Prominent conservative lawyers band together to fight Trump threat | Law (US)
Three prominent US legal thinkers have announced a new organisation to champion conservative legal theory within the rule of law, to fight the threat of a second Donald Trump term.
“Our country comes first,” the three wrote in the New York Times, “and our country is in a constitutional emergency, if not a constitutional crisis. We all must act accordingly, especially us lawyers.”
The authors were George Conway, an attorney formerly married to Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s White House counselor; J Michael Luttig, a retired judge and adviser to Trump’s vice-president, Mike Pence, who became a prominent January 6 witness; and Barbara Comstock, a former Republican congresswoman from Virginia.
The authors also rebuked prominent rightwing groups including the Federalist Society for not resisting the former president and his authoritarian ambitions.
Their new group, the Society for the Rule of Law Institute, would “work to inspire young legal talent … focus on building a large body of scholarship to counteract the new orthodoxy of anti-constitutional and anti-democratic law … [and] marshal principled voices to speak out against the endless stream of falsehoods and authoritarian legal theories … propagated almost daily,” they said.
The Federalist Society and its chair, Leonard Leo, played a key role in Trump’s judicial appointments, installing three hardliners on the supreme court who helped hand down rightwing wins including removing abortion rights and loosening laws on gun control, affirmative action, voting rights and other progressive priorities.
Conway, Luttig and Comstock emerged among prominent conservative opponents of Trump, warning of his authoritarian threat before and after January 6, when rioters attacked Congress in an attempt to block Joe Biden’s 2020 election win.
Ninety-one criminal charges and assorted civil threats notwithstanding, Trump is now the clear frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination while polling strongly against Biden in battleground states.
“American democracy, the constitution and the rule of law are the righteous causes of our times, and the nation’s legal profession is obligated to support them,” Conway, Luttig and Comstock wrote.
“But with the acquiescence of the larger conservative legal movement, these pillars of our system of governance are increasingly in peril. The dangers will only grow should Donald Trump be returned to the White House next November.”
Trump, they said, would stock a second administration “with partisan loyalists committed to fast-tracking his agenda and sidestepping – if not circumventing altogether – existing laws and long-established legal norms.
“This would include appointing … political appointees to rubber-stamp his plans to investigate and exact retribution against his political opponents; make federal public servants removable at will by the president himself; and invoke special powers to take unilateral action on first amendment-protected activities, criminal justice, elections, immigration and more.”
Saying Trump tried such attacks when in power but was blocked by lawyers and judges, the authors said the former president would if re-elected “arrive with a coterie of lawyers and advisers who, like him, are determined not to be thwarted again”.
Though they said the Federalist Society had long been “the standard-bearer for the conservative legal movement”, they said it had “failed to respond in this period of crisis.
“That is why we need an organisation of conservative lawyers committed to the foundational constitutional principles we once all agreed upon: the primacy of American democracy, the sanctity of the constitution and the rule of law, the independence of the courts, the inviolability of elections and mutual support among those tasked with the solemn responsibility of enforcing the laws of the United States.
“This new organisation must step up, speak out and defend these ideals.”