Monday, April 09, 2007

Woodward, Bernstein, and McNaney?

Remember the old morse code opening to the KSTP television news (examples here and here)? The St. Paul station still uses the "dit dit dit dah" sound effect for severe weather updates. We may have to dust that off for another of Bob "Scoop" McNaney's breaking news stories on Rachel Paulose. Powerline summarizes the objections to this manufactured controversy in a recent post.

But this breaking news thing is fun, so here goes:

Dit Dit Dit Dah, Dit Dit Dit Dah

We interrupt the celebration of SwanBlog's 500th post to present this shocking story. Rachel Paulose once left a Continuing Legal Education seminar EARLY.

SwanBlog readers may know that I have been involved in the controversy over the requirement for Minnesota lawyers to attend political indoctrination called "Elimination of Bias" Continuing Legal Education (CLE). The Federalist Society, which caters to conservative and libertarian lawyers but also tries to present both sides of the issue, held a panel discussion a couple of years ago as an "alternative" Elimination of Bias CLE. Rachel Paulose sat in the same row as me at the seminar (gasp). Nick Coleman of the Minneapolis paper tries to make a big deal over Paulose's "membership" in the Federalist Society. More on that later.

But more shocking than the then-future U.S. Attorney attending a seminar that tried to present both sides of the issue was that she left early! Well, technically she left on time. The seminar was supposed to run two hours, but the discussion period got lively. Unlike the one-sided fare typically offered by the bar association, the Federalist Society CLE sparked intelligent and spririted discussion, extending several minutes beyond the two hours mandated for attorneys to attend every three years. But Rachel got up and left as soon as the mandated time had expired.

This is consistent with the image of Paulose as a driven, no-nonsense person. Maybe the current manufactured controversy involves people who are turned off by such a personality. However, that would not have the same sizzle as breaking news.

The Paulose-left-early-from-Federalist-seminar scoop demonstrates one other thing. It is doubtful that she would be involved in a Federalist Society secret conspiracy because she wouldn't stick around long enough to be involved in the really sneaky stuff. I have addressed the misconceptions about Federalist Society membership here, here, and here. Also, here are some excerpts from a Minneapolis Star Tribune article from August 1, 2005. The issue then was whether it was credible for then-Supreme Court Nominee John Roberts not to know whether he had been a member of the Federalist Society.

Roberts' vagueness over the exact nature of his ties to the group is typical of all of them, members say. It's not a membership group in the way that a labor union has members; it's more like "being on the mailing list." Nor is it an advocacy group like the American Civil Liberties Union, members say. It's a debating society, with a website that lists events and speakers.

Any ties at all to the Federalist Society indicate that Roberts is conservative, they agree, but they wouldn't expect President Bush to appoint anyone who wasn't. It doesn't prove whether or not he's a mainstream choice. Even so, some members admit to a certain reserve about being members.

After declaring that it's "no secret society," with "no secret handshakes," [my colleague Kim] Crockett confessed that when she first applied for jobs as a lawyer, she prepared two resumes: one disclosing her Federalist ties (she had started a chapter at her Ivy League university) and one that did not. In the end she went with full disclosure, she said, but added:

"A lot of people don't put it on their resumes. That's why the `membership' issue is so touchy. All the professions, journalism, law, academia, are liberal politically, and you pay a price when you don't agree with members of your `club.'-"

***

Most people don't know it, but Minnesota has its own John Roberts: G. Barry Anderson, an appellate judge whom Pawlenty appointed to the state Supreme Court last year.

Anderson said he was happy to own up. "I'd have to check my Quicken [computer] program to see if I've paid dues," he said, "but I believe I'm a card-carrying member."

Anderson described the Roberts membership controversy, which wasn't an issue when he was appointed, as somewhat bemusing.

"Anyone who has so little going on in their life that they're interested in esoteric discussions about legal theory is welcome to come, and will find a full spectrum of opinion represented," he said.

***

Emphasizing that he was speaking not as state DFL Party chairman but as a lawyer, Melendez agreed with the group's contention that one can be a Federalist without being an extremist.

"A number of good friends of mine are members. I disagree with them on many things, but they are well within the realm of mainstream politics," he said.

Finally, the otherwise excellent Patterico post wrongly compares the Federalist Society to the ACLU, Alliance for Justice, and People for the American Way. Unlike those liberal organizations, the Federalist Society does not litigate cases. The organization may have an agenda, but it doesn't do anything except talk about ideas.

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