Monday, October 31, 2005

Casey Dissent

Alito's dissent in Casey has already been the target of much shameless demagoguery (is there any other kind :-)), and I'm sure Teddy's speechwriters are pulling an all-nighter in an attempt to replicate his (in)famous "In Robert Bork's America" speech. NRO's Bench Memos has a great post that sheds light on the dissent, the statute and the rule Alito was applying -- well worth reading.

Kristol Throws the Gauntlet Down

Strippers, Choice, and Freedom

These guys have been hanging out around campus lately to get people to sign their petition to overturn the City Council's ban on lap dances. The mayor signed the new rules into effect last week that require a 4 foot spacing between the dancers and customers, waist high railings around the stages, and lights that would be more at home in a Wal-Mart than in a seedy night spot.

Anyone who's ever had to plan a bachelor party in Seattle should be outraged. And frankly, anyone who believes in freedom, women's rights, or property rights should be too.

It's interesting that a council that no doubt would react with abject horror and a lecture about "respecting the rights of women" to a proposed ban on abortion don't see the hypocrisy in a de facto ban on women choosing to dance in a strip club. Why is one more worthy of protection than the other? If pro-choice activists see abortion regulation as an effort by the Religious Right to criminalize the sexuality of women, then where are those same activists now? Either women are adults who can and should be trusted to make their own choices, or they're not. One thing is for sure - if the Mayor was an avowed Christian who stated publicly that he thought stripping was an abomination to God, you can bet that we'd see major protests and all kinds of references to the council as no better than an American Taliban.

I'm not saying that strip clubs can't or shouldn't be regulated, even if those regulations are abjectly stupid. But it's worth noting that these particular rules will almost without question force the clubs to close (there are other options not too far out of town) and put dozens of people out of their jobs, and that it's done for no other reason except either (a) prudishness or (b) a blind adherence to some particular sect of feminism that says women should be free to choose and follow their own path - unless the feminists don't approve of the path, of course.

If the petitioners are unsuccessful and the gentlemen's clubs are forced out of business by the rules, I hope the owners sue the city for compensation for the taking of their livlihoods. It's a shame that our local government is so disinterested in personal property rights.

Which Average Americans?

I guess home owners under threat of having their home taken by the government and re-sold to the highest bidder don't count as "average Americans."

That's the problem with "living Constitutions". It's a shame that Senator Shumer doesn't recognize that the only thing that protects "the little guy" (or anyone, for that matter) in a world of "living Constitution" liberal jurisprudence is the beneficence of at least 5 people who can't be voted out of office.

The Schumer Response

Most amusing aspect of the confirmation process thus far? Chuck Schumer warning against moving too quickly on the nomination after breaking the land speed record in finding a microphone and a camera and looking doleful and serious about how strict construction doesn't go far enough in standing up for "average americans."

Ah... That's Better

Today, of course, Bush announced the nomination of Samuel Alito, Jr. From what I know so far, I'm a fan. Most notably, he was the lone dissenter when Planned Parenthood v. Casey (947 F.2d 682 (3rd Circuit, 1991) was before the Third Circuit, and authored the opinion (later reversed by SCOTUS) that upheld Pennsylvania's spousal notification act. For me personally, it's not the policy implications of abortion that make me root for such an opinion writer, but the jurisprudential approach behind them. The Casey opinion is particularly instructive, as he concurs in part and dissents in part, and you get a very good feel for the methodical way he breaks down a statute and applies the rule of law.

Even better than that was his opinion in Saxe v. State College Area School District, where he said that a school doesn't have the right to punish vulgar language from students when it doesn't disrupt the school day. He also authored the opinion in ACLU v. Schundler, allowing a city holiday display to remain standing that included a Christmans tree and a menorah. I like the broad 1st Amendment take, with the additional bonus that, unlike the ACLU, he doesn't forget that the Free Exercise Clause is part of it, too.

Best of all, I've known about this guy for about 2 hours, and I've already been able to get a pretty good read on his approach. Contrast that to Harriet Miers, where people were trying to dissect city council speeches, and divine her philosophy from a few paragraphs in a questionnaire. I'm sure I'll refine my opinion as we learn more, but first impressions tell me that it's a good day in the Land of Judicial Restraint.

One side note - I'm curious if he's a Federalist Society member. I hope he is. At the very least, I hope he doesn't run away from FedSoc like Miers and even Chief Justice Roberts did. I hate feeling like those of us who are trying to keep the debate on limited government and judicial restraint alive should keep our heads down and shut our cake holes if we ever hope to be a judge. The Federalist Society is the only legal group I know of anywhere that's even trying to have the discussion, and everyone loses when that discussion is discouraged.

Friday, October 28, 2005

What is the Federalist Society?

There have been some bizarre and amusing descriptions of the Federalist Society in the national press (PDF), especially lately with the recent Supreme Court nominations. The stories describe us as anywhere between the legal Samuris of the Bush Administration to a Skull & Bones-esque secret society that colludes with the Freemasons, Knights Templar, Stonecutters, Evil Corporations, and probably Elvis in his secret hideout with the aliens at Area 51. The Society and its members have been called dangerous, out-of-the-mainstream, and have been accused of trying to "bring down America from the inside." (For more links to various articles in the press, see the main Federalist Society webpage.) The truth (PDF) is far simpler.

This is the official mission statement of the Federalist Society:

"The Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies is a group of conservatives and libertarians interested in the current state of the legal order. It is founded on the principles that the state exists to preserve freedom, that the separation of governmental powers is central to our Constitution, and that it is emphatically the province and duty of the judiciary to say what the law is, not what it should be. The Society seeks both to promote an awareness of these principles and to further their application through its activities."
Here at UW, those "activities" involve sponsoring formal debates, encouraging student discussion, and working with other chapters and the Puget Sound Lawyers' Chapter to make it clear that the principles we stand behind are taken seriously, and that the consequences of non-principled jurispurudence are laid bare. (Just ask Connecticut homeowners.) This blog is the latest effort in our work to foster healthy debate within our local legal community.

Welcome to the UW Chapter Federalist Society Blog!

I am Orrin Johnson, President of the University of Washington Federalist Society Chapter. I'd like to personally welcome you to our chapter's official blog!

The Federalist Society was formed in 1982 because conservative and libertarian law students were increasingly disappointed that only one point of view was ever coming across in their law school classes, and that this view was a universally liberal one. Recognizing that scholarship unquestioned becomes dogma instead of knowledge, and striving to create a dialogue instead of the monologue they were experiencing, they created the Society to provide law students access to different points of view.

It is in that spirit that this blog has been created. We look forward to thoughtful comments, criticisms, and above all, real dialogue. We aren't hear to try to shout anyone down. We believe that our ideas - given a fair hearing - will speak for themselves. We look forward to educating the UW Law School community about what the Federalist Society is (and isn't). And we look forward to exercising our minds by challenging all assumptions (not the least of which are our own), and making us all better lawyers in the process.

Please note that all opinions expressed on this blog are purely those of the individual authors. The Federalist Society itself does not take policy positions, endorse political candidates, or involve itself in litigation to pursue policy agendas. The goal is to simply provide a free and fair forum for us as individuals to make our own determinations.