Standing ovations for conservative U.S. justices at Federalist Society event

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Supreme Court justices pose for their group portrait at the Supreme Court in Washington

By Jacqueline Thomsen

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Supreme Court Justices Samuel Alito and Amy Coney Barrett received standing ovations from members of the conservative Federalist Society on Thursday at its first annual convention since the court overturned a nationwide right to abortion.

Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch also received applause at the event of the legal group, which is one of the most influential in the country and whose members have long criticized the 1973 Roe v Wade decision that the court overturned in June.

Alito, Barrett, Kavanaugh and Gorsuch have helped create a new conservative supermajority on the court.

The loudest applause at the event in Washington, D.C. may have been not for the justices but for Alito's opinion in the June ruling. Other conservative members of the court backed the ruling.

Alito did not mention the ruling or other aspects of the court's work during his brief remarks. But Stephen Markman, a former justice on the Michigan Supreme Court, said that if the ruling were forever associated with Alito, "I do not know of any decision on any court by any judge of which that judge could be more proud."

The comments were met by a standing ovation, with attendees turning to face toward Alito.

Barrett also briefly spoke at the event, largely honoring the late Judge Laurence Silberman, who served on D.C.'s federal appeals court and died last month. As she took the stage, Barrett said: "It's really nice to have a lot of noise made not by protesters outside of my house."

The conservative justices have been the subject of protests over their rulings, particularly after the abortion decision earlier this year.

Thursday's dinner celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Federalist Society, which particularly has influence in Republican circles. Leonard Leo, a long-time conservative legal activist, while serving as a Federalist Society executive helped compile a list of potential U.S. Supreme Court nominees that former President Donald Trump drew from during his tenure.

Leo also spoke at the event, recalling that the first time he attended the convention's dinner, the group struggled to fill a hotel ballroom. "Our movement has grown by leaps and bounds, and so has our impact," he said.

(Reporting by Jacqueline Thomsen in Washington; Editing by Bradley Perrett)