Federalist Society

Bush in 2007: Unelected Judges Making Law are a Threat to Democracy

Earlier this week, President Obama predicted that the Supreme Court would uphold the constitutionality of healthcare reform legislation, saying it would be unprecedented that "an unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law.”

And now Republicans and the Right and even sitting judges are throwing tantrums, accusing Obama of attempting to "intimidate" the Supreme Court. 

Can we just point out that one of the central platforms [PDF] of Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign was that he was literally going to arrest federal judges who issued rulings that he didn't like and ignore Supreme Court decisions with which he disagreed?

Oddly, nobody on the Right uttered a peep when Gingrich made those threats ... nor did they voice any outrage back in 2007 when President George W. Bush addressed the Federalist Society and warned that unelected judges legislating from the bench represented a "threat to our democracy": 

When the Founders drafted the Constitution, they had a clear understanding of tyranny. They also had a clear idea about how to prevent it from ever taking root in America. Their solution was to separate the government's powers into three co-equal branches: the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary. Each of these branches plays a vital role in our free society. Each serves as a check on the others. And to preserve our liberty, each must meet its responsibilities -- and resist the temptation to encroach on the powers the Constitution accords to others.

For the judiciary, resisting this temptation is particularly important, because it's the only branch that is unelected and whose officers serve for life. Unfortunately, some judges give in to temptation and make law instead of interpreting. Such judicial lawlessness is a threat to our democracy -- and it needs to stop.

Right Wing Round-Up

Right Wing Round-Up

Federalist Society Inspires NJ Justice To Refuse to Cast Votes

For 63 years, not one sitting New Jersey Supreme Court Justice who had sought to be re-appointed by the Governor had been refused ... until Gov. Chris Christie took office and decided to replace Justice John Wallace with a Republican nominee of his own.

That move did not sit well with the Democrats in the state Senate who announced that they would refuse to even consider confirming Christie's nominee, leading Chief Justice Stuart Rabner to appoint a senior judge of the appellate division to serve as a temporary justice in order to fill the vacant seventh seat.

And everything seemed fine until Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto, whose term expires in 2011, discovered an article from The Federalist Society [PDF] claiming that allowing the Chief Justice to fill this vacant seat is unconstitutional.

And now, inspired by this article, Rivera-Soto announced that he will refuse to participate in any more decisions because the current make-up of the court is unconstitutional:

In an unexpected action that rocked New Jersey's legal community Friday, New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Roberto A. Rivera-Soto declared he will abstain from the high court's decisions because he maintains Chief Justice Stuart Rabner did not have the constitutional power to appoint Judge Edwin Stern to temporarily fill a vacant seat on the seven-member panel.

...

In two routine decision made public Friday, Rivera-Soto stated it was not necessary to appoint a temporary justice, and that he is abstaining from decisions because the court's current makeup is unconstitutional. He argued that only the governor has the power to appoint a justice.

"The assignment of a Superior Court judge to serve on this court to fill a vacancy resulting from a political impasse between the executive and the legislative branches thrusts the judiciary into that political thicket, all the while improperly advancing one side's views in preference over the other's," Rivera-Soto wrote. "The Constitution, sober and reflective court practice, and everyday common sense each counsels against the foolhardy steps the court today takes."

Democrats in the state Senate are now demanding that Rivera-Soto resign from the court, accusing him of waging this stunt in an attempt to curry favor with Gov. Christie in hopes of being re-appointed when his term expires:

"Today's dissent from Justice Rivera-Soto shows contempt for the law, disregard for his fellow jurists and utter disdain for the right of New Jerseyans to have their cases heard by a full Court," [Senate President Stephen M.] Sweeney said. "It officially cements his place as the worst and most ethically challenged justice in the history of the modern judiciary.

"If he is so disinterested in fulfilling his constitutional duties, then he should step down and let the governor nominate and the Senate confirm a new justice who will actually participate in court matters," Sweeney said. "It's very telling that not one of his colleagues — nor any other jurist since 1947 — would agree with his cynical, transparent and politically motivated temper tantrum, which is either a hail-Mary attempt to curry favor among conservatives to save his own reappointment or an effort to undercut the state Supreme Court's authority on the eve of legislative redistricting.

"This isn't the first mistake Rivera-Soto's made since joining the Court, but it should be his last," Sweeney added.

...

Sen. Nicholas P. Scutari (D-Union) chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, also called on Rivera-Soto to resign.

"Justice Rivera-Soto's outright refusal to perform his judicial duties demonstrates a complete disregard for the position he holds and for the residents of this state," Scutari said. "The timing of his move is suspect. With his reappointment around the corner, this smacks of a desperate attempt to distract from his ethical lapses and grab the attention of right wing pundits who share a disdain for the court. This is an act of true arrogance. He is making an absolute mockery of the judiciary, and is clearly no longer fit to serve on the court. He should immediately step down."

Lott's "More Guns, Less Crime" Speech At UT Canceled After Campus Shooting

This morning, a gunman walked in a library on the University of Texas campus, fired off several shots and then killed himself.

