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Federalist Society Chapter Flourishes at Yale Law School; Rove, Mukasey Among Recent Featured Speakers

yaOutside its walls, the Yale Law School is renowned for many things, but not as a hotbed of conservative legal thought. But those more familiar with the institution know the Yale Federalist Society, a group of conservative and libertarian law students committed to “preserving the mainstays of our free government: federalism, the separation of powers, and judicial fidelity to the text of the Constitution,” continues to be one of the school’s most successful student organizations.

“Our mission is to foster an exchange of ideas on important legal issues,” said Chapter President Michael Ellis ’11, “and in doing so, we challenge our own assumptions and those of a left-leaning student body and faculty.”

From its small beginnings over twenty-five years ago, the Federalist Society at Yale has continued to grow in numbers and strength. As of last spring, the Federalists boasted an average attendance of more than 55 students per event and an e-mail list with over 200 students, faculty, and friends of the Society.

As Public Relations Chair Alex Gesch ’11 noted, “Many students who attend our events don’t agree with our point of view, but they value open dialogue and discussion about key legal issues. We’ve even had liberal students ask to join our e-mail list so they could come to more Federalist Society events.”

The Society hosted 25 events during the 2009-2010 school year, some jointly with Yale Law School’s American Constitution Society, on topics including the War on Terror, the government bailout of the auto industry, the Establishment Clause, the relation of administrative agencies to the judiciary, and state constitutional law.

Notre Dame Law Professor Richard Garnett '95 and YLS Professor Anthony Kronman '75, with Michael Ellis ’11, discussed the Establishment Clause and the role of religion in the public square.

And the current school year got off to a rousing start September 7 with a debate on whether to repeal Obamacare, featuring former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove; that event was co-sponsored with the Yale Political Union and Young America’s Foundation.

Previous marquee events included a lecture this past April by former Attorney General Michael Mukasey ’67 on the history of terrorism prosecution.

The Federalist Society also welcomed several federal judges for various events, including Sixth Circuit Judge Jeffrey Sutton on the importance of state constitutional law; D.C. Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh ’90 on the rise of the administrative state; Seventh Circuit Judge Diane Sykes in a discussion about judicial elections; and Judge Reena Raggi of the Second Circuit, who gave the keynote address on the foundational importance of the jury system at the chapter’s fifth annual banquet.

Vice President for Events Dan Feith ’12 commented, “We bring in speakers who enrich the law school’s intellectual debate by voicing perspectives that students don’t otherwise hear.”

Other notable events over the past year included a discussion between Notre Dame Law Professor Paolo Carozza and Yale Law Professor Oona Hathaway ’97 on the history of American resistance to international humanitarian rights law, co-sponsored by the Schell Center for International Human Rights; and a retrospective on the Supreme Court nomination of former Yale Professor Robert Bork, featuring Ambassador Tom Korologos, Yale Law Professor Paul Gewirtz ’70, and Yale Law Lecturer Linda Greenhouse ’78 MSL.

Three generations of board members at the Yale Fed Society’s fifth annual year-end banquet. L-R, Lauren Blas ’12, Haley Nix ’12, Kamila Lis ’11, DeLisa Lay ’10, Rebekah Perry ’10, and Lauren Morse ’10.

The Yale Federalist Society is part of the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies, founded in 1982 by law students from several schools, including Yale. The national organization claims 40,000 members and has student chapters at all 196 ABA-accredited law schools.