Wyoming Liberty Group
FedSoc 2012: Federalism, Judicial Activism, Natural Law, and so on.
Last week I made my yearly pilgrimage to Washington, DC. Although much is wrong in our American Rome (the Pax Romana this is not), there are still some diamonds in the rough like the annual Federalist Society National Lawyers Convention.
This year’s gathering marked the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Federalist Society, an organization established by a group of conservative and libertarian law students at Yale, the University of Chicago and Harvard to counter the then-unopposed liberal orthodoxy that dominated law schools. The organization has continued to grow in size and influence over the years, and now the Lawyers Convention is not only attended by practitioners, but dozens of legal professors and judges. I presided over a student chapter in law school and now serve on the executive committee of the society’s Free Speech and Election Law Practice Group.
The left occasionally tries to paint the society as a nefarious right-wing conspiracy (even here in Wyoming, much to my amusement), but the real story is apparent. At both the Lawyers Convention and its local and law school events, the society’s main purpose is to seek truth through engagement. Although the society predominantly includes libertarians and conservatives, this alone gives the lie to thoughts that we’re a rigidly orthodox group. The society continues to host debates over numerous legal topics, and this year’s convention featured some of the best panels ever assembled. These are long videos, but they are well worth watching in their entirety.
First, an outstanding panel discussing federalism and federal power in the wake of the Obamacare ruling. This panel featured not only Randy Barnett and Paul Clement, key figures in the Obamacare challenge, but also Robert Natelson, who is a fellow with our neighboring free-market think tank the Independence Institute. Interestingly, I think the most compelling portion of the panel came from Heather Gerken, a professor at Yale who is certainly not (as she makes clear) a member of the Federalist Society:
Next, an outstanding discussion over the role of natural law in interpreting the Constitution. Professor Hadley Arkes pulled no punches:
There was also an outstanding panel debating judicial activism, or basically “The Panel versus Judge Harvie Wilkinson.” The video of this panel is not yet available, but even then we’re just scratching the surface. There were also panels debating Dodd-Frank, prosecutorial misconduct, a great address by Senator-elect Ted Cruz, and a thought-provoking speech by PayPal founder and tech guru Peter Thiel (who, I learned, was once president of the Stanford student chapter).
I always look forward to the Lawyers Convention, but this year was particularly powerful. I’m still digesting these and the many other panels I attended, but return to Wyoming refreshed and re-armed in the fight for liberty.