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Gray’s Anatomy C. Boyden Gray opened the Federalist Society National Lawyers Convention on Nov. 15 at the Mayflower Hotel. Gray, currently the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, previously served as legal counsel to Vice President George H.W. Bush and then as his White House counsel. Gray focused his opening remarks largely on the United States’ relationship with Belgium, which is where the EU is headquartered, telling the audience that there’s more U.S. investment there than in the entire country of China. Gray’s remarks weren’t all business, however. He recalled one particularly juicy anecdote about how difficult it was to get Bush to speak at the Lawyers Convention 20 years ago. The vice president’s staff apparently took issue with Bush addressing the group, though according to Gray, Bush was enthusiastic at the idea of delivering the speech. As a solution, Gray said Bush instructed him to call William Bradford Reynolds, then assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department, and to have Reynolds call Bush and ask him to speak at the convention. That way, Gray explained, Bush would be able to appease his staff by telling them it was actually the Justice Department that wanted him to speak to the society. — Marisa McQuilken
Talkative Thomas Justice Clarence Thomas addressed the Federalist Society in the same ballroom in the Mayflower Hotel 15 years ago. He was back last week to talk about his recent memoir, My Grandfather’s Son. Thomas took several questions written on note cards. One asked, “Why do your colleagues ask so many questions during oral arguments?” “I did not plant that question,” the justice swore. “When you figure it out, let me know.” Thomas, the least chatty of the nine justices (at least on the bench), has said he prefers to let lawyers lay out their arguments with few interruptions. “One thing I learned in the last 16 years is that you can do this job without asking a single question,” Thomas said, to rousing applause. Someone asked Thomas what he thought about the confirmation process for federal judges. Thomas, recalling that Justice Byron White had told him he was nominated and confirmed in 10 days, said, “Now, if that system worked for 200 years, why did we change it?” — Joe Palazzolo
�Strange Artifact’ How much contact should Justice Department officials and prosecutors have with the White House? Not much, according to former federal prosecutors at a Nov. 15 panel discussion. Jamie Gorelick, a deputy attorney general under President Bill Clinton, said until recently only high-level officials handled contact between the White House and Justice Department. Andrew McCarthy of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies said such communications should be minimized and screened as much as possible. “You don’t want assistant U.S. attorneys who are handling cases fielding calls either from the Hill or the White House,” McCarthy said. Former Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.) said the rules should be spelled out to ensure the appearance that Justice is free from “undue influence.” “The former attorney general [Alberto Gonzales] failed completely to provide that strong support and strong guidance for the U.S. attorneys and also [failed] to insulate . . . them from the political pressure,” Barr said. The panelists also took up the relationship between Main Justice and prosecutors in the field offices. McCarthy, who retired in 2003 after 18 years as a prosecutor in New York, said Main Justice tends to intervene more than in the past, and one big change is the role of trial attorneys who fly from Washington to try cases alongside federal prosecutors in the field offices. John Yoo, former deputy assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, advocated for more control over U.S. attorneys by Main Justice. “I think it’s a strange historical artifact that we have the system we have,” said Yoo, a professor at the University of California-Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law. “Is there any other federal agency outside the Justice Department in which you have 92 independent, presidentially nominated and Senate-confirmed officers spread throughout the country? I don’t think it’s necessarily the most efficient way to run the system.” — Pedro Ruz Gutierrez
Toasting the Oak President George W. Bush may have been the Federalist Society’s most esteemed guest at the conservative legal group’s 25th anniversary gala at Union Station on Nov. 15, but Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, never one to mince words, best summed up the reason for the occasion: “We thought we were just planting a flower among the weeds of academic liberalism. It turned out to be an oak.” Scalia, a professor at the University of Chicago at the dawn of the society in 1982, was the group’s first faculty adviser. He and Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito Jr. have lent their support over the years, and all were on hand last week to congratulate the society on its growth and stake in the legal marketplace of ideas. Bush told the crowd of about 1,700 that the judicial confirmation process had broken down, that it had become a “search-and-destroy mission.” “Everyone in this room has watched a good person who has had his or her name unfairly tarnished by the confirmation process,” Bush said. He thanked the society for its efforts, saying, “principled men and women who understand the Constitution and are able to defend it are finding their way to our nation’s law schools and law faculties and law firms — and even to the corridors of power here in Washington, D.C.” Alito, who spoke last, dealt with lighter fare. He said he came to find out about the Federalist Society in the late 1980s, through another legal organization, which met irregularly at a Chinese restaurant in Washington. When he went to his first Federalist Society meeting, the contrast was profound. The group was serious and eager, he said. “What an incredible accomplishment,” he said of the group’s growth. Alito told the crowd that organizers had held him to three minutes of speaking time. He spent a third of that time explaining, to laughter, how the other justices had been allotted more time. At some point in the night, he, Thomas, and Scalia had huddled to discuss their speeches. That’s when he found out. “That’s how the Supreme Court does everything,” he said. — Joe Palazzolo
Rudy’s Reception Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani tried to give a pitch-perfect speech to an overflowing Federalist crowd that seemed more respectful than enthusiastic. Introduced by Theodore Olson, the chairman of Giuliani’s Justice Advisory Committee, the former New York mayor chastised Congress for blocking the appointment of judges; blamed Democrats for not having faith in Americans to spend their own money wisely; and wove in references to Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln while championing federalism, limited government, and judicial restraint. Giuliani’s biggest applause line followed his single reference to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks: “It’s this country that’s going to save civilization from Islamic terrorism.” The crowd gave him a standing ovation. Then it fell quiet as Giuliani went over his record of tax cuts and welfare reform as mayor. He steered clear of hot button issues like wiretapping, torture, and abortion — except for an awkward moment when he said Americans “should have the right to choose” and then quickly added that freedom should come in the context of liberty. — Nathan Carlile

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