Supreme Court Justices Applauded at Conservative Group’s Anniversary Dinner


Four of the five Supreme Court justices who struck down the constitutional right to abortion showed up at the conservative Federalist Society’s black-tie dinner marking its 40th anniversary.

Judge Samuel Alito received a long, loud ovation Thursday night from a crowd of 2,000, most in tuxedos and robes, when another speaker praised his opinion in June that overturned Roe vs. Wadelong targeted by judicial conservatives.

At a time when opinion polls show Americans think the court is becoming more political and giving it dismal approval ratings, the justices turned out to celebrate the group that helped then-President Donald Trump and Senate Republicans to move the US judicial system, including the Supreme Court. , To the right.

The Federalist Society has no partisan affiliations and takes no position in election campaigns, but it is closely aligned with Republican priorities, including the drive to unseat Roe.

Judge Amy Coney Barrett and Alito made brief remarks that nicely avoided the court’s work, although Alito praised the Federalist Society for its success in the Trump years and hoped it would continue. “Boy, is your job needed today,” he said.

Barrett’s only hint of the abortion business came when she answered the crowd’s roar of approval when she was introduced. “It’s really nice to have a lot of noise that isn’t being made by protesters outside my house,” she said.

Amid tight security, Judges Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh were also present in the main concourse of Union Station in Washington, where the silhouette of James Madison, the band’s logo, was projected onto the walls.

Norm Eisen, an ethics expert who served in the Obama administration and later helped draft the articles of impeachment against Trump for his first impeachment in 2019, said the judges showed a brazen disregard for appearances ethical, because the mission of the organization is to advance the law in a conservative direction.

“Although there is no legal impediment to their attendance at the Federalist Society dinner, appearances are awful,” Eisen wrote in an email.

But Stephen Gillers, a judicial ethics expert at New York University School of Law, said neither the ethics nor the perspective of the judges’ presence troubled him.

“It is not a political organization. It does not appear before the Court. It can legitimately claim a serious commitment to the intellectual development of the law. The fact that it is associated with particular points of view does not change this . I would say the same about the American Constitution Society,” Gillers wrote in an email, referring to a liberal legal group.

Conservative justices have a long history of speaking at the organization’s annual meeting in Washington. Judge Antonin Scalia, who died in 2016, spoke on several occasions, as did Thomas and Alito.

Gorsuch showed up to the dinner when he was new to the court in 2017, kissing Leonard Leo, the co-chairman of the firm that has helped Trump vet judicial nominees. Kavanaugh gave a speech in 2019.

Fifteen other appeals court judges chosen by Trump are also on the agenda for the three-day conference in the nation’s capital.

The conference kicked off Thursday with a speech by Chief Justice William Pryor of the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, mocking liberal critics of the group and praising the group which he said now has 65,000 members. and chapters in 200 law schools.

“After 40 years, I’ve decided it’s time to take a closer look and investigate this mysterious and secretive network that critics accuse of capturing the federal justice system, including the United States Supreme Court. United,” Pryor said.

Pryor was the author of the 11th Circuit opinion that sided with Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in ruling that felons must pay all fines, restitution and legal fees before they can regain their right to vote.

The ruling reversed a decision that gave felons the right to vote regardless of outstanding legal obligations. Joining Pryor to form a 6-4 majority were five Trump appointees.

Three of those judges, Lisa Branch, Britt Grant and Kevin Newsom, are also attending the conference in Washington.

The Federalist Society got its start in elite law schools when Ronald Reagan was in the White House. It was designed as a way to counter what its members saw as a liberal domination of the nation’s law schools.

Its influence was pronounced under President George W. Bush, when its leaders helped rally support for the Senate confirmation of Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts, now seen by some critics as insufficiently conservative. The group was so successful that it spawned copycat liberal organizations.

During Barack Obama’s presidency, the group provided a forum for opponents of Obama’s justice choices and policies. Some of its leaders supported then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s refusal to act on Obama’s Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland after Scalia’s death in February 2016. This strategy politics paid unexpected and huge dividends to conservatives with the election of Trump, which led to the confirmation of Gorsuch. McConnell was also present on Thursday, Leo said.

Trump’s years in the White House took the band to a new level. “Our movement has grown by leaps and bounds, and so has our impact,” Leo said Thursday night.

In 2017, then-White House counsel Don McGahn responded to criticism of the Federalist Society’s influence in the Trump administration.

“Our judicial nominee opponents frequently claim that the President has outsourced his selection of judges. This is completely untrue. I have been a member of the Federalist Society since law school – I still am. that it was outsourced,” McGahn said at the band’s convention.

In a more serious vein, he said: “The fact is that we all share the same vision of the judicial role and we welcome contributions from many sources.

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