Republican Texas state Rep. Cecil Bell, a foe of the legalization of marriage for same-sex couples, is calling on Congress to begin impeachment of five Supreme Court justices and to consider court-stripping legislation. It’s another ripple in the fallout over recent blockbuster decisions by the high court, including one that declared a Constitutional right to marriage for same-sex couples.
Bell’s “Pact for Constitutional Restoration of State Sovereignty” includes the following planks:
“United States House of Representatives Members must act to promptly begin the constitutional process of impeaching Supreme Court Justices Kennedy, Breyer, Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan for the bad behavior shown in acting without constitutional authority to strike down the sovereign power of the separate states and of the people of the separate states. The United States Senate must act to complete the process of impeachment.”
“US Representatives and Senators must act immediately to pass legislation to strip the ability of the United States federal judiciary to hear classes of claims where the United States federal judiciary lacks enumerated constitutional authority, thereby making certain legislative and executive actions unreviewable by the federal judiciary, those claims reserved to be reviewable by state courts.”
“I don’t want to see judges raising money and running for election,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican presidential candidate, said on Fox News Sunday. He disagreed with a call by Republican Sen. Ted Cruz for retention elections of Supreme Court justices.
Christie said he favored a Supreme Court selection process like that used by New Jersey, with justices appointed for a term of seven years, and then the governor can decide whether to nominate them for life tenure.
In the wake of blockbuster rulings by the Supreme Court last month, there was more criticism of the justices from politicians and others and more calls for reform. Here are some of the articles and commentaries: Reuters, “GOP presidential candidates criticize Supreme Court”; Racine (Wi.) Journal Times editorial, “Other view: Court rulings show our system works”; Constitution Daily, “The Continuing Debate Over the Supreme Court and Term Limits”; Erwin Chemerinsky in The New Republic, “Ted Cruz Is Right: The Supreme Court Needs Term Limits”; Breitbart TV, “Huckabee Calls for Term Limits on Supreme Court”; TCliff Kincaid at Accuracy in Media, “Celebrate the 4th: Impeach Kagan and Ginsburg.”
Are big-spending statewide judicial elections spilling over to lower-court contests in Pennsylvania?
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported that spending in a primary by nine candidates for Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court exceeded an overall $1.2 million.
Four candidates were nominated, and the three who capture the most votes in the general election will secure judgeships on the county bench.
The suggestion by Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz that Supreme Court justices stand for retention election (see Gavel Grab) is drawing more fire.
“The last thing we need is to make judges more like politicians, having to run for retention,” said Randy Barnett, a professor at Georgetown Law School, according to the Washington Post. He is giving informal advice to the presidential campaign of Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.
Former U.S. Solicitor General Charles Fried, now teaching at Harvard Law School, told the Post he was more wary of a position staked out by Cruz that the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on a right to marriage for same-sex couples governs only the parties to the case. “The suggestion that town clerks and justices of the peace and so on don’t have to follow this law — that’s a more dangerous proposition,” Fried said. Read more
In these other dispatches about fair and impartial courts:
- Union County Circuit Judge Michael Landers has sued to overturn an Arkansas statute that requires pension forfeiture for circuit judges who elect to hold office after age 70, according to the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette.
- MadisonRecord.com has an update about proceedings in a racketeering lawsuit involving an Illinois Supreme Court justice’s campaign more than a decade ago. “Karmeier agrees to release emails to plaintiffs pursuing $8 billion claim against State Farm,” the headline says.
A threat by state legislators to impeach Oklahoma Supreme Court justices over a ruling is an “an extreme and unjustifiable response to a controversial decision,” a Tulsa World editorial warned.
Last week, a small group of state legislators announced their intent to pursue impeachment proceedings against those Supreme Court justices who comprised the majority in declaring that a granite Ten Commandments marker must be removed from the state Capitol grounds, because it violated the state Constitution.
An Associated Press article quoted David Poarch, head of the Oklahoma Bar Association, about the dangers of impeachment threats. “You don’t change the law by impeaching people,” he said. “They need to be careful about the rhetoric they throw out, because at some point the electorate is going to decide that maybe the Legislature needs to be impeached.” Read more
Iowa’s Bob Vander Plaats, President and Chief Executive Director of The Family Leader and Donna Red Wing, Executive Director of One Iowa have buried the hatchet, reports The Washington Post.
Red Wing and Vander Plaats found themselves on opposite sides of a divisive debate over the courts and marriage equality when the latter “led a successful campaign to remove three state judges responsible for the 2009 Iowa gay marriage ruling,” according to the Post. Red Wing, who is an advocate for LGBT rights, had called him “bigoted” and “cruel,” while he had called her marriage “unnatural.”
But following the death of a good friend, Red Wing promised to “try to honor that friend by making peace with her biggest nemesis. So she asked Vander Plaats to coffee,” noted the Post. “They agreed to coffee again. Then again.”
After SCOTUS’s same sex marriage decision, the Post reports, the two were “crossing paths between dueling interviews at a local TV station studio, they locked eyes. And then they hugged.” They also appeared together at a lunch organized by a local civil group, where they joked together and talked to the audience about trying to understand each other’s different views.
“I actually like Bob Vander Plaats,” Red Wing said at the lunch. “I love Donna,” Vander Plaats responded.
Are Senate Republicans slow-walking or stalling judicial nominations in an effort to sit out President Obama’s last months in the White House? The question is getting more debate amid increased news media attention to Senate confirmation delays and existing judicial vacancies.
“Texans deserve their day in court, but this won’t happen as long as our senators are ignoring their constitutional duty of sending nominations to the president. [Sens.] Cornyn and Cruz can — and should — do more,” attorney Hooman Hedayati blogged at The San Antonio Express-News. There are seven U.S. district court vacancies in Texas.
“Delay for delay’s sake,” Sen. Pat Leahy, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s senior Democrat, said in a Philly.com article about delays for the confirmation of a federal appeals court nominee. Republicans deny the charge. Read more
In these other dispatches about fair and impartial courts:
- The New York Times editorial board said that one day, TV cameras will be permitted in the Supreme Court, and meanwhile, “The justices could save everyone a lot of trouble by letting cameras in now so all Americans could see the nine people whose decisions deeply affect their lives.”
- A headline in Gavel to Gavel, a publication of the National Center for State Courts, declared, “Changes to mandatory judicial retirement ages: Virginia plan now law; Oregon voters will decide in November 2016 on repeal; Massachusetts proposal rejected.”
The state Constitution provides a petition recall route for “public officers” but the attorney for Municipal Judge Catherine Ramsey contends that language does not include judges. Last week, a lower court judge disagreed and ruled that a recall of Judge Ramsey may go forward, according to The Las Vegas Review-Journal. Judge Ramsey’s attorney plans an appeal to the state’s highest court. Read more