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Monday, June 4, 2007

Federalists have no common view on judicial elections

We have written about the local chapter of the Federalist Society a few times on this blog -- mostly to debunk the view that the group is any kind of clandestine society spreading right-wing conspiracies with secret handshakes. Sure the federalists are conservative and libertarian lawyers, but they wear their political leanings on their sleeve and have been responsible for some intelligent debate locally.

When we heard the group was having a CLE program on judicial elections, we decided to send a member of our editorial staff to see what the panelists would say. What, we wondered, would be the group's take on one of the most controversial subjects facing the state's legal community?

Well, it turns out, the federalists, like everyone else, are pretty much all over the map. Some want to keep judicial elections as they are, with challengers having the ability to run against incumbents; others want to switch over to some sort of retention system. This should dispel any idea that the Federalist Society is a monolithic group of identically minded individuals.

That is not to say its members don't occasionally get a pro-conservative plug in here and there. In the Minnesota Lawyer article on the program, I was amused by a quote attributed to Minneapolis attorney Bill Mohrman, who favors keeping the system as it is. Here is the quote along with the sentence preceding it:

"Mohrman countered that he’s confident in the ability of voters to sort through these issues at the ballot box. 'I think the common man is inherently conservative, and I trust the ability of the citizens to vote in contested elections,' he said." (For the full article, click here, password required.)

With all respect to Bill, whom I know to be a fine lawyer, how can he be so sure that the "common man" is inherently conservative? Is that actually true? I suppose your answer to that question might depend upon which philosopher's or theologian's view you ascribe to. For example, it may inform your decision whether you believe that man is inherently good or inherently evil.

Personally, I have no idea whether the common man is conservative or liberal. But the next time I run across one, I will be sure to ask.

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