Though the group has connections to United Nations officials and Supreme Court justices, few outside of the Law School know about Penn’s Federalist Society.
“It’s not a political organization,” explained Curtis Weber, second-year law student and treasurer for Penn’s chapter of the Federalist Society. “It doesn’t advocate for issues or candidates. I guess the best way to describe it is a large group of conservative and libertarian law professors, judges, lawyers and students that banded together to work on conservative and libertarian scholarship.”
Weber said a disparity in ideology in the legal field prompted the group’s creation in 1982. “It is not a 50/50 split between conservatives and liberals in law,” Weber said. “The Penn Law faculty probably has three to five conservatives and libertarians, as opposed to maybe 20 liberals.”
Duties for third-year law student Rick Bold, the society’s president, mostly deal with organizing and choosing events to be held on campus.
“It’s tricky to be in charge of a conservative organization at a school like Penn where most of the student body is liberal,” Bold said. “We’ve had a lot of success by not being radical and trying to stir the pot for no reason. Rather, we always try to bring representation to both sides of an argument.”
The group’s events are usually debates centered around a particular national issue. Most recently, on March 30, the society hosted a debate on affirmative action.
Bold said Linda Chavez — “the highest-ranking woman in the Reagan Administration” — debated Leadership Conference on Civil Rights President Wade Henderson at the March 30 event, which drew 125 attendees. “It was a huge success,” he said.
The Federalist Society will host UN Ambassador John Bolton on April 19.
“He’s a more political speaker than we’d usually have, but he deals with and has insights on international law,” Bold said.
“We’re unique, because we go out of our way to find not only the best conservative speakers, but also the best liberal speakers that we can,” he said.
The Federalist Society has over 300 chapters for lawyers and law students nationwide and has amassed a number of strong connections in national government since its nationwide creation 28 years ago.
“I didn’t realize how strong they were going in, but you find out very quickly that it’s true,” Bold said, referring to the society’s connections. He noted that a summer workshop for Federalist Society presidents had a reception hosted by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
Such connections are “really important for law students who want to find government jobs or work for a judge,” he said. “It’s a fantastic network.”
As well-connected as the group is, its focus on discussion is what initially attracted Weber.
“I heard about the society in the beginning of the first year of law school,” Weber said. “I’m more libertarian than anything, and I liked the way it wasn’t just boring professors coming in and talking at you. It was debating.”Comments powered by Disqus
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