So I guess it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that John Lott's scheduled presentation at UT on how more guns lead to less crime has been canceled:

The event was being sponsored by the Texas Federalist Society, Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, Libertarian Longhorns, and the Objectivist Society:

The Federalist Society and SCCC Present: John Lott's More Guns, Less Crime

Date: September 28, 2010
Start: 6:00pm
End: 7:30pm

Location: TNH 2.114 (Auditorium)

Prominent Second Amendment scholar and author John Lott will discuss how more legal possession of guns leads to less crime. Sponsored by the Texas Federalist Society, Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, Libertarian Longhorns, and the Objectivist Society.

Ted Olson's Been Brainwashed By His "New Young Democrat Wife"!

Conservatives have been very confused and upset for quite some time now that their former hero Ted Olson not only supported marriage equality but actually became a leading advocate, playing a key role in getting Proposition 8 struck down.

What on earth happened to Olson, George W. Bush's Solicitor General and Federalist Society stalwart, they wondered?    

Well, now we know:  his new Jezebel of a wife has brainwashed him ... or so says the National Organization for Marriage:

How did Mr. Federalist Society decide it’s okay to use the U.S. Constitution to require gay marriage? The New York Times is reporting that his new young Democrat wife may be a key reason.

This NOM post in turn links to this post by Ed Whelan who says that he will wisely "refrain from further comment" on how Olson's wife has completely destroyed his integrity: 

Ted Olson and his anti-Prop 8 media machine have been aggressively leveraging his past associations with conservative legal causes in support of his newfound support for the invention of a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. In so doing, they’ve tried to obscure the fact that the position that the Constitution can and should be interpreted to invalidate traditionalmarriage laws can’t possibly be reconciled with the conservative legal principles that Olson used to purport to stand for. (I’m not addressing here the very different question whether a conservative can soundly support legislative revision of marriage laws to include same-sex couples.)

For anyone who has wondered what really accounts for Olson’s new position, I pass along these excerpts from a New York Times article last week on the influence of Lady Booth Olson, Olson’s wife since 2006:

Lady Olson was more than just a minor behind-the-scenes player in this potentially pivotal case.

“Lady could not have been more supportive of this,” Mr. Olson said in an interview shortly before Vaughn R. Walker, chief judge of the United States District Court hearing the case, ruled on Aug. 4 that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional. “And she’s certainly influenced my views — her ideas, her approach, her feelings.” …

Mr. Olson’s previous wife, Barbara, was a conservative commentator who was killed on Sept. 11, 2001, when she was on the hijacked plane that crashed into the Pentagon. Some friends hypothesize that Lady Olson just might have softened some of her husband’s views.

“In my innermost thoughts, I like to think he thought that on some level, but Ted’s never said that,” Mrs. Olson said. “He’s very proud. He owns his own decisions.”

I think that I’ll refrain from further comment.

The Mystery of Richard Viguerie's Sudden Support For The Mount Vernon Statement

Earlier today I wondered just what Richard Viguerie's name was doing on The Mount Vernon Statement since, on Monday, he called it embarrassing pablum.  But today he went ahead and signed it and even issued his own statement praising it as a good first step:

"I am pleased to be a signer of the Mount Vernon Statement.

"I feel it's a good first step, and I applaud those conservatives who have provided the leadership to produce this statement of conservative principles.

"In the coming weeks, I look forward to working with all principled conservatives, including the newest branch of the small-limited government coalition, the Tea Partiers, to take the steps necessary to maximize our victories in 2010 and beyond.

This doesn't really make any sense; why would he dismiss the statement as a meaningless joke on Monday only to turn around two days later and add his name to it?

I wonder if it might have had something to do with the fact that initially it looks like he wasn't asked to sign on. 

The first mentions of this statement appeared last week, first on The Atlantic and Politico, both of which listed key signers but didn't include Viguerie:

The Atlantic - "Some key conservative luminaries will be in attendance at the Collingwood Library and Museum in Alexandria, VA (an original part of George Washington's Mount Vernon properties): Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, David Keene of the American Conservative Union, former Reagan policy adviser Kenneth T. Cribb, Kenneth Blackwell of Coalition for a Conservative Majority, and Federalist Society co-founder David McIntosh."

Politico - "The big names attached to it include former Attorney General Ed Meese, Heritage Foundation President Edwin Feulner, Family Research Council head Tony Perkins, Media Research Center leader Brent Bozell, Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist and David Keene, head of the American Conservative Union, which is putting on CPAC, among others."

On Monday, the Washington Times wrote about it and quoted Viguerie dismissing the statement as meaningless.

And guess what? The very next day, Politico wrote another article about the statement and guess who's name appeared in the list:

The statement's drafters, who will sign it near George Washington's Mount Vernon home Wednesday afternoon, include figures from differing wings of the movement: former Attorney General Ed Meese, Heritage Foundation President Edwin Feulner, Family Research Council head Tony Perkins, Media Research Center leader Brent Bozell, Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist, direct-mail guru Richard Viguerie and David Keene, the head of the American Conservative Union, sponsor of this week's Conservative Political Action Conference, with which the signing of the Mount Vernon statement is meant to coincide.

