Four Supreme Court justices who voted to strike down Roe v. Wade joined the Federalist Society Thursday night as the conservative legal group celebrated its 40th anniversary and resoundingly applauded the high court’s June decision.
Justice Samuel Alito, who penned the court’s majority decision that overturned Roe, did not directly address the ruling during his remarks at the black-tie dinner in Washington, DC. But he received a standing ovation from the audience when former Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Stephen Markman invoked the decision.
“You know, I’ve heard it said by some in recent months that the Dobbs decision will be forever an indelible part of Justice Alito’s legacy,” Markman said.
Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh were also in attendance, as was Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who also delivered remarks during the dinner, which the group hosted in celebration of its longevity and in honor of the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was also in attendance.
The Federalist Society was founded in 1982 by conservative students and professors, some of whom believed in originalism, a philosophy tied to the framers’ view of the Constitution in the 18th century. The group’s imprint on the Supreme Court is significant and arguably unrivaled: Every one of the current Republican appointees, including Chief Justice John Roberts, was vetted in some way by the Federalist Society working with the respective GOP administrations. The three Trump appointees were more directly hand-picked by Federalist Society stalwarts.
For his part, McConnell, when he was the Senate majority leader, was a crucial partner to the Federalist Society in choosing judicial candidates and getting them confirmed, particularly during the Trump administration.
Alito spoke fondly of the legal group during Thursday’s dinner, remembering time spent having meals with the Federalist Society’s DC chapter at a Chinese restaurant in the city. He brought with him a fortune cookie he said he kept from that very restaurant.
“I’m going to open it and read the fortune. I hope it will tell us something about, I hope it will foretell the future of the Federalist Society,” Alito said, before reading from the fortune: “‘You will flourish, grow and travel to all parts of the country. You will spread wisdom and civility and will live as long as your work is needed.’”
Barrett, like Alito, received a standing ovation as she took the stage, using the moment to highlight the opposition she has faced in recent months.
“It’s really nice to have a lot of noise made, but not by protesters outside of my house,” she said.
She went on to discuss her own connection to the group, which she joined while she was a law professor at Notre Dame Law School.
“I have benefited immensely by the efforts of those who put in so much work at the beginning, including my dear Judge Silberman,” Barrett said, referring to the federal judge for whom she clerked following law school.