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Eugene Volokh Explains the Federalist Society

Many people have no idea what the Federalist Society is, what it stands for, and who its members are. Politicians, activists, and some members of the media have attempted to portray the Federalist Society as a right wing cabal, secretly plotting to subvert the Constitution to meet their ideologically driven ends. In some circles, calling someone a member of the Federalist Society is a slur. I think it is important to clear the air and let everyone know what this group is all about. I can think of no one better to explain the Federalist Society than Prof. Eugene Volokh (this year's Boden Lecturer at MULS).

In this article from the Washington Post entitled "Our Flaw? We're Just Not Liberals," Prof. Volokh lets outsiders know what the Federalist Society is all about...
The Federalist Society is a group of conservatives, libertarians and moderates who share two things: an interest in law and a sense that the liberal legal establishment often (not always) gets things wrong.
[O]ur common bond is just that most of us fall somewhere vaguely right of the center of the political spectrum most of the time. Many leading legal academic and professional institutions are dominated by liberals: A recent study finds, for instance, that 80 percent of U.S. law professors describe themselves as "Democratic or leaning Democratic," and only 13 percent call themselves "Republican or leaning Republican." We who dissent from this orthodoxy naturally enjoy talking with each other, even when -- especially when -- we disagree.

The society is genuinely open to a variety of views. It takes no position on legislation or on candidates. It files no lawsuits or friend of the court briefs. Its charter is to create discussion, not to lobby, litigate or get out the vote. It welcomes moderates and liberals, if they want to participate, as well as libertarians and conservatives; anyone is free to join.
The Federalist Society is all about ideas. We like to talk about the law and the Constitution. We like debates because, as Prof. Volokh puts it, "We think that a fair debate between us and our liberal adversaries will win more converts for our positions than for the other side's."

What do Federalist Society members believe? Many things, depending on the particular member...
We have no articles of faith. Some of us are pro-choice, others pro-life. Some Federalists -- such as Gary Lawson, a member of the society's board of directors and a professor at Northwestern University School of Law -- think the Constitution should be interpreted primarily based on its original meaning. Others focus more on precedent or on evolving tradition. Some, like professor Randy E. Barnett of Boston University, argue that the Constitution protects a broad range of rights beyond those specifically listed in the first eight amendments. Still others, such as Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who was a faculty adviser to the University of Chicago's chapter of the Federalist Society in the 1980s, believe that decisions about such unenumerated rights should be left to the democratic process, not to judges.

Many Federalists -- such as Paul Cassell, a prominent critic of Miranda v. Arizona, who teaches at the University of Utah College of Law -- believe the police deserve more flexibility than they now have. Some, like Roger Pilon of the libertarian Cato Institute, are much more skeptical of government power. And still others fall somewhere in between.
The variety of viewpoints that one finds in the Federalist Society is one of its greatest strengths.

I welcome everyone to attend one of our many events during the school year. I'm sure that you will find it interesting and thought provoking. Our goal is to encourage debate and discussion about the law, and hopefully these events help achieve that goal.