This list is nearly identical to the list Politico provided last week, with the exception of the sudden inclusion of Viguerie.

So what happened between Monday, when Viguerie was telling the Washington Times the whole thing was a pathetic joke, and Tuesday when he name was being listed among the statement's primary supporters? 

I'm guessing that organizers reached out to him and asked him to add his name, which was all it took to make this embarrassing pablum into a demonstration of conservative leadership and principles.

Anxiously Awaiting The Conservative Movement's "Definitive Statement"

It seems that the Right's efforts to unify in opposition to President Obama and the Democratic Congress are continuing ... with yet another coalition/declaration to be unveiled next week at CPAC

They're calling it "The Mount Vernon Statement": a group of leaders of conservative groups will gather in Washington, DC on the eve of the yearly national Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), and sign a pact--a "definitive statement," as it's being billed, defining the principles of the conservative movement.

"A Who's Who of the conservative movement's leaders will unveil and sign the Mount Vernon Statement: a document defining the movement's principles, beliefs and values in light of the challenges facing the country and the need for Constitutional Conservatism since the Obama administration came to power," CRC Public Relations says in a press release announcing the solemn document.

Some key conservative luminaries will be in attendance at the Collingwood Library and Museum in Alexandria, VA (an original part of George Washington's Mount Vernon properties): Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, David Keene of the American Conservative Union, former Reagan policy adviser Kenneth T. Cribb, Kenneth Blackwell of Coalition for a Conservative Majority, and Federalist Society co-founder David McIntosh.

Gee, do you think it'll focus on things like cutting taxes, shrinking government, killing terrorists, opposing gay rights, and outlawing abortion?

Do they want me to write it for them?  Because I am pretty sure that I could.  

Conservative Action Project: A New Name For the Same Old Right-Wing Agenda

Several months ago, I wrote a post noting the emergence of the new right-wing coalition calling itself that Conservative Action Project. At the time, all that I could figure out about it was that its membership included several Religious Right leaders and it seemed to operate out of the Council for National Policy.

Today, the Washington Post examines the role that new media is playing in shaping and disseminating conservative messaging throughout the right-wing echo chamber and reports that the Conservative Action Project is playing a a key role in that effort through the weekly meetings hosted by the Family Research Council:

Inside the Beltway, much of it is fueled by the Conservative Action Project (CAP), a new group of conservative leaders chaired by Reagan-era attorney general Edwin Meese III. CAP, whose influential memos "for the movement" circulate on Capitol Hill, is an offshoot of the Council for National Policy, a highly secretive organization of conservative leaders and donors.

...

At 7:30 a.m., members of the Conservative Action Project gather at the Family Research Council, a social conservative group.

CAP grew out of a series of meetings of conservatives, determined to engineer a political comeback, in the weeks after Obama's election. One took place during a Council for National Policy meeting at a D.C. hotel, conservatives said. The secretive council was formed in the early 1980s to coordinate what was then called the "New Right."

Key players in CAP, members said, include Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway; Greg Mueller, president of CRC Public Relations; and former congressman David M. McIntosh (R-Ind.). Its only paid staff member is Patrick Pizzella, an official in the George W. Bush administration, who works out of the Council for National Policy offices.

Among CAP's projects was supporting the Health Care Freedom Coalition, whose more than 50 economic and social conservative groups quietly built health-care opposition, CAP members said. The coalition is a spinoff of FreedomWorks, the D.C.-based group that works extensively with tea-party activists.

CAP also worked unsuccessfully to defeat David F. Hamilton, Obama's first appellate judicial nominee. A Nov. 9 CAP memo calling Hamilton "an ideologue first and a jurist second" helped trigger blog blasts from Erickson and an anti-Hamilton speech at the conservative Federalist Society by Sen. Jeff Sessions (Ala.), the ranking Judiciary Committee Republican.

Right Wing Leftovers

  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced it would support proposed city laws that would prohibit discrimination against gays in housing and employment ... and FRC is angry.
  • Sen. Lindsey Graham has been censured by the Charleston County Republican Party for being insufficiently conservative.
  • In related South Carolina news, a federal district court ruled Tuesday that the "I Believe" license plate approved by the South Carolina Legislature violates the constitutional separation of church and state and cannot be issued.
  • The annual Federalist Society conference is underway.
  • The George W. Bush Oral History Project?
  • Did you know that President Obama despises America? Well, he does.
  • Amazingly, there are people running for office who still seek Alan Keyes' endorsement.

JCN Takes Sotomayor Fight to the States

It looks like the Judicial Confirmation Network is taking its battle against the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the state level by teaming up with local activists and state-affiliates of national right-wing groups:

Grassroots Coalition Formed to Mobilize for SCOTUS Hearings

Little Rock -- On Thursday (June 4, 2008), key organizations from around Arkansas announced the formation of a “center-right” coalition, the Arkansas Judicial Network, in preparation for the nomination hearings of Judge Sonia Sotomayor.

