I Was a Federal Judge. My Former Colleagues Must Stop Attending Federalist Society Events. - 2019-11-12
In February, the Code of Conduct Committee, which aids judges in complying with their ethical obligations, issued Advisory Opinion 116. This opinion held that judges are prohibited from engaging with organizations involved with "hot-button" political issues or that the public associates with political positions. Additionally, judges must stay away from groups funded by dark money and "persons or companies engaged in political activities."
Without naming or limiting its scope to any particular organization, the opinion's effect is to bar judicial participation with organizations such as the Federalist Society, a 60,000-member group of conservative academics, lawyers, and, yes, some judges. The Federalist Society is the epitome of a now-prohibited organization—one committed to create a system of "limited, constitutional government [that the country has not seen] since before the New Deal." Some claim it is not a political organization because it also has liberal members and does not engage in advocacy.
This is a straw man. The opinion does not require an organization to actively advocate for a political position in order to be a political organization. Moreover, the presence of liberals does not affect public perception of the group, which has been cemented by its role in judicial selection: Its executive vice president, Leonard Leo, is an adviser to the president. Leo also serves on intertwined boards spending millions of dollars on a mission to transform the trajectory of the judiciary. The opinion's financial backing test clearly bars judicial participation with the Federalist Society, and no defender of the organization has seriously argued otherwise. The Federalist Society is secretive about its finances, but records that exist show its major funding comes from dark money sources and conservative Republican funders, including the Mercers and the Kochs.