Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Constitutional Clamor 

One of my classmates has taken on the position of co-president of the just revived NESL chapter of The Federalist Society. The odd thing about this is that he is in general a very lefty kind of person. We were among the first to arrive in the classroom last evening, and had a lengthy discussion about his choice not only to join but to lead a chapter of this conservative organization.

He is holding firm to the concept that the Federalist Society welcomes debate and discussion on constitutional issues, and that if their philosophy is applied rationally, they would come to the same conclusions as more liberal organizations. An example he gave was his opinion that the Federalist philosophy leads to an agreement with the Goodridge decision which paved the way for gay marriage here in Massachusetts.

He may be correct, in an ideal world where political views don't have influence on legal analysis, but that's not the case. Yes, the Federalist Society does feature speakers who hold views other than that promoted by the group, but these speakers are presented in the (admirable) spirit of open debate. Welcoming debate is not the same as agreeing with or embracing views.

Check out the Purpose page of The Federalist Society. Their first bullet point:
"Law schools and the legal profession are currently strongly dominated by a form of orthodox liberal ideology which advocates a centralized and uniform society. While some members of the academic community have dissented from these views, by and large they are taught simultaneously with (and indeed as if they were) the law."

One of their stated goals is:
"reordering priorities within the legal system to place a premium on individual liberty, traditional values, and the rule of law. It also requires restoring the recognition of the importance of these norms among lawyers, judges, and law professors."

Sorry, but I just can't see this group (whose leaders include Robert Bork and Orrin Hatch) ever coming to the conclusion that the Goodridge opinion is correct. Sen. Hatch makes this point quite clear on his website. The American Prospect has an informative article about the impact The Federalist Society has been having in recent years.

So now I'm considering starting up an NESL chapter of the American Constitution Society as an alternative to The Federalist Society. From their Mission Statement:
Founded in 2001, ACS is comprised of law students, lawyers, scholars, judges, policymakers, activists and other concerned individuals who are working to ensure that the fundamental principles of human dignity, individual rights and liberties, genuine equality, and access to justice are in their rightful, central place in American law.

I have a feeling there's going to be a lot of discussion this year on the subject. We've only had one day of classes so far, and already it's been a hot topic. I don't at all agree with those who are, frankly, pissed off about The Federalist Society gaining a presence. All views are welcome. Better to know what views people hold and have a debate on the subject. I just want to make sure that all views get a say in the matter.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 2:24 PM