The initial coalition will consist of the following individuals and/or organizations:

· Anne Britton – NRA National Volunteer of the Year (2000)
· Jerry Cox – President, Arkansas Family Council
· Betsy Hagan – Chairman, Arkansas Chapter of Eagle Forum
· Doyle Webb -- Chairman, Republican Party of Arkansas
· Brian Vandiver – Attorney and Chairman of the Arkansas Federalist Society
· Cory Cox -- Attorney and former Chairman of the Arkansas Federalist Society
· David Fort – Small Business Owner and Chairman, Arkansas Federation of Young Republicans

This Arkansas Judicial Coalition will partner with the Judicial Confirmation Network (JCN), (www.judicialnetwork.com) to ensure that Arkansans understand the judicial philosophy of Barack Obama’s appointee to the United States Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor.

Let's see, this new groups consists of members of the Federalist Society and the Eagle Forum, NRA volunteers, and the head of a state's Focus on the Family affiliate who took the lead last year in preventing gays and lesbians from being able to adopt children.

Where exactly are those representing the "center" in this "center-right coalition"?

Right Wing Leftovers

  • Any bets on how long it'll be before Sen. John Cornyn apologizes to Rush Limbaugh?
  • The Thomas More Society is calling on Notre Dame to drop trespassing charges against two protesters arrested during events surrounding President Obama's speech while Alan Keyes court appearance stemming from his own arrests has been pushed back to June 3.
  • Focus on the Family actually has some praise for the White House after participating in a meeting on how to better serve the needs of kids in foster care.
  • Liberty University is going to be filing its own complaint against Americans United in response to AU's request that the IRS review Liberty's tax-exempt status.
  • If there is ever an opportunity for the Alliance Defense Fund to push its way into legal fights over marriage equality, you can rest assured that that is what it will do.
  • Are La Raza and The Federalist Society even remotely similar?
  • Bill Donohue says he's quietly rooting for Sotomayor, while William Gheen, president of Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, is not, judging by the fact that he is calling her a "Hispanic supremacist."

Obama Brings Hope To All … Even Steve Dillard

There have been several articles recently about the future of the federal judiciary under President Obama and how he will have a chance to reshape it after eight years of Bush appointments.  Which makes this article all the more interesting:

While it will likely be months before President-elect Barack Obama makes an appointment to fill a vacancy on Middle Georgia’s federal bench, several Macon lawyers and a judge have expressed early interest in the post.

Macon lawyers Bill Clifton, Marc Treadwell, Stephen Dillard and Floyd Buford, as well as Macon Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Tripp Self, have expressed interest in the post or are considering filing applications.

Dillard, of the James, Bates, Pope & Spivey law firm, said he plans to apply for the position although he doesn’t share the president’s political affiliation.

“It never hurts to try,” said Dillard, a Republican.

Dillard is not just any old Republican, he’s a right-wing Federalist Society member who blogged for Red State’s Confirm Them and was among the most vocal opponents of President Bush’s nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court.  He was also a founding member of both Catholics Against Rudy and later Catholics Against Joe Biden.

Also, according to his bio:

Dillard served as a legal-policy advisor to Governor Mike Huckabee during the 2008 presidential campaign, and is currently a member of the National “Catholics for McCain” Steering Committee.

He’s an ardent opponent of reproductive choice who apparently doesn’t have much use for precedent, considering that his mantra is “Stare Decisis is fo' Suckas!”

And for good measure, he’s prone to referring Barack Obama as “the lying proabort” and “a monster … who must be stopped.”

Call me crazy, but I don’t think that Dillard has much of a chance of getting nominated by President Obama to a coveted seat on the federal bench.

Who Benefits From the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund?

The Hartford Courant raises some interesting questions about just what the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund - a right-wing Virginia non-profit organization overseen by the likes of Ed Meese, William Bradford Reynolds, and Al Regnery - is doing with the funds it has been raising because it seems like most of it is going to toward fund-raising, salary for its leadership, and to prop up right-wing organizations to which they have ties, like The American Spectator, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, and the Federalist Society :

Tens of thousands of Americans have contributed to the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund after reading letters like Stephanie Lawlor's. But while those donations total millions every year, the fund spends only pennies on the dollar directly assisting officers facing criminal charges, state and federal filings show.

Over the past five years, the charity collected more than $13 million, primarily through direct-mail pitches. But most of that money — more than $9 million — went right back to the professional fundraisers hired by the nonprofit legal defense fund.

Last year, for example, the group spent 81 cents on fundraising for every dollar collected, according to federal tax forms. After other expenses, the defense fund last year devoted only about 8 cents on the dollar to charitable grants, the tax forms show.

