Liberals have been in panic mode over President Donald Trump’s great strides in successfully nominating conservative judges to the federal bench, and they have been searching for ways to prevent further progress in that regard.
One such avenue involves attacking the character and reputation of conservative-leaning entities and those aligned with them. But in response to a recently proposed ethics rule targeting groups like the Federalist Society, Justice Clarence Thomas — who is a member of that group — asserted that the rule was intended to silence both the organization and judges like himself, The Daily Caller reported.
Thomas will not be silenced
The remark from Justice Thomas came as he spoke Friday night at a Federalist Society conference in Florida and was made in regard to a proposed ethics rule promulgated by the Committee on Codes of Conduct of the U.S. Judicial Conference. The committee recently issued an advisory opinion on the topic of judicial membership in certain law-related organizations that could be viewed by some as ideologically biased.
Thomas asserted that the rule was intended to not only silence the Federalist Society itself, but also all of the judges, law clerks, and staff attorneys who were members of or affiliated with the organization as well — including himself.
“Now I think they’re about to silence the Federalist Society,” Thomas reportedly said of the new ethics rule at the event. “So I guess I can’t come back.”
The advisory opinion issued by the committee specifically named the Federalist Society and the left-leaning American Constitution Society (ACS) as law-related organizations that hold a partisan bias and champion partisan positions, and the proposed rule would discourage the holding of membership or leadership positions as well as participation in “extrajudicial activities” with groups that could call into question a judge’s impartiality.
While an absence of partisanship in the judiciary would certainly be ideal, it must be noted that the Federalist Society only came into being in response to the increasingly overt liberalism of the American Bar Association (ABA) and was intended as a conservative/libertarian counterweight that would focus on the Founders, federalism, and originalism with respect to the Constitution and the law. The ACS was then formed specifically as a “progressive” answer to the Federalist Society.
Though it would discourage membership in both the ACS and Federalist Society, the committee’s proposed rule would still allow judges, clerks, and staff attorneys to participate in and speak at certain events sponsored by those groups, provided those individuals could still adhere to other ethics rules governing the appearance of bias and partiality.
Notably, however, even as the committee admitted that the ABA had taken on a left-leaning tilt and has adopted partisan positions on some issues, it nevertheless excluded that organization from the provisions of the proposed rule and would continue to allow individuals in the judiciary to be members of and even hold leadership positions in the group.
An attack on the First Amendment
Writing for National Review, Carrie Severino of the Judicial Crisis Network lambasted the committee’s proposed rule and questioned both the motives of committee members as well as the logic used to formulate the advisory opinion, specifically blasting the blatant carveout for the liberal ABA.
Severino noted that the same reasoning used to prohibit membership in the Federalist Society could also be applied to other law-related organizations that hold certain affinities, advocate for certain issues, or focus mainly on matters of education or faith. Furthermore, the proposed rule itself could be viewed as a direct violation of the First Amendment, specifically the freedom of association.
As previously noted, this proposed measure seeks to dramatically reduce the influence of the Federalist Society — a group that has played a key role in Trump’s impressive record of judicial nominations — and, hopefully, others will join Justice Thomas in speaking out against it.