Gavel Grab

Commentary: ‘Dangerous’ to Seek Impeachment of Justices

US Supreme CourtTo seek the impeachment of five U.S. Supreme Court justices over the court’s recent landmark ruling on marriage rights for same-sex couples would “set a dangerous precedent,” Denis Montenier writes in a Waterloo-Cedar Falls (Ia.) Courier op-ed.

Montenier responds to an earlier commentary that voiced disagreement with the court’s ruling and called for impeaching the justices in the 5-4 majority. He writes:

“To initiate impeachment proceedings against the five justices who ruled in favor of same-sex marriage would not only set a dangerous precedent but would be most divisive. It would only succeed in making the American people more cynical and distrustful. While impeachment might get through the Republican-controlled House, it would be virtually impossible for the Senate to garner the two-thirds majority required for conviction, making the attempt a colossal waste of taxpayer time and money.”

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Commentary: Judicial Confirmation ‘Wars’ Continue in Senate

CapitolflagA prominent newspaper in Sen. Charles Grassley’s home state says it had hoped he would move to halt the judicial confirmation “wars” in the U.S. Senate, but its “optimism was not warranted.”

Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, is new chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The critique came from a Des Moines Register editorial headlined “Grassley joins race to bottom on political rhetoric.”

A Huffington Post commentary by Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the committee’s senior Democrat, lashed out at obstructionist tactics by Republicans and was headlined, “Undermining Our Third Branch and Delaying Justice.”

Meanwhile a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review op-ed by Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond, urged Senate confirmation to a federal appeals court of U.S. District Court Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo.

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GOP Readies to Dump a Virginia Justice, Elect Its Own

180px-Virginia_supreme_court_sealVirginia Republicans are preparing to dump a newly named state Supreme Court justice, who was chosen by Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe, and install a justice more to their liking.

The Washington Post said Republican leaders announced their intention for the legislature not to elect McAuliffe’s pick, Justice Jane Marum Walsh, once her 30-day interim appointment expires, and instead to elect in an upcoming special session Court of Appeals Judge Rossie D. Alston Jr. for the high court.

“Republicans’ decision to throw a distinguished jurist of 23 years off of the Supreme Court with no job to return to is without precedent in Virginia history,” McAuliffe spokesman Brian Coy said. “It is no surprise that Republicans in the General Assembly would politicize this process, but it’s a tragedy that it will cost Virginia the service of a qualified female Supreme Court justice.” McAuliffe made the appointment when the legislature was not in session.  Read more

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Workers’ Comp Judge Selection Process Questioned in Kansas

Critics are questioning a lack of transparency in the selection of administrative law judges who handle Kansas workers’ compensation cases, noting how the selection process for Kansas Supreme Court justices is more open to the public.

When a nominating panel recently interviewed candidates for one of the judgeships, the proceeding was closed to the public, which contrasts with public interviews of candidates aspiring to the state Supreme Court, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported. “I think the public has pretty much been kept in the dark,” attorney Frank Taff told the newspaper.

An article in the Wichita Eagle was headlined, “Labor, attorneys question closing of interviews for workers comp judge.”

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Judge Dismisses Lawsuit by Former Chief Justice Abrahamson

U.S. District Court Judge James Peterson has dismissed a lawsuit by former Wisconsin Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, contending that she cannot be removed from the role of chief justice at midterm, following voter approval this year of a constitutional amendment that allows members of the Supreme Court to choose the chief.

“Unless its actions are plainly unconstitutional, Wisconsin has the authority and autonomy to restructure its government without interference from the federal government,” Peterson wrote, according to the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel.

The court’s conservatives, in an email vote, recently selected Justice Patience Roggensack as the new chief. There also were these other news media pieces about court-related developments in Wisconsin: Read more

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Report: Retention Election for Tennessee Court in 2016

Tennessee Supreme CourtThere was a measure of confusion last week about when voters would cast ballots over retaining a new Tennessee Supreme Court justice, who will be appointed soon in the wake of another judge’s retirement (see Gavel Grab). Now, a media outlet reports that it appears the retention election will be held in August 2016.

An official in the office of Secretary of State Tre Hargett told the Tennessee Report the election will be held next year. The election will be held assuming whomever Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, appoints to fill the new vacancy chooses to seek retention to a new term. The process would play out under a constitutional amendment adopted by Tennessee voters last year.

Justice Gary Wade recently announced his decision to retire, creating the vacancy. An Associated Press article noted that the appointment by Haslam is expected to shift the court from a majority of Democratic appointees to a majority of Republican picks.

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Florida Representative: Subpoenas for Justices?

In the wake of a Florida Supreme Court ruling overturning new districts drawn by the state legislature, Republican Rep. Mike Hill has called for a meeting with justices to clarify the ruling. According to the Orlando Sentinel, if the justices decline the invitation, Hill suggests distributing subpoenas.

The 5-2 ruling said the legislature violated the Fair Districts amendment “by passing new congressional and state Senate districts supported by GOP consultants that favor the Republican Party,” the article explains, saying that the maps drawn were submitted by GOP consultants. Hill, on the other hand, contends that the maps supported by the court are those favored by Democrats.

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Michigan Supreme Court Throws Out Mandatory Minimums

Michigan_quarter,_reverse_side,_2004The Michigan Supreme Court restructured criminal sentencing this week in a landmark 5-2 ruling, Michigan Live reports.

The opinion, written by Justice Bridget Mary McCormack, says that “mandatory minimum sentencing violates the Sixth Amendment” when it increases sentencing beyond that contained in a jury verdict. The article explains that the case upheld a lower court sentence, but ruled that a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision “rendered parts of Michigan’s sentencing guidelines unconstitutional” because they infringe on the right to a trial by jury.

Read more

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Friday Gavel Grab Briefs

In these other dispatches about fair and impartial courts:

  • Politics PA reports that the largest teacher’s union in the state endorsed Judge Kevin Dougherty for Supreme Court. The election for three open seats on the court will take place in November.
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Confrontation Erupts Over Judicial Nominations

Confirmation Hearings For Supreme Court Nominee Sonia Sotomayor ContinueSen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) are sparring over the pace of judicial confirmations, reported Politico. The confrontation unfolded on Thursday after Grassley blocked the confirmation of three judicial nominees that, according to The Hill, Schumer wanted confirmed.

The New York Democrat complained about the judicial vacancy rate in the U.S. that is at 10%, and the 28 districts that are in a state of ” judicial emergency,” mentions Politico. He also called it a “disgrace” that the new Republican-led Senate has only confirmed five federal judges so far, comparing that pace to the confirmation rate of the Democratic-led Senate under President George W. Bush, which at the same point in President Bush’s second term had confirmed 25 judges.

Grassley shot back that the statistics are misleading, arguing that “we’d be roughly at the same pace we were for judicial confirmations this year compared to 2007,″ if 11 judicial confirmations that took place during last year’s lame duck session had been scheduled for this year instead.

GOP leaders will not hold scheduled votes on judicial nominees until at least September, he said.

Meanwhile, President Obama has nominated four Pennsylvania judges to fill federal bench vacancies, reported Legal Intelligencer.


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