That grant money — about $275,000 — was less than the group's co-founders paid themselves in salary and benefits for the year. David H. Martin, a Washington lawyer who serves as chairman, collected $156,000, while Alfred Regnery, publisher of The American Spectator Magazine, received $81,000 for the part-time job of secretary-treasurer. In addition, the charity paid $54,000 into retirement accounts for Martin and Regnery.

In a telephone interview earlier this month, Martin said the charity is at the mercy of expensive mail solicitations. "It's hard to raise money through direct mail. Why? Because postage is so expensive," he said. "It's just a killer."

Martin said he believed the group's fundraising efficiency had consistently improved in recent years. But federal filings suggest just the opposite, showing the cost of raising money increasing each of the last five years, from about 60 cents in fundraising costs for every dollar raised in 2003, to 81 cents last year.

At the same time, administrative costs have soared, particularly for salaries and rent. For years, the legal defense fund was run out of Martin's law office. But the nonprofit now subleases space at Regnery's financially strapped American Spectator. The initial rent in 2003 was $9,000 a year, but the nonprofit agreed last year to increase its payments to $42,000 a year — about a third of the total rent for the American Spectator's space. Martin said the rent covers a large amount of storage space and offices for himself and a clerk, and he said he thought the rent was fair.

And even as the charity devoted only a small fraction of its budget to grants, not all of the money doled out went to help accused officers. Instead, the charity's executives have sent a sizable and growing amount of cash to a small number of universities and conservative policy groups not mentioned in their fundraising pitches.

The charity's biggest beneficiary last year, for example, was not a police officer, but the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, a national campus-based think tank that promotes "limited government, individual liberty, personal responsibility, the rule of law, market economy, and moral norms."

The Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund sent $75,000 to the institute last year, part of at least $360,000 the defense fund has pledged. Regnery, secretary-treasurer of the defense fund, is chairman of the institute's board of trustees. The charity has also given tens of thousands of dollars to the Federalist Society, described by The American Conservative magazine as a "training ground for young conservative lawyers"; to the Law and Economics Center at George Mason University in Virginia, a leading center of conservative and libertarian legal studies; and to a project at McDaniel College — Martin's alma mater.

Federalist Society Downplays Its Power

It seems like it was just a few days ago that I was pointing out that the Federalist Society's claims that it was just some non-political debating society was entirely bogus. 

Now comes an article in the Washington Post saying that, after eight years of driving the Bush Administration's "efforts to change the federal judiciary," the Federalist Society must now be prepared to find itself out in the wilderness, which Federalist Society head Leonard Leo laughed off, saying that nothing would really change because the organization was really just a debating society all along:

Federalist Society executive vice president Leonard A. Leo laughed when asked about the wilderness remark, saying, "I know the media likes to talk about us in terms of power and influence." But he said the group's primary goal has always been discussion of legal interpretation and limited constitutional government, and that that "remains as important as it was on November 3rd."

Leo can laugh all he wants, but his days of working hand-in-glove with the Bush Administration to get its nominees confirmed are over and while he can try and pretend that they never really had that much influence, anyone who has paid any attention to the judicial confirmation battles over the last several years knows the truth about just how deeply he and his organization were involved and fully expects them to be just as involved, albeit in trying to prevent confirmations, during the Obama administration.

Federalist Society: No Mere “Debating Society”

Several years ago, we wrote a report debunking the Federalist Society’s protestations that it is little more than a “debating society” and didn’t try to shape legislation, support or oppose nominees, or take political positions. As we noted at the time, and which has become increasingly clear in the interceding years, Federalist Society members have all but overrun various government agencies during George Bush’s tenure in office and the administration has worked hand-in-glove with its members both inside and outside of government to press their common agenda.  

But still the Federalist Society insists that it is just a quaint little group of like-minded people who are only interested in debating ideas:

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.

That claim makes this article from the AP all the more interesting because, as the AP reports, back in 2007 right-wing judicial activists were not happy with Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt’s pick for the state Supreme Court and were trying to derail it.  That that end, Blunt’s own chief of staff sought to enlist the help of the Federalist Society’s Leonard Leo, who was more than happy to oblige:   

In a July 2007 e-mail, Martin asked Leonard Leo, executive vice president of the conservative legal group Federalist Society, to send an "unsolicited" e-mail saying: "go get ’em governor - and we’ve got your back."

A day later, Leo sent Martin an e-mail addressed to Blunt. It pledged help and urged the rejection of the Missouri Supreme Court nominees if they are "anything less than outstanding." Leo, in later e-mails, said Breckenridge should be framed as "out of the mainstream."

Tipped off early that Breckenridge was picked, Leo told Martin that Blunt’s decision "leaves a big problem for many future generations of Missourians."

"Your boss is a coward, and conservatives have neither time nor patience for the likes of him," Leo wrote.

Apparently, just because the Federalist Society is “nonpartisan” and doesn’t weigh in on “nominees and candidates for public service” doesn’t mean that Leo can’t use his position as executive vice president of the organization to do just that – something, it should be noted, he also did as part of the “Four Horsemen” on behalf of the Bush administration’s judicial nominees.

