By Tank Murdoch
(TNS) A reasonable person might think it’s a good thing for federal judged to associates with organizations that fervently believe in and promote American constitutionalism.
But apparently, a federal judicial ethics committee has a problem with it.
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As reported by Fox News, the Committee on Codes of Conduct circulated a draft opinion among all federal judges earlier this month that has led many conservative court watchers to conclude that the panel is attempting to ‘censor’ certain constitutionalist organizations like the Federalist Society.
The opinion makes it clear that it is “broadly permissible” for federal judges to speak at Federalist Society events, as well as events for its Left-wing counterpart the American Constitution Society. However, the opinion “but raises concerns that judges’ membership in either organization could cause the public to lose faith in that judge’s impartiality,” Fox News reported.
“Official affiliation with either organization could convey to a reasonable person that the affiliated judge endorses the views and particular ideological perspectives advocated by the organization; call into question the affiliated judge’s impartiality on subjects as to which the organization has taken a position; and generally frustrate the public’s trust in the integrity and independence of the judiciary,” the opinion states.
So what’s the big deal? Why are conservatives so upset?
For one thing, this opinion seems to have come out of nowhere; why now, in other words? Could it be due to the fact that President Donald Trump and the GOP-controlled Senate are replacing Left-wing judicial activists on federal courts at breakneck speed?
For another, it appears politically motivated as well. The Federalist Society is much more potent, politically, than its Leftist counterpart, the ACS.
That said, it should be noted that the ethics panel said it has no issues with federal judges belonging instead to the American Bar Association — but conservatives rightfully argue that organization is as Left-wing as the ACS.
“This is an attempt to make it unacceptable for federal judges to be members fo the Federalist Society and it’s part of a broader series of attacks on the Federalist Society, in particular, coming from political sources,” said Judicial Crisis Network chief counsel and policy director Carrie Severino, who called the opinion part of an “ongoing political campaign to silence the Federalist Society.”
The new draft advisory opinion from the Committee on Codes of Conduct regarding "Judges’ Involvement With the American Constitution Society, the Federalist Society, and the American Bar Association" is unprecedented in its attempt to silence the Federalist Society. (1/7)
— Carrie Severino (@JCNSeverino) January 22, 2022
“The way they have written it says judges shouldn’t be involved if the group they’re involved with takes political positions or legal positions on things,” Severino said of the ethics opinion. “What’s so strange is that is something that the American Bar Association does a lot. They have lobbyists that advocate for legislation. They do amicus briefs.”
While the Federalist Society describes itself as a counterbalance to “orthodox liberal ideology” and a group for “conservatives and libertarians” interested in “reordering priorities within the legal system,” it does not take official policy positions or endorse judicial nominees or political candidates.
The ABA, on the other hand, has a mission statement that is completely apolitical: “Our mission is to serve equally our members, our profession and the public by defending liberty and delivering justice as the national representative of the legal profession.”
But the ABA’s House of Delegates regularly passes resolutions urging “governments to enact legislation” or take other action that is political in nature. Examples from the organization’s 2019 midyear meeting include one resolution opposing laws that would allow teachers or other faculty to carry guns in schools and another condemning the government shutdown that began in December 2018 and bled into early 2019.
Additionally, the ACS does advocate for policies, unlike the Federalist Society, making the conservative and libertarian lawyers’ group unique in that respect.
The member and volunteer leader of the Federalist Society told Fox News that he is concerned the new guidance “will be used as a tool to bludgeon … nominees” who have previously been involved with the Federalist Society and that the opinion is “going to have a chilling effect on the willingness of judges to participate in programs” that benefit law students. …
Fox News has learned that two members of the committee — the membership of which is not publicly listed — are Judge John McConnell, a district judge in Rhode Island, and Judge Albert Diaz, who is on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.
McConnell, whose presence on the committee was first reported by The Wall Street Journal, is an ally of Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., who has publicly decried the Federalist Society’s influence. Diaz, whose role on the committee was first reported by the National Review, is the Appellate Judges Conference chair for the ABA’s Judicial Divison.
Now this ‘opinion’ makes more sense.
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