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Should Federal Judges Be Barred From Membership In Ideological Legal Groups?




US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, US Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, US Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch arrive for the State of the Union address at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on February 4, 2020.
US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, US Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, US Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch arrive for the State of the Union address at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on February 4, 2020.
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

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A draft advisory opinion circulated last month by a committee of the U.S. Judicial Conference, the policy-making body for the federal judiciary, recommends that federal judges be barred from membership in certain ideological groups. 

Specifically, the rules mention the Federalist Society a conservative/libertarian legal organization, and its left-leaning counterpart the American Constitution Society, although it stopped short of recommending that they also be barred from membership with the American Bar Association because, they say, the ABA has a judicial division whose members can’t and don’t endorse the organizations policy positions. If the rules were to be adopted, judges would still be allowed to go to and participate in panel discussions and symposiums hosted or organized by Federalist Society or ACS. The draft advisory does not, however, make mention of any other groups where a judge being a member could be seen as ethically dubious.

Do you think judges should be prevented from having membership status in ideological groups? What constitutional issues could arise if these rules were implemented?

Guests:

Jody Armour, professor of law at USC; he tweets @NiggaTheory

David Rivkin, partner at the law firm BakerHostetler; he co-authored a recent op-ed for The Wall Street Journal titled “Shut Up, They Advised”; he has previously held positions at the Department of Justice, in the Office of White House Counsel and elsewhere in the federal government; he tweets @DavidRivkin