Good Riddance to the Filibuster

I had been on vacation for the last several days, so I missed this little nugget when it first surfaced last week:

Jon Kyl, the second-ranking Republican in the U.S. Senate, warned president-elect Barack Obama that he would filibuster U.S. Supreme Court appointments if those nominees were too liberal.

Kyl, Arizona’s junior senator, expects Obama to appoint judges in the mold of U.S Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Souter and Stephen Breyer. Those justices take a liberal view on cases related to social, law and order and business issues, Kyl said.

“He believes in justices that have empathy,” said Kyl, speaking at a Federalist Society meeting in Phoenix. The attorneys group promotes conservative legal principles.

Kyl said if Obama goes with empathetic judges who do not base their decisions on the rule of law and legal precedents but instead the factors in each case, he would try to block those picks via filibuster.

That would be the same Jon Kyl who, as Steve Benen pointed out, supported the "nuclear option” back in 2005 to do away with the filibuster regarding judicial nominees.  It would also be the same Jon Kyl who explicitly argued that junking the filibuster would in no way ever hamstring Republicans because they would be too principled [PDF] to ever even try to use it down the road:

My friends argue that Republicans may want to filibuster a future Democratic President’s nominees. To that I say, I don’t think so, and even if true, I’m willing to give up that tool. It was never a power we thought we had in the past, and it is not one likely to be used in the future. I know some insist that we will someday want to block Democrat judges by filibuster. But I know my colleagues. I have heard them speak passionately, publicly and privately, about the injustice done to filibustered nominees. I think it highly unlikely that they will shift their views simply because the political worm has turned. So I say to my friends: what you say we Republicans are losing is, in fact, no loss at all.

And while we are on the subject of right-wingers suddenly changing their tune regarding judicial nominations, I found this rather amusing:

But Manuel Miranda, chairman of the Third Branch Conference, a coalition of conservative activists who have weighed in on Supreme Court appointments, warned that judicial nominees similar to Marshall and Brennan would face strong opposition.

“Outside groups will always push to the extremes to get people who would be turning back the clock to Brennan or Marshall,” said Miranda.

That would be the same Manuel Miranda who has been a one-man right-wing judicial confirmation army ever since he lost his job on the Hill after accessing internal Democratic memos.  Miranda was the primary force behind just about every right-wing “grassroots” effort to force the confirmation of President Bush’s judicial nominees, as well as their effort to compel Harriet Miers to withdraw her Supreme Court nomination.  So it’s pretty interesting that he’s suddenly concerned about “outside groups” pushing “extreme” nominees … and even more interesting that he’s now quite concerned that Obama’s nominees will “turn back the clock.”

Federalist Society Founder Frets They'll Lose Control Over Federal Courts

It was not too long ago that I wrote a post about how complicated it is to try and make accurate statements about judicial confirmation rates and how Republicans and right-wing judicial activists exploit that fact to make it seem as if President Bush has somehow gotten a raw deal when it comes to seeing his judges confirmed. 

Today comes an op-ed by Federalist Society founder Steven Calabresi in the Wall Street Journal making the same point and issuing a dire warning that if Barack Obama is elected, we're going to see a complete take over of the federal judiciary by liberal activist judges:

One of the great unappreciated stories of the past eight years is how thoroughly Senate Democrats thwarted efforts by President Bush to appoint judges to the lower federal courts.

Consider the most important lower federal court in the country: the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. In his two terms as president, Ronald Reagan appointed eight judges, an average of one a year, to this court. They included Robert Bork, Antonin Scalia, Kenneth Starr, Larry Silberman, Stephen Williams, James Buckley, Douglas Ginsburg and David Sentelle. In his two terms, George W. Bush was able to name only four: John Roberts, Janice Rogers Brown, Thomas Griffith and Brett Kavanaugh.

Although two seats on this court are vacant, Bush nominee Peter Keisler has been denied even a committee vote for two years. If Barack Obama wins the presidency, he will almost certainly fill those two vacant seats, the seats of two older Clinton appointees who will retire, and most likely the seats of four older Reagan and George H.W. Bush appointees who may retire as well.

The net result is that the legal left will once again have a majority on the nation's most important regulatory court of appeals.

The balance will shift as well on almost all of the 12 other federal appeals courts. Nine of the 13 will probably swing to the left if Mr. Obama is elected (not counting the Ninth Circuit, which the left solidly controls today). Circuit majorities are likely at stake in this presidential election for the First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eleventh Circuit Courts of Appeal. That includes the federal appeals courts for New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia and virtually every other major center of finance in the country.

The interesting thing about Calabresi's handwringing that "majorities are ... at stake ... for the First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eleventh Circuit Courts" is his willingness to overlook the basic fact that the Republican majorities on a lot of circuit courts are at stake mainly because Republicans have majorities on nearly every circuit court in the country.

