Perrspectives - Bringing light to Darkness

U.S. Attorneys and the Visible Hand of the Federalist Society

April 13, 2007

Among the revelations contained in the latest DOJ document dump is the central role of the Federalist Society in entrenching the permanent Republican majority among the ranks of the U.S. attorneys. As FireDogLake, ThinkProgress and others have reported, membership in the Federalist Society was crucial to a favorable ranking by the Gonzales team entrusted with purging the USAs ranks of those not "loyal Bushies."
But as Perrspectives detailed back in the spring of 2005, the conservative Federalist Society is the essential ingredient in the GOP strategy to transform the judiciary into a Republican partisan redoubt. From its critical role in the 2000 Florida recount and replacing the American Bar Association as the arbiter of White House judicial nominees to its influential role in making - or breaking - the careers of U.S. prosecutors, the Federalist Society looms behind the scenes as a virtual Opus Dei in the conservative revolution taking place in the judicial branch.
Which is not what its members and patrons would have you believe. As I wrote in 2005 at the height of the "up-or-down" vote confrontation in the Senate over Bush's judicial picks, C. Boyden Gray provided a case in point. In a stunning interview with NPR's Terry Gross, Gray, the Bush family consigliere, White House counsel (1989-93), and Bush 2000 transition chief, claimed that the Federalist Society could be 'best described as a debating society."
Here's more from my 2005 piece:
[...]That "debating society" counts among its members 40% of George W. Bush's judicial nominees. The top ranks of the Bush administration has been staffed by Federalist stars, including John Ashcroft, Ted Olson, Spencer Abraham, Gale Norton, and Eugene Scalia, just to name a few. In addition to Antonin Scalia, Kenneth Starr and Ed Meese, other Federalist notables include Linda Chavez, Robert Bork and Orrin Hatch. As the New Republic, the Washington Monthly and the American Prospect point out, the Federalist Society seeks nothing less than the capture and redefinition of the American judiciary - a goal they are well on their way to achieving.
Which brings us to the last and perhaps most evasive Gray episode on Fresh Air. Terry Gross noted that Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch and later President Bush (aided by then White Counsel Alberto Gonzales) abandoned the traditional practice of using the "liberal" American Bar Association (ABA) to vet potential nominees, instead turning to the Federalist Society.
In an angry, deceptive response conjuring up "the meaning of is", Gray again emptied both barrels:

"I don't know what you're talking about...The ABA continues to play the role it has played for the last half a century. The Federalist Society does nothing like this...Your understanding is wrong, I think. The Federalist Society does not vet anybody...Vetting has a very definite meaning...People talk...There is no formal consultation mechanism." [Exchange starts at the 25:30 mark]

While Monica Goodling and her fellow true believers (and third-rate attorneys) from Pat Robertson's Regent University who may provide the foot soldiers in the conservative conquest of the American legal system, it is the Federalist Society which provides the generals - and the war plan.
For the more on the Federalist Society's role the latest the latest news, email archives, hearings, legal filings and other essential documents on the Bush DOJ prosecutor firings, see "The U.S. Attorney Scandal Document Center."


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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