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Here’s Why This Legal Society Is Examining How Congress Works


Corrects Randy Barnett’s role in challenging the Affordable Care Act before the Supreme Court.

The Federalist Society has catapulted traditional jurisprudence into prominence, making constitutional principles vogue at both law schools and the U.S. Supreme Court. Now, for the first time, the society plans to make a similar play on Congress.

At its annual convention in Washington last week, the legal society announced the “Article I Project,” a pro bono effort to analyze the health of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

Traditionally, the influential legal group has focused on issues concerning the executive and judicial branches. But in recent years, Federalist Society President Eugene Meyer says, the legislative branch has not received “the kind of steady stream of attention it deserves.”

“We hope to change that dynamic through this project,” Meyer said in an interview with The Daily Signal.

Prominent and influential in legal circles, the Federalist Society has achieved significant success at the judicial level since its founding in 1981. In the past three decades, the group has spearheaded the effort to advance an original or textual interpretation of the Constitution.

Meyer said the Article I Project—which takes its name from the section of the U.S. Constitution granting legislative power—will examine the evolving challenges facing a modern Congress in light of permanent principle.

Rather than tailor-made policies, the Article I project aims at producing a guiding philosophy for lawmakers.

Meyer said a “philosophical perspective” on the proper role of Congress has been lacking in recent discussions among academics and policy makers.

“And that’s what we are really hoping to contribute, and think we have a good chance to do,” he told The Daily Signal.

Already, the Federalist Society has recruited leading legal experts for the project, Meyer said. Over the next year, they will study and analyze Congress before offering their findings to lawmakers.

Meyer declined to speculate on where he thinks Congress could improve. Another society member, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, was not as reserved.

During a keynote address at the organization’s national conference, Lee chastised Congress “for investing in its own irrelevance” by surrendering lawmaking authority to administrative agencies.

Lee also praised the Federalist Society for taking “an increasing role in shaping how the Constitution operates [and] how it’s followed within the United States Congress.”

More than an academic exercise, the society’s project could yield significant result, Heritage Foundation scholar David Azerrad said.

Azerrad, director of the think tank’s Simon Center for Principles and Politics, credits the Federalist Society with being “one of the great conservative success stories of the latter half of the 20th century.” He described its examination of Congress as “a welcome effort.”

Since beginning as a student group at Yale Law School, the Federalist Society has grown into a national network of scholars, students, lawyers and judges. Three of its members currently sit on the Supreme Court: Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

Extending that influence to lawmakers on Capitol Hill will be difficult but achievable, said Randy Barnett, director of…

 if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.


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