Take a look at this breakdown from the Alliance for Justice of current circuit court justices by appointing president and you'll see that, with the exception of the 9th Circiut and ties on the 2nd and 3rd Circuits,  Republican judges outnumber Democratic judges across the board:

DC Circuit: 7 Republican - 4 Democratic

1st Circuit: 3 Republican - 2 Democratic

2nd Circuit: 6 Republican - 6 Democratic

3rd Circuit: 6 Republican - 6 Democratic

4th Circuit: 7 Republican - 4 Democratic

5th Circuit: 13 Republican - 4 Democratic

6th Circuit: 10 Republican - 6 Democratic

7th Circuit: 8 Republican - 3 Democratic

8th Circuit: 9 Republican - 2 Democratic

9th Circuit: 11 Republican - 16 Democratic

10th Circuit: 8 Republican - 4 Democratic

11th Circuit: 7 Republican - 5 Democratic

Federal Circuit: 8 Republican - 4 Democratic

Overall, Republican circuit court judges outnumber Democratic judges 103-66.  And the reason for that is because for 20 of the last 28 years, Republicans have occupied the White House and have filled the federal bench with judges who share their ideology.  As the AFJ points out:

Judges appointed by Republican presidents dominate the Supreme Court, the courts of appeals, and the district courts. Over 58% of all federal judges were appointed by Republican presidents. George W. Bush has appointed nearly 37% of all sitting federal judges.

After two decades of Republican presidents stacking the federal bench with judges who share Calabresi's right-wing Federalist Society ideology, creating an situation in which that ideology dominates nearly every court in the land, Calabresi is suddenly worried about balance and fairness and breathlessly warning that the "federal courts hang in the balance" because "nothing less than the very idea of liberty and the rule of law are at stake in this election?" 

Give me a break.

Biden Known By His Enemies

If one thing is for sure, it is that the paramount issue for the Right over the last several years has been gaining control over the federal judiciary and especially the Supreme Court. This has been the one unifying theme of their efforts to rally behind John McCain and one McCain himself has been citing at every opportunity.

So it was to be expected that this sort of article from CNSNews would emerge sooner or later, in which just about every right-wing judicial activist is given an opportunity to attack Joe Biden as the man single-handedly responsible for everything that is wrong, from their perspective, with the judicial nomination process:

[C]onservatives say that for 27 years, Biden has served as a liberal front man for attacking conservative judicial nominees and principles – notably during the confirmation hearings of Judges Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas.

"Liberal special interest groups worked hand-in-hand with the liberal members of the Judiciary committee to sink Bork, and Biden was in charge of it all," [Focus on the Family's Bruce] Hausknecht said.

[Federalist Society Founder Stephen] Calabresi said that even though it was Biden’s liberal compatriot on the committee, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) who was the most visible in leading the attack on Bork, Biden was hardly a mere bystander.

"It’s important to remember that Sen. Biden was the chairman of the committee during the Bork nomination and the Thomas confirmation fights," Calabresi reiterated.

The Pandering Must Go On!

As he was listing off his right-wing promises to the audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference, John McCain said he would continue to “seek the counsel of my fellow conservatives.” For Human Events editor Jed Babbin, that isn’t enough: “This is vintage McCain. He promises to hear, not to listen. He promises to seek counsel, but not to respect it. … That is less than we require of our leaders. We require them to adhere to our basic principles, and that those principles be the basis for their decisions.”

Take heart, Mr. Babbin: McCain has all but secured the Republican nomination, and yet he is still reaching out to the fringe:

The Brody File has been talking to some influential social conservative leaders around the country and they tell me that they've been talking to John McCain for months. As a matter of fact, one leader told me John McCain called him after Super Tuesday this week. While details of the phone call remain secret, I can tell you that McCain was reaching out to this particular leader and emphasizing the common ground he has with social conservatives on the life issue, judges and defeating Islamic fascists.

Another social conservative leader told me McCain called him to discuss specifics on social conservative causes. I'm told McCain wanted to be more up to speed on the issues that are important to social conservatives. This leader told me that McCain hasn't been focused on their issues before so he's trying to become more aware of all the details.

Still, we can expect right-wing leaders to keep leveling demands at their presumptive candidate, following the principle that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. McCain needs them, they say: "He cannot rely on some Democrats and a lot of independents to become president of the United States," Tom DeLay said. "He's got to have a base, and hopefully he will understand that."

 “To get the enthusiastic support of conservatives – support he must have, to win – Senator McCain must make his case with deeds, not just words," said Richard Viguerie. Ralph Reed, no friend of McCain’s, put it this way:

"This is fired-up Democratic Party, and it is not enough to simply define the differences between the parties," said Reed, who advised McCain to "choose a running mate with street cred on the right" and devote his nominating convention and fall campaign to "striking conservative themes."

What kind of “conservative themes”? How about judges: While McCain has already bent over backwards to the Right on Supreme Court nominations, with a cooing letter to the Federalist Society this week and his promise at CPAC to appoint judges like Roberts and Alito—Quin Hillyer of Confirm Them wants even more:

McCain pledged to appoint judges like Roberts and Alito. Great. I am a fan of both. But I am even more of a fan of Scalia, and even more than that a fan of Clarence Thomas. I would have been happier if McCain, speaking to this conservative audience, had forthrightly said he would appoint judges like Clarence Thomas.

