicans, have addressed meetings of The Federalist Society. Justice Kagan even stated at a Fed Soc event at Harvard Law School, “I love the Federalist Society!”

EXAMPLES OF SUPREME COURT JUSTICES ATTENDING FEDERALIST SOCIETY EVENTS:

Justice Roberts:

On November 16, 2007 In Washington, D.C., Chief Justice John Roberts Spoke At The 7th Annual Barbara K. Olson Memorial Lecture. (“”7th Annual Barbara K. Olson Memorial Lecture – Event Audio/Video,” The Federalist Society, Accessed 3/29/17)

Justice Kagan:

On February 26, 2005 In Cambridge, MA, Then-Harvard Law Dean Elena Kagan Gave The Introduction At The Banquet Of Harvard Law School’s 2005 Annual Student Symposium – “Law And Freedom.” (“2005 Annual Student Symposium – ‘Law And Freedom,’” The Federalist Society, Accessed 3/29/17)

  • At The Event, Kagan Proclaimed “I Love The Federalist Society.” “It’s no wonder that Justice Elena Kagan proclaimed ‘I Love the Federalist Society’ when she was Harvard Law’s dean.” (Jonathan H. Adler, Op=Ed, “Grilling Gorsuch And Fearing The Federalist Society,” The Washington Post, 3/23/17)

Justice Sotomayor:

On February 27, 2009 In New Haven, CT, Then-Appeals Judge Sonia Sotomayor Spoke On A Panel Discussing “Confirmation Battles And Presidential Nominations At The Yale Law School’s 2009 Annual Student Symposium – “Separation Of Powers In American Constitutionalism.” (“2009 Annual Student Symposium – ‘Separation Of Powers In American Constitutionalism,’” The Federalist Society, Accessed 3/29/17)

Justice Breyer:

On December 5, 2006 In Washington, D.C., Associate Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer Attended A Conversation On The Constitution With Then-Justice Antonin Scalia That Was Hosted By The Federalist Society. (“A Conversation On The Constitution With Supreme Court Justices Stephen Breyer And Antonin Scalia,” The Federalist Society, Accessed 3/29/17)

Justice Kennedy:

On October 22, 2015 In Cambridge, MA, Associate Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy Attended A Conversational Event Hosted By The Harvard Federalist Society. (“A Conversation With Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy,” The Harvard Federalist Society, Accessed 3/29/17)

Justice Alito:

On November 15, 2007 In Washington, D.C., Associate Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito Spoke At The Federalist Society’s 25th Anniversary Gala. (“25th Anniversary Gala,” The Federalist Society, Accessed 3/29/17)

Justice Thomas:

On November 23, 2016 In Oxon Hill, MD, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas Gave The Keynote Address At The 2016 National Lawyers Convention. (“Keynote Address By Justice Clarence Thomas,” The Federalist Society, 11/23/16)

Justice Ginsburg:

According To A 2001 National Review Article, Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg And Stephen Breyer Had Presented At Forums Hosted By The Federalist Society. “The Federalist Society describes itself as a group of conservatives and libertarians dedicated to the principles that ‘the state exists to preserve freedom, that the separation of governmental powers is central to our Constitution, and that it is emphatically the province and duty of the judiciary to say what the law is, not what it should be.’ It encourages a conservative intellectual network that hosts hundreds of events, which are open to the public and generally include debates on legal topics. These forums have included presentations by scores of liberals, including Justices Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Michael Dukakis, Barney Frank, and Patricia Ireland.” (Kate O’Beirne, “High Society,” National Review, 4/30/01

Some additional quick facts on the Federalist Society:

  • Founded in 1982, the Federalist Society is a membership organization with a network of 68,000 lawyers and law students nationwide. Its members have consistently distinguished themselves as the most capable, professional, and influential lawyers in their communities.
  • The Society maintains student chapters at nearly every ABA-accredited law school and 85 lawyers chapters in cities across America.
  • The Federalist Society does not take policy positions, it does not endorse candidates for political office, and it has no litmus tests.Above all, it is committed to the ideas that the state exists to preserve freedom, that the separation of governmental powers is central to our Constitution, and that it is emphatically the province and duty of the judiciary to say what the law is, not what it should be.
  • The Left and Right have both praised the Society for its emphasis on civil discussion of ideas. Prof. Nadine Strossen, former president of the ACLU, has said of the Federalist Society: “It has been my pleasure to speak at many Federalist Society gatherings around the country, and I think one thing your organization has definitely done is to contribute to free speech, free debate, and most importantly public understanding of, awareness of, and appreciation of the Constitution. So that’s a marvelous contribution, and…in a way I must say I’m jealous at how the Federalist Society has thrived at law schools.”
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