The Federalist Society is the most important civic organization formed in the last forty years. Even academics are coming around to the conclusion. In 2010 Steve Teles wrote a marvelous book, The Rise of the Conservative Legal Movement, which rightly gave the Federalist Society pride of place as an organization that held the legal right together by providing a place to debate fundamental issues. As Teles observed, because the Society did not take positions in litigation or before legislatures, it was able to attract both libertarians and conservatives who were united both by their antipathy to left liberal establishment and their view that the Constitution should be read according to its original meaning rather than as a document that changed with the times.
In a new book, Ideas with Consequences, Amanda Hollis-Brusky attempts to chart the Federalist Society’s actual legal influence, particularly on the Supreme Court. I reviewed the book Friday for the Wall Street Journal. While it is not as good a book as that of Steve Teles, it does show how ideas refined at the Federalist Society conferences have made their way into Supreme Court opinions, in such areas as the Second Amendment, federalism, and campaign finance regulation.
Oddly enough in a book which has Ideas in its title, Hollis-Brusky at times slights the importance of the intellectual environment the Federalist Society has created.