WASHINGTON – Four out of five supreme court Judges who overturned the constitutional right to abortion emerged at the conservative Federalist Society’s 40th anniversary dinner.
Judge Samuel Alito received a long, loud ovation from a crowd of 2,000, mostly in tuxedos and gowns, on Thursday night when another speaker praised his opinion on the matter in June fell Roe v. calflong a target of judicial conservatives.
At a moment when opinion polls show Americans think the court is getting more political and are giving it dismal approval ratings, judges turned out to celebrate the group that helped then-President Donald Trump and Senate Republicans Has shift the American judiciary, including the Supreme Court, to the right.
The Federalist Society has no party affiliation and takes no position in election campaigns, but it is closely aligned with Republican priorities, including efforts to overthrow Roe.
Judge Amy Coney Barrett and Alito offered brief remarks staying away from the court’s work, though Alito praised the Federalist Society for its success during the Trump years and hoped it would continue. “Boy, is your work needed today,” he said.
Barrett’s only reference to the abortion case came when she responded to a roar of approval from the crowd as she was introduced. “It’s really nice to have a lot of noise outside my house that isn’t made by protesters,” she said.
Under tight security, Judges Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh were also present in the main hall of Union Station in Washington, where the silhouette of James Madison, the group’s logo, was projected onto the walls.
Norm Eisen, an ethics expert who served in the Obama administration and later helped draft Trump’s impeachment proceedings his first charge in 2019, the judges said they had brazenly disregarded ethical appearances because the organization’s mission is to steer the law in a conservative direction.
“While there is no legal bar to them appearing at the Federalist Society dinner, the performances are awful,” Eisen wrote in an email.
But Stephen Gillers, an expert on judicial ethics at New York University Law School, said he was not concerned with the ethics or the appearance of the judges’ attendance.
“It’s not a political organization. She does not appear in court. It can justifiably claim a serious commitment to the intellectual advancement of the law. The fact that it is linked to certain points of view does not change that. I would say the same about the American Constitution Society,” Gillers wrote in an email, referring to a liberal rights group.
Conservative judges have long spoken at the organization’s annual meeting in Washington. Judge Antonin Scalia, the died in 2016spoke on several occasions, as did Thomas and Alito.
Gorsuch showed up at dinner New to the court in 2017, he hugged Leonard Leo, the society’s co-chairman who helped Trump review justice candidates. Kavanaugh delivered remarks in 2019.
Fifteen other Trump-selected appeals court judges are also scheduled for the three-day conference in the nation’s capital.
The conference began Thursday with a speech by Chief Justice William Pryor of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, in which he mocked the group’s liberal critics and praised the group, which he said now has 65,000 members and chapters 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 claim has captured the federal judiciary, including the United States Supreme Court,” he said Pryor.
Pryor was the author of the 11th Circuit Court Opinion that sided with Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in the decision Offenders must pay all fines, damages and attorneys’ fees before they can regain their right to vote.
The decision overturned a ruling that gave criminals the right to vote regardless of any outstanding legal obligations. In addition to Pryor, five Trump appointees formed a 6-4 majority.
Three of those judges, Lisa Branch, Britt Grant and Kevin Newsom, are also attending the Washington conference.
The Federalist Society began in elite law schools when Ronald Reagan was in the White House. It was conceived as a way to counter what its members saw as liberal dominance of the country’s law schools.
His influence was pronounced during George W. Bush’s presidency, when his leaders helped rally support for the Senate confirmation of Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts viewed by some critics as not being conservative enough. The group was so successful that it spawned imitative liberal organizations.
During Barack Obama’s presidency, the group provided a forum for opponents of Obama’s court decisions and policies. Some of its leaders supported that of then Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Refusal to act on Obama’s Supreme Court nomination by Merrick Garland after the death of Scalia in February 2016. This political strategy paid off unexpectedly and enormously for Conservatives with Trump’s election, leading to Gorsuch’s confirmation. McConnell was also present Thursday, Leo said.
Trump’s years in the White House took the group to a new level. “Our movement has grown by leaps and bounds and with it our impact,” said Leo on Thursday evening.
In 2017, then-White House Counsel Don McGahn responded to criticism of the Federalist Society’s influence over the Trump administration.
“Our opponents of judge candidates often claim that the President has outsourced the selection of his judges. That’s totally wrong. I’ve been a member of the Federalist Society since law school – I still am. So, honestly, it seems like it was bought in,” McGahn said at the group’s convention.
More seriously, he said: “The fact is that we all share the same vision of the role of the judiciary and we welcome contributions from many sources.”
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