Roberts Listed in Federalist Society '97-98 Directory

Alfred Ross, president of the Institute for Democracy Studies, points to Roberts's name in the Federalist Society directory.
Alfred Ross, president of the Institute for Democracy Studies, points to Roberts's name in the Federalist Society directory. (By Helayne Seidman For The Washington Post)

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By Charles Lane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 25, 2005

Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr. has repeatedly said that he has no memory of belonging to the Federalist Society, but his name appears in the influential, conservative legal organization's 1997-1998 leadership directory.

Having served only two years on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit after a long career as a government and private-sector lawyer, Roberts has not amassed much of a public paper record that would show his judicial philosophy. Working with the Federalist Society would provide some clue of his sympathies. The organization keeps its membership rolls secret, but many key policymakers in the Bush administration are acknowledged current or former members.

Roberts has burnished his legal image carefully. When news organizations have reported his membership in the society, he or others speaking on his behalf have sought corrections. Last week, the White House told news organizations that had reported his membership in the group that he had no memory of belonging. The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today and the Associated Press printed corrections.

Over the weekend, The Post obtained a copy of the Federalist Society Lawyers' Division Leadership Directory, 1997-1998. It lists Roberts, then a partner at the law firm Hogan & Hartson, as a member of the steering committee of the organization's Washington chapter and includes his firm's address and telephone number.

Yesterday, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Roberts "has no recollection of being a member of the Federalist Society, or its steering committee." Roberts has acknowledged taking part in some Federalist Society activities, Perino said.

The Federalist Society was founded in 1982 by conservatives who disagreed with what they saw as a leftist tilt in the nation's law schools. The group sponsors legal symposia and similar activities and serves as a network for rising conservative lawyers.

In conservative circles, membership in or association with the society has become a badge of ideological and political reliability. Roberts's membership was routinely reported by news organizations in the context of his work in two GOP administrations and legal assistance to the party during the contested 2000 presidential election in Florida.

But the society's alignment with conservative GOP politics and public policy makes Roberts's relationship with the organization a potentially sensitive point for his confirmation process because many Democrats regard the organization with suspicion.

Yesterday, a liberal organization that has been skeptical of Roberts's nomination said that the White House's description of his relationship with the society showed the need to take a close look at his background.

"As this episode makes clear, the Senate needs to go behind the glowing accounts of Roberts's record to figure out what he really thinks and what he really did," said Nan Aron, president of the Alliance for Justice, a liberal organization that has been critical of the Roberts nomination.

"What matters is whether he hung out with them and not whether he signed the form or wrote the dues check," said David Garrow, a law professor at Emory University. "What's important is the intellectual immersion."

The questions about Roberts's involvement with the society may come down to the meaning of the word "membership."


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