Of course, McCain voted in favor of confirming Thomas. (He wasn’t in the Senate yet for Scalia’s confirmation. However, he was among a minority of senators to vote for Robert Bork the following year.) But, as he will find out, the Right’s appetite for pandering can be bottomless.

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Federalist Society Posts Archive

Kyle Mantyla, Wednesday 04/04/2012, 10:26am
Earlier this week, President Obama predicted that the Supreme Court would uphold the constitutionality of healthcare reform legislation, saying it would be unprecedented that "an unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law.” And now Republicans and the Right and even sitting judges are throwing tantrums, accusing Obama of attempting to "intimidate" the Supreme Court.  Can we just point out that one of the central platforms [PDF] of Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign was that he was literally going to arrest federal judges who... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Thursday 02/03/2011, 6:43pm
Michelle Goldberg @ The Daily Beast: The Shame of an Exorcist Admitting Violation of Chastity. Kate Conway @ Political Correction: Rep. Peter King: Concerns About Muslim Witch Hunts Don't Even 'Warrant An Answer.' Heidi Beirich @ Hatewatch: Invited White Nationalist to Speak to Federalist Society Tomorrow. Jillian Rayfield @ TPM: Right Wing Reacts To Egypt Protests: Obama Is In League With The Muslim Brotherhood. Steve Benen: The Off-Again, On-Again "Truce." Joe.My.God: Ugandan Police: David Kato Forced The Killer To Commit Sodomy. Jason... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Thursday 02/03/2011, 6:43pm
Michelle Goldberg @ The Daily Beast: The Shame of an Exorcist Admitting Violation of Chastity. Kate Conway @ Political Correction: Rep. Peter King: Concerns About Muslim Witch Hunts Don't Even 'Warrant An Answer.' Heidi Beirich @ Hatewatch: Invited White Nationalist to Speak to Federalist Society Tomorrow. Jillian Rayfield @ TPM: Right Wing Reacts To Egypt Protests: Obama Is In League With The Muslim Brotherhood. Steve Benen: The Off-Again, On-Again "Truce." Joe.My.God: Ugandan Police: David Kato Forced The Killer To Commit Sodomy. Jason... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Tuesday 12/14/2010, 3:31pm
For 63 years, not one sitting New Jersey Supreme Court Justice who had sought to be re-appointed by the Governor had been refused ... until Gov. Chris Christie took office and decided to replace Justice John Wallace with a Republican nominee of his own. That move did not sit well with the Democrats in the state Senate who announced that they would refuse to even consider confirming Christie's nominee, leading Chief Justice Stuart Rabner to appoint a senior judge of the appellate division to serve as a temporary justice in order to fill the vacant seventh seat. And everything seemed fine until... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Tuesday 09/28/2010, 2:03pm
This morning, a gunman walked in a library on the University of Texas campus, fired off several shots and then killed himself. So I guess it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that John Lott's scheduled presentation at UT on how more guns lead to less crime has been canceled: The event was being sponsored by the Texas Federalist Society, Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, Libertarian Longhorns, and the Objectivist Society: The Federalist Society and SCCC Present: John Lott's More Guns, Less Crime Date: September 28, 2010 Start: 6:00pm End: 7:30pm Location: TNH 2.114 (... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Monday 08/23/2010, 4:07pm
Conservatives have been very confused and upset for quite some time now that their former hero Ted Olson not only supported marriage equality but actually became a leading advocate, playing a key role in getting Proposition 8 struck down. What on earth happened to Olson, George W. Bush's Solicitor General and Federalist Society stalwart, they wondered?     Well, now we know:  his new Jezebel of a wife has brainwashed him ... or so says the National Organization for Marriage: How did Mr. Federalist Society decide it’s okay to use the U.S. Constitution to require gay... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Wednesday 02/17/2010, 6:09pm
Earlier today I wondered just what Richard Viguerie's name was doing on The Mount Vernon Statement since, on Monday, he called it embarrassing pablum.  But today he went ahead and signed it and even issued his own statement praising it as a good first step: "I am pleased to be a signer of the Mount Vernon Statement. "I feel it's a good first step, and I applaud those conservatives who have provided the leadership to produce this statement of conservative principles. "In the coming weeks, I look forward to working with all principled conservatives, including the... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Friday 02/12/2010, 11:50am
It seems that the Right's efforts to unify in opposition to President Obama and the Democratic Congress are continuing ... with yet another coalition/declaration to be unveiled next week at CPAC:  They're calling it "The Mount Vernon Statement": a group of leaders of conservative groups will gather in Washington, DC on the eve of the yearly national Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), and sign a pact--a "definitive statement," as it's being billed, defining the principles of the conservative movement. "A Who's Who of the conservative movement's... MORE >