The Federalist Society was founded by four law school students in 1982 to establish an alternative to the increasingly liberal politics of law school professors. Each year it has an annual convention for law school students in February, usually in Chicago, and an annual convention for practicing attorneys, professors and judges in November in Washington, D.C. Attendance has been growing from its initial founding to today, and it counts at least three Supreme Court and many federal appellate judges among its members or frequent speakers. It has active chapters in 60 cities. Its members are typically conservative or libertarian. It is strongly opposed by liberals.
It describes its background and mission as follows:
- Founded in 1982, the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies is a group of conservatives and libertarians dedicated to reforming the current legal order. We are committed to the principles that the state exists to preserve freedom, that the separation of governmental powers is central to our Constitution, and that it is emphatically the province and duty of the judiciary to say what the law is, not what it should be. The Society seeks to promote awareness of these principles and to further their application through its activities.
- In its mission and purpose, the Federalist Society is unique. By providing a forum for legal experts of opposing views to interact with members of the legal profession, the judiciary, law students, academics, and the architects of public policy, the Society has redefined the terms of legal debate. Our expansion in membership, chapters, and program activity has been matched by the rapid growth of the Society's reputation and the quality and influence of our events. We have fostered a greater appreciation for the role of separation of powers; federalism; limited, constitutional government; and the rule of law in protecting individual freedom and traditional values. Overall, the Society's efforts are improving our present and future leaders' understanding of the principles underlying American law.
- Swoyer, Alex (June 18, 2017). Federalist Society becomes progressives’ new bogeyman. The Washington Times. Retrieved June 19, 2017.
- Wheeler, Lydia (September 26, 2019). Meet the powerful group behind Trump’s judicial nominations. The Hill. Retrieved September 26, 2019.