you thought conservative women were an endangered species, chances
are you've given up all hope for
women lawyers. Do such women even exist? They do, thanks
to the Federalist Society for Law & Public Policy Studies —
the same influential outfit which the Washington Monthly
called a "conservative cabal."
When the Federalist
Society was established almost twenty years ago, the idea of limited
government could barely get a shake in the legal community, not
to mention in public discourse. At the same time, many on the Left
were arguing that women weren't getting a fair shake, either. This
wasn't so at the Federalist Society, where one of its co-founders
was a woman by the name of Lee Liberman Otis. Ms. Otis is now general
counsel to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Women are major
players in the organization because it encourages its members to
freely decide for themselves what to think, encouraging open and
civil debate. Interior Secretary Gale Norton, UVA Law Professor
Lillian BeVier, California Judge Lois Haight, former Deputy Attorney
General Carol Dinkins, Hershey Corporation Senior Counsel Tammy
McCutchen, and NFL counsel Jodi Balsam are just a handful of the
many, highly talented women who mastered their legal chops at the
Society represents true diversity of ideas," Jodi Balsam told
NRO. Ms. Balsam helped co-found the Federalist Society's student
chapter at NYU Law School in 1984 — a time when conservative and
libertarian voices were even more quiescent on college campuses
than they are today. "It just wasn't done. It was almost considered
tactless or rude to speak out against the liberal orthodoxy,"
explained Ms. Balsam.
As a New York
attorney, she was glad to learn there are more conservative women
than she once thought working in corporate America. "Society
girls" like Balsam see the value in limited government, reduced
taxes, and a government that does not discriminate. "The fatal
flaw of liberal policies is that it's only the government that gains
power." Conservative women, she says, understand the sense
of empowerment that comes from believing in the principles of limited
government. They fear a nanny state that swoops into their private
lives, telling them how to rear their children, how to practice
their faith, and how to shape a home.
who serves on the Federalist Society's Board of Visitors, first
became involved in the organization in 1992, just before President
Clinton took office. She had been waiting for a hearing before the
Senate Judiciary Committee on her nomination to the Fourth Circuit
Court of Appeals. She never got her hearing, but she did become
more interested in the debate on judges and whether they should
be charged with making policy, or interpreting laws. She was attracted
to the Federalist Society because it is a group that believes that
all viewpoints should be presented. She says she wouldn't be supportive
of the Federalist Society if it didn't "genuinely support,
believe in, and advocate open debate." As a faculty advisor
to UVA's Federalist Society student chapter, she's noticed that
her students are politically engaged and that they represent a wide
range of conservative thought. "I value this about my conservative
law students. I have no objection to liberal students, but they
are much less engaged in their political debates. And, it is a terrible
thing when students are precluded from ever being presented with
the other sides of the debate."
senior counsel at the Hershey Corporation, Tammy McCutchen served
as a Federalist Society student chapter president at Northwestern
Law School, and later served as president of the Chicago lawyers'
chapter. In her experience with the Federalist Society, she's encountered
nothing but a tremendous welcome and respect for ideas. Panel discussions
have always been balanced, fostering "the smartest, most vigorous
debates." "How do you know you are right if you don't
know all the arguments on the other side?" she asks. Of course,
with so many points of view to behold, she has encountered some
extremists every once in a while, but this is par for the course.
The Federalist Society, she says, has "never been exclusionary."
In San Francisco,
the number of women participating in Federalist Society events has
been steadily increasing, said Mary Neumayr, the president of the
city's local chapter. Program guests have included distinguished
judges, including Edith Jones of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals
and California Supreme Court Justice Janice Brown. "The Federalist
Society promotes programs that seek to have the most distinguished,
capable advocates on both sides of fundamental legal issues present
and participating." Unlike today's law schools, the Society
places a premium on presenting all sides of an argument. No wonder
Society girls are such fierce advocates for their clients.