The Federalist Society: A judicial think tank - or a plot?

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Suspicion that hidden groups sway the powerful and subvert democracy routinely surfaces in American life, especially at times when the country is deeply divided. In early decades of the Republic, the whispers were about Freemasons. Later, they ranged from bankers and communists to the Trilateral Commission.

Now, it's the Federalist Society. In the run-up to the first Supreme Court confirmation in more than a decade, the group is drawing fire, especially as Democrats sharpen their line of questioning about court nominee John Roberts and his links to the society.

On its face, the Federalist Society is just another think tank in a town awash with them. But critics see something more - a well-oiled juggernaut out to remake the courts in the image of Robert Bork, the Supreme Court nominee rejected by the Senate in 1987, who predicted that a new generation, "often associated with the Federalist Society," would transform the legal profession.

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