Reports have been circulated in the past few months that would suggest The Federalist Society will be marginalized under a new administration that places a greater premium on “empathy” than it does on the rule of law. But this assessment overlooks the enormous progress that has been made since the early 1980s in the re-establishment of “originalist” thinking in jurisprudence as an alternative to activism detached from the fixed meaning of the Constitution.
The dialogue now taking place in academic settings on the proper role of the judiciary and the importance of limited government that the society helped start is more vital now than ever with the nomination of Sonia Sotomayer to the U.S. Supreme Court. Although her confirmation is virtually assured, the overall ideological balance on the court is not likely to change. Moreover, the toxic effects of judicial activism have now penetrated into the public mind thanks to libertarian and conservative legal experts who are active with The Federalist Society.
Columnist George Will described these key individuals as “intellectual insurgents” during the 2009 Bradley Awards Ceremony held at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. this past Wed. June 3 where he served as the master of ceremonies. “To thousands of students across the country the founding of a Federalist Society chapter tells them that you are not alone, that the pedigree of you ideas is long and distinguished, what you believe is defensible and we are here to help you defend them,” he said.
Eugene Meyer, the current president and CEO of the Federalist Society, accepted the Bradley Prizes on behalf of all the founding members. Spencer Abraham, Steven Calabresi, David McIntosh, Lee Lieberman Otis came together to form The Federalist Society while they were all law students back in 1982.
This “intellectually pugnacious organization” that defends the constitutional thinking of America’s founding fathers has helped shift the atmosphere of academic institutions responsible for shaping the minds of future leaders, Will said.
William Kristol, founder and editor of The Weekly Standard, was also named as a Bradley Prize winner. Despite the temporary ascendency of liberals in Washington D.C., the conservative movement has much to be proud of over the past 25 years , he said. The movement has secured important foreign policy and domestic achievements that has put the country on a stronger footing, he observed.Arnold Harberger, a professor of economics at the University of California-Los Angeles and Sir Martin Gilbert, the official biographer of Winston Churchill, were also named as Bradley Prize winners.
The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, founded in 1985 is devoted to strengthening American democratic capitalism and institutions, principles and values that sustain and nature it. The foundation’s programs support limited government, a dynamic marketplace for economic, intellectual and cultural activity, and a vigorous defense at home and abroad of American ideas and institutions.