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The Federalist Society Tried To Keep a Stanford Law Student From Graduating After He Made Fun of Them

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A Stanford Law student has been told that he will be allowed to graduate after all, after a hold was placed on his diploma last month pending an investigation. His alleged crime? Dunking too hard on the Federalist Society.

On January 25, Nicholas Wallace emailed a fake flyer to a student listserv group for debate and political commentary. The flyer promoted a fictional Federalist Society event called “The Originalist Case for Inciting Insurrection” and featured the infamous image of Josh Hawley raising his fist in a show of solidarity with the soon-to-be Capitol insurrectionists on January 6.

If you’re not familiar with the Federalist Society, they are the absolute worst. The group started out in the 1980s as a conservative (and libertarian) academic organization that advocated for an originalist reading of the Constitution. But in recent decades they transformed into a pipeline to place ultra-conservative judges in lifetime positions in federal courts.

Oftentimes those (mostly white, mostly male) judges are severely underqualified for the positions to which they’re appointed but the group doesn’t care. Their focus is on the ends justifying the means, and the only “ends” that matter are stacking courts with regressive judges. The Federalist Society is the group that gave us our current Supreme Court, with six of the nine justices being current or former members.

Back to Wallace and his truly hilarious flyer, its purpose was to call out the organization, which has chapters at more than 200 U.S. law schools, for refusing to criticize or even comment on their members and alumni who helped incite the Capitol riot.

The flyer lists Missouri Senator Josh Hawley and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton as the event’s speakers—two politicians who worked to overturn the legitimate results of the 2020 election.

“Violent insurrection, also known as doing a coup, is a classical system of installing a government,” Wallace’s description of the “event” reads. “Although widely believed to conflict in every way with the rule of law, violent insurrection can be an effective approach to upholding the principle of limited government. Senator Hawley will argue that the ends justify the means.”

The flyer continues: “Attorney General Paxton will explain that when the Supreme Court refuses to exercise its Article III authority to overturn the results of a free and fair election, calling on a violent mob to storm the Capitol represents an appropriate alternative remedy.”

That’s some A+ satire. Unsurprisingly, the Federalist Society didn’t agree. Those free speech warriors, the proud anti-snowflake brigade, filed an official complaint claiming Wallace damaged the reputation not just of the group, but the “individual reputations” of the Stanford chapter’s officers.

On May 22, the chapter reportedly put pressure on the school to launch a formal investigation into Wallace’s flyer. According to Slate, Wallace wasn’t made aware of that investigation until May 27, his final day of classes.

Stanford then placed a hold on his degree, prohibiting him from receiving his actual diploma at graduation on June 12. It has continued to investigate him for “a possible violation of the Fundamental Standard,” the school’s code of conduct, subjecting him to the same procedures that suspected plagiarists must undergo. The hold on his diploma has jeopardized Wallace’s plans to take the Michigan bar exam this summer; the state bar requires applicants to send their diplomas immediately upon graduation, which he will not be able to do.

Stanford has now announced that Wallace will be able to graduate, but it’s ridiculous (and also a terrifying indication of the group’s immense sway) that that was ever even a question.

The best thing to come out of this whole ordeal (aside from Wallace being able to graduate and the Federalist Society getting their feelings hurt) is that it has inspired others to share their very best dunks on the organization.

The main issue the Stanford chapter seemed to take with Wallace’s flyer is that it was too good of an “impersonation.” People thought it was real because he took the format of their usual event flyers and applied his own satirical text to it. And that really upset the Federalist Society because apparently they’ve never heard of the structure of memes before.

So people are sharing their own FS memes:

Others are sharing their FedSoc horror stories:

It’s always a good day to exercise your First Amendment right to dunk on the Federalist Society.

(image: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.