The Federalist Society is an organization that seeks to “promote the proper role of the Judiciary, that is, to determine what the law is, and not what it ought to be,” explained Luke Freedom Hansen, a third year JD/MBA candidate and current co-president of the Federalist Society Chapter of the S.J. Quinney College of Law.
“This is accomplished through applying the frameworks of originalism and textualism as means of interpreting the constitution,” explained Jarom Shaver, another 3L and the other co-president of the chapter.
But the Federalist Society goes beyond just ideology, the group also acts as an organization where libertarian and conservative legal minds can connect and exchange ideas.
That was the case for Shaver when he began his first year at the S.J. Quinney College of Law.
Shaver decided to attend law school because of his passion for American government. He also was very interested in politics and saw a lot of diverse opportunities in a legal career. However, as Shaver began law school and was introduced to the many student organizations on campus, he noticed that his views didn’t exactly align with many of the groups.
“I was looking for an organization that represented my views,” Shaver said.
He found that group in the Federalist Society.
While Shaver recalls only a small number of Federalist Society events occurring during his first year of law school that all changed thanks to a very active board, which he joined, during his second year.
“During my second year of law school the group exploded and became one of the most active organizations on campus,” Shaver explained.
Hansen likewise has been an active member of the board, becoming involved with the leadership of the group during the first year of his program. Hansen’s decision to come to law school was similar to Shaver’s in that he had a deep love for American government.
“There are few things more important to me than preserving the liberties I have inherited as a citizen of the United States for myself, my family, and my country,” Hansen said. “This penchant served as the impetus for my decision to dedicate my professional life to the study and practice of law.”
With Shaver and Hansen leading the chapter, the group continues to plan activities, albeit mostly virtual during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“COVID has thrown off the group but we still have a number of activities planned,” Shaver said.
For example, the group just hosted a virtual presentation entitled “Getting to Know America’s Newest Justice” featuring Gene Schaerr, a well-known appellate attorney and friend of Justice Amy Coney Barrett.
Additional events are being planned for the upcoming spring semester. This includes hosting several virtual debates on a variety of topics as well as a presentation with Professor Paul Cassell about defunding the police in minority communities.
In planning these events, both Hansen and Shaver recognize that many student’s views don’t align with theirs or the ideology of the group. Regardless, they encourage all students to participate.
In fact, both co-presidents agree that the main goal of their chapter is to “provide a greater diversity of thought and ideas.”
“The Federalist Society allows an opportunity for you to either solidify your views or challenge them, regardless of which side of the spectrum your views land on,” Shaver explained. “We want to encourage high-level intellectual debate and encourage people to feel comfortable to hear the other side of the spectrum”.
Hansen reiterated this desire as well.
“I think the key to a liberal education (within the traditional sense of the phrase) is being exposed to opinions you don’t necessarily agree with and then being able to see if your own opinions can withstand the test of adversity. I also think that exposing yourself to other viewpoints helps promote tolerance for others as you are not only learning what others believe, but why they believe what they do,” he said.
In an attempt to promote this idea, both leaders attend and actively encourage other members of the group to attend other student organization’s events.
“In the end, I just hope all students view our group as an ally in freedom of speech and see value in listening to both sides of the aisle,” said Shaver.