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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Lawyers and the Conservative Counterrevolution

  • Author(s): Southworth, Ann
  • et al.

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What roles have lawyers played in the conservative counterrevolution in US law and public policy? Two recent books, Jefferson Decker's The Other Rights Revolution: Conservative Lawyers and the Remaking of American Government (2016), and Amanda Hollis-Brusky's Ideas with Consequences: The Federalist Society and the Conservative Counterrevolution (2015), speak to the question. This essay explores how these books relate to a larger story of the conservative legal movement and the roles that lawyers and their organizations and networks have played in the conservative turn in American law and politics. It highlights four interrelated threads of the movement's development: creating a support structure for conservative legal advocacy; remaking the judiciary and holding judges accountable; generating, legitimizing, and disseminating ideas to support legal change; and embracing legal activism to roll back government. The essay then considers a continuing challenge for the movement: managing tensions among its several constituencies. Finally, it suggests how this story has played out in litigation to challenge campaign finance regulation.

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