Loony Running The Asylum
- Oct 23, 2002
- Frozen in Michigan
- Old Fart
- Basic Beliefs
- Democratic Socialist Atheist
Leonard Leo, Opus Dei & the Radical Catholic Takeover of the Supreme Court
WHAT LEONARD LEO wants you to know about Leonard Leo, first and foremost, is that he is a Knight of Malta. The Sovereign Military Order of Malta (SMOM) is a lay Catholic order that claims descent from the Knights Hospitaller, founded in Jerusalem in 1099, at the end of the First Crusade. It’s an extremely selective group. Of the 1.2 billion Catholics in the world, only 13,000 are Knights of Malta—although most of them don’t go around bragging about it.
Leo, I’m told, is very proud of this honor. First, because it demonstrates just how radically Catholic his radical Catholicism runs. And second, because it speaks to his importance. SMOM membership is the sort of status symbol that eluded him, growing up middle-class in the suburbs of New Jersey, where his high school classmates derisively nicknamed him “Moneybags.” 1His mother and step-father weren’t blue bloods. He wasn’t some wealthy boarding school kid. Poor guy had to make due with Cornell instead of Harvard or Yale. He was a nobody.
But look at him now! Leonard Leo, 56, has made himself one of the most powerful figures in the United States. He’s put five—count ‘em, five!—justices on the Supreme Court: Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch, Sam Alito, and John Roberts. A sixth, Clarence Thomas, is one of his closest friends. And, perhaps most impressively, he quietly led the 2016 crusade to deny Merrick Garland a hearing, when Barack Obama nominated the highly-regarded jurist to replace the late Antonin Scalia (another of Leo’s pals). In the lower courts, he’s been even busier. He’s installed so many judges on so many courts, it makes you wonder if he really is the instrument of God’s will he believes himself to be. I mean, there are only three branches of government. One of those three—arguably the most important one—is Leonard Leo’s domain.
The Secrets of Leonard Leo, the Man Behind Trump’s Supreme Court Pick
So Uber-Catholic Leonard Leo, using a myriad of front organizations, spearheaded the movement spread conservatism throughout the upper and lower courts.When President Donald Trump nominates a justice to the Supreme Court on Monday night, he will be carrying out the agenda of a small, secretive network of extremely conservative Catholic activists already responsible for placing three justices (Alito, Roberts, and Gorsuch) on the high court.
And yet few people know who they are—until now.
At the center of the network is Leonard Leo of the Federalist Society, the association of legal professionals that has been the pipeline for nearly all of Trump’s judicial nominees. (Leo is on leave from the Federalist Society to personally assist Trump in picking a replacement for Justice Anthony Kennedy.) His formal title is executive vice president, but that role belies Leo’s influence.
Directly or through surrogates, he has placed dozens of life-tenure judges on the federal bench; effectively controls the Judicial Crisis Network, which led the opposition to President Obama’s high court nominee, Judge Merrick Garland; he heavily influences the Becket Fund law firm that represented Hobby Lobby in its successful challenge of contraception; and now supervises admissions and hires at the George Mason Law School, newly renamed in memory of Justice Antonin Scalia.
“Leonard Leo was a visionary,” said Tom Carter, who served as Leo’s media relations director when he was chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), in an exclusive interview with The Daily Beast. “He figured out twenty years ago that conservatives had lost the culture war. Abortion, gay rights, contraception—conservatives didn’t have a chance if public opinion prevailed. So they needed to stack the courts.”