The Federalist Society Lawyer’s Convention occurred this past week and it was quite an intellectual banquet filled with excitement. As Constitutionalists, we are seeing hope again. The theme of this year focused on the Administrative State and it is an area that is ripe for change in the coming years.
Names like Senator Tom Cotton, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Department of Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, Health and Human Services Director of Civil Rights Roger Severino, NLRB Chairman Philip Miscimarra, EPA Commissioner Scott Pruitt, Becket Fund Attorney Mark Rienzi, Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain of the Ninth Circuit, Judge William Pryor of the Eleventh Circuit, Appointee to Eighth Circuit David Stras and of course Justice Neil Gorsuch of the United States Supreme Court were among the many names that spoke this year. It was an all-star collection of Constitutionalists and Federalists united together for a common cause.
Much of the focus was on how the administrative state has enlarged to the detriment of Americans in defiance of the Constitution. A roll back has begun under the new administration and it will continue into the foreseeable future. In the past, many of the agencies have produced laws and guidelines evading the Notice and Comment process required for rule-making. Unelected officials would commonly enforce regulations in past years and abuse the power of the executive branch with absorption of unchecked legislative authority. Some examples include the Clean Power Plan that is in the process of being rescinded by the EPA and unfairly burdened much of the coal industry. Another example is the HHS mandate that violated the conscious rights of religious employers that chose to not provide coverage for certain contraceptive and abortifacient services. The new administration has revoked much of the mandate that burdens the religious employers. However, in many avenues of administrative law there is still much work to be done.
The class of judicial appointees that have been nominated or recently seated are Constitutionalists. There is a good opportunity for the judiciary to review the state of administrative law in coming years and curtail its abuses in the matters that come before it.
Overall, it was an excellent week with much intellectual discourse occurring in D.C. However, the highlight of the week was Justice Neil Gorsuch’s address at the Antonin Scalia Memorial Dinner. Some notable moments included his reaffirmation of the importance of Federalist 78 in the context of the judiciary today. We must return to the principles embodied there when Hamilton stated the judiciary “[c]an take no active resolution whatever. It may truly be said to have neither FORCE nor WILL, but merely judgment.”
Gorsuch explained in his address to the many in attendance- “In our legal system, judges wear robes not capes.” Invoking this foundational principle when interpreting the law will benefit the Supreme Court and American people. Justice Gorsuch has shown with his decisions and commentary that he is well aware of his place as a judge on the highest court as an interpreter and not a legislator. He is the judge this country needed and will ensure originalism continues to be a core philosophy when interpreting the Constitution. He stated, “Originalism has regained its place and textualism has triumphed and neither is going anywhere on my watch.” I believe he will keep his promise. The late great Justice Scalia has a worthy heir to carry on the Constitutionalist legacy.
Justice Gorsuch, carry on the great work – Constitutionalists, Federalists, and the American people support you and are proud to have you as a champion for originalism on the Supreme Court.