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The Federalist Society: How Conservatives Took the Law Back from Liberals Hardcover – April 16, 2013


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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Avery and McLaughlin have written an important, highly informative book about the role of the Federalist Society in shaping jurisprudence and public policy over the last 30 years. [...] Recommended."
--Choice

"...clear and engaging..."
--Los Angeles Review of Books

"...it's possible, given the volume of information in this book, to reconstruct a thesis about why the Federalist Society was so effective in changing the legal debate in America. [...] With striking clairvoyance, it outlined an incrementalist strategy for narrowing the right to reproductive choice and predicted, accurately, that the expansive jurisprudence of personal autonomy, recognized in cases like Roe v. Wade, might eventually lead to the judicial recognition of gay marriage."
--The New York Times Book Review

"...illuminating and important..."
--Washington Independent Review of Books

"Much of what The Federalist Society covers will be familiar to readers who closely follow law or politics, but even those readers will find value in its straightforward mix of history, case studies, and legal arguments. For others, it serves as an introduction to a long-term story that has slowly and quietly--but dramatically--changed the American legal system."
--Foreword

"Fascinating, well-written and hard-hitting piece of writing underscoring the importance of the federal judiciary in our democracy. The politicization of the courts is a topic more relevant than ever in these partisan times, and Avery and McLaughlin's concise, incisive style does it justice."
--Nan Aron, President and Founder, Alliance for Justice

"Michael Avery and Danielle McLaughlin have written a compelling book about how the Federalist Society came to prominence, its tremendous influence in Republican presidential administrations especially in the selection of judges, and its conservative ideology on major issues of constitutional law. It is a story of how ideas, money, and careful planning came together to change the legal landscape. This well-written book is a must read for all who want to understand the conservative movement in law, its views and those advancing them."
--Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean and Distinguished Professor, University of California, Irvine School of Law

"A compelling intellectual history of the rise of the powerful Federalist Society, this is a thoughtful recounting of all the ways in which the group has impacted and influenced legal doctrine, and a roadmap of what's to come should their ascendancy continue. Anyone who cares about the courts or the law will find The Federalist Society a stark reminder of the power of abstract ideas to effect real and lasting change for decades."
--Dahlia Lithwick, Senior Editor, Slate.com

From the Inside Flap

How conservative ideas rose to a position of dominance in law and politics
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Vanderbilt University Press (April 16, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 082651877X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0826518774
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 7.2 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,139,368 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Maria on March 25, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I found this a fascinating read. As someone who knows relatively little about the politics that inform our legal system, I was blown away by the extent to which a single group's interests are represented in the Supreme Court. The authors' treatment of this political subject is fair and unbiased. The Federalist Society seems to me an important work in exposing the complex and secretive network of conservative power in the United States.
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12 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Amanda Hollis-Brusky on June 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover
For a generalist audience, this book will probably serve as a fine introduction to the Federalist Society and the role it's played in shaping constitutional discourse and law. As a Political Scientist who has published several articles on the Federalist Society and the Conservative Legal Movement and is currently finishing up a book manuscript on the same topic (Google "Amanda Hollis-Brusky"), however, I found this book on the whole very unsatisfying. It synthesizes work from other social scientists on the Federalist Society (including my own) but presents no original research, interview data, or academic perspective on this important organization. As Jeffrey Rosen recently wrote in a review for the New York Times, ""The Federalist Society" reads like a collection of law review articles and contains no original interviews with the 100 conservative lawyers the authors identify in their appendix as key "Federalist Society Members and Allies."" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/12/books/review/the-federalist-society-by-michael-avery-and-danielle-mclaughlin.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0). Perhaps most importantly, the authors provide no explanation for how they generated their list of "100 Friends or Allies" of the Federalist Society. Many of the individuals they identify, for example, have never presented at Federalist Society National Conferences and, to my knowledge and understanding based on interviews with nearly 40 key Federalist Society members, are not actually serious players in the Federalist Society network at all. So, in the end, the book has a very journalistic feel to it - instead of systematically presenting their research design and methodology, the authors link anyone who is "conservative" and has done "conservative things" in the law to the Federalist Society network in order to show the organization's "influence."
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9 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Hazel on March 19, 2013
Format: Hardcover
THE FEDERALIST SOCIETY: HOW CONSERVATIVES TOOK BACK THE LAW FROM LIBERALS by Michael Avery and Danielle McLaughlin explores how and why the Federalist Society was founded, developed and funded. Professor Avery teaches at Suffolk University Law School and has been a civil rights attorney and former president of the National Lawyers Guild. Ms. McLaughlin is a graduate of Suffolk University Law School and is currently a litigation associate at Nixon Peabody in Boston.

With chapters on every law school campus, the Federalist Society is churning out a stream of disciplined lawyers who will dismantle regulation and consequently dismember government from within and without. It's a sobering book, acutely but readably written. This is an important read for anyone interested in politics, law and the future of the American democratic experiment. Its sharp and exacting critique of progressive philanthropy should instigate serious reconsideration of how liberal funders operate, especially in the areas of racial, social, gender, consumer, criminal and environmental justice.

In researching the funding that allowed the Federalist Society to grow so effectively, the authors note that most of its foundation support was in the form of unrestricted rather than program grants. Its five largest funders, which include the Olin Foundation and foundations operated by the Koch brothers, contributed $17.3 million in grants to the Federalist Society, of which $11.6 million was unrestricted. Among liberal funders there is a preference for program grants with specific quantifiable short term and long term goals that must be reached in order to qualify for the next year's funding. Many liberal foundations do not offer grants for more than a year, or three at the most.
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7 of 13 people found the following review helpful By ML on March 18, 2013
Format: Hardcover
The book by Michael Avery and Danielle McLaughlin lays bear the heart and soul of the Federalist Society which, in a short period of time, has articulated a coherent legal philosophy that has become the decisional matrix for conservative Federal and State judges in resolving constitutional issues. We learn how no major area of constitutional law has been immune from the power of the Society's thinking and the counterbalance it has provided to pragmatic and liberal approaches to constitutionalism. The authors' scholarly analysis makes the book required reading for anyone who teaches, or is interested in, constitutional law and the work of the Judicial Branch.

-Justice John M. Greaney (Supreme Judicial Court)
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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Brendan Hall on April 15, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Federalist Society shines a much needed light on the activities of a very powerful organization that has flown under the relative radar for over three decades. Great read for anyone interested in the American poitical landscape.
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