The Catholic University of America


The Federalist Society: Originally Speaking Since 1789

A Brief History of the Federalist Society

To say that the intention of the instrument [the U.S. Constitution] must prevail; that this intention must be collected from its words; that its words are to be understood in that sense in which they are generally used by those for whom the instrument was intended; that its provisions are neither to be restricted into insignificance, nor extended to objects not comprehended in them, nor contemplated by its framers; - is to repeat what has been already said more at large, and is all that can be necessary. (Ogden v. Saunders, Marshall, C.J., dissenting, 1827).

Founded in 1982, the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies is a group of conservatives and libertarians dedicated to reforming the current legal order. 

Law schools and the legal profession are currently dominated by a progressive legal realism; advocating rejection of intergenerational constitutional governance in favor of a centralized society governed by moral relativity and the supposedly enlightened contrivances of judges and administrators. While some members of the academic community have dissented from this legal realism, it is nevertheless taught simultaneously with (and indeed as if it was) the law.

The Society seeks both to promote an awareness of the principles underlying America's written constitutionalism and to further their application through its activities. This entails reordering priorities within the legal system, placing a premium on the original public meaning of the Constitution's various provisions, and ensuring the political principles of the American Founding imbued within the document: individual liberty, private property rights, due process, enumerated powers, federalism, the separation of powers, a free public square, and the rule of law. It also requires restoring their importance among lawyers, judges, and law professors to ensure an enduring respect for the intergenerational enterprise of constitutional governance.

In working to achieve these goals, the Society has created a conservative and libertarian intellectual network that extends to all levels of the legal community.