Gavel Grab

Archive for the 'Court Bashing' Category

Commentary: Judicial Term Limits Idea ‘Smells of Retaliation’

Florida_quarter,_reverse_side,_2004The Florida legislature has a documented history of trying to bash the courts for decisions it doesn’t like, and that explains the genesis of a new proposal for judicial term limits, columnist Paula Dockery writes at

A former Republican state legislator, Dockery says the proposal for limits on the terms of state Supreme Court justices and appeals court judges “smells of retaliation” given legislators’ unhappiness with the high court’s ruling on a redistricting plan drawn in the legislature (see Gavel Grab). “We lose good, experienced judges and justices arbitrarily” with such term limits, she says. Read more

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Term Limits Proposal Would Politicize Judiciary: FL Editorial

9INV_FL_LAWMAKERS_HEALTHCARA proposal in the Florida legislature to impose term limits on state Supreme Court justices and district court of appeals judges is a blatant effort to politicize the judiciary, declares a Tampa Tribune editorial.

“Unable to muster the public support necessary to kick three Florida Supreme Court justices off the bench several years ago — and frustrated by recent decisions on the redistricting maps — the disgruntled lawmakers now want to set term limits for the justices and the state’s appellate judges,” the editorial says. “That would be a mistake on many levels, and the sooner the effort dies the better.” Read more

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Commentary: Term Limits Idea Retaliates Against Court

A proposed constitutional amendment to impose term limits on Florida Supreme Court justices and district courts of appeals judges (see Gavel Grab) keeps getting hammered by analysts who see politics driving it.

Bill Cotterell has a commentary in the Tallahassee Democrat that’s headlined, “Where’s the public outcry for judicial term limits?” He suggests that term limits for Florida legislators hasn’t worked particularly well, then goes on to skewer the proposal’s sponsors as self-serving:

“Appellate court term limits seem intended to do two things — to get even with the Supreme Court, which has been an irritant to governors and legislative leaders since Bush v. Gore 15 years ago, and to create some vacancies on the bench for lawyer-legislators, when eight-year term limits catch up with them. The latter option is specially good for retirement, if a legislator does 16 years in the House and Senate, then 15 as an appeals court judge, building up a pretty good state pension.”

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Editorial: Judicial Term Limits Proposals ‘Smack of Payback’

An Orlando Sentinel editorial skewers sponsors of proposals to impose term limits on top Florida judges (see Gavel Grab) and says the proposals “smack of payback, not reform” by legislators smarting over defeats from the courts.

“They’re just the latest in a long line of cynical attempts from frustrated legislators to weaken Florida’s judiciary, the one branch of government that has consistently stood up for the Florida Constitution,” the editorial declares.

It points out that while one sponsor, state Rep. John Wood, rejects the idea that judicial term limits are motivated by anger at the courts, Wood also has advocated impeachment of Florida Supreme Court justices who invalidated a congressional districting plan drawn by legislators. Read more

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Kansas High Court Soon Will Hear Case on its Appointive Authority

The Kansas Supreme Court will hear on an expedited basis in December oral arguments regarding the constitutionality of a statute that removed authority of the high court to appoint chief district judges.

There is a great deal of interest and political tension around the case in part because a separate law passed by the legislature called for defunding of the entire Kansas court system if the chief judge-appointment provision was struck down by a court. That’s exactly what happened when Shawnee County District Judge Larry Hendricks struck down the appointment statute in September (see Gavel Grab for background). Read more

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Commentary: From Highest Bench, Sounds of Court Bashing

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia engaged in some court bashing of his own when the court heard oral arguments in two death penalty cases from Kansas this week, Mark Joseph Stern writes at Slate.

The Kansas Supreme Court set aside death sentences for Jonathan and Reginald Carr in a 2000 crime spree and ordered new sentencing hearings. The rulings spurred a backlash and political sparks in Kansas (see Gavel Grab), and the state of Kansas appealed to the nation’s highest court.

During oral arguments, Scalia said that perhaps Kansans, “unlike our Justice Breyer, do not think the death penalty is unconstitutional and indeed very much favor it, which might suggest that a retention Read more

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Editorial: Kansans ‘Should be Appalled’ by Partisan Attacks on Courts

Kansas-Flag-2Commending to its readers an upcoming local session of the Kansas Supreme Court, a Garden City Telegram editorial excoriates Gov. Sam Brownback and allied “ultraconservatives” for partisan attacks on state courts, in order to control them:

“Brownback’s more determined than ever to ease the path for his agenda, to include controlling the judicial branch and erasing any hope of checks and balances in place to prevent absolute power.

“Kansans should be appalled. An independent judiciary, one free from control by outside forces, is indispensable to our democracy — regardless of what the governor may believe.”

Read more

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Lawsuit Challenging KS Judiciary Defunding Law Now in U.S. Court

A challenge by four district court judges of a Kansas law threatening to defund the entire Kansas judiciary has been moved from state to federal court.

The Associated Press reported that Kansas moved the case, contending that the litigation constitutes a federal due process claim. The lawsuit is challenges a state law provision that critics say is the latest attack by elected Kansas officials on fair and impartial courts (see Gavel Grab).

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Kansas ‘Battle of the Branches’ Lamented by Scholar

KansasA Kansas law professor has looked closely at the law and a one-two punch aimed by the legislature at Kansas courts, and in an academic essay, he raises pointed questions about the legislature’s intentions.

Professor William J. Rich of Washburn University School of Law lays out in his Jurist essay the legislative history that has led to a challenge by four district court judges of a state law threatening to defund the entire state judiciary (see Gavel Grab). The defunding provision was written to be triggered if a court struck down another statute, removing the Supreme Court’s authority to appoint chief district judges, and indeed a judge has ruled that law invalid.

Washburn does not hurry to conclusions but writes about the legislature, “The argument that the legislature wanted to threaten the judiciary to gain leverage in litigation gains credibility from a variety of other Kansas legislative proposals that have circulated within the statehouse. The same legislators who challenged the state’s supreme court authority to appoint chief judges also debated plans for changing the process of selecting judges, limiting their tenure in office and limiting the state supreme court’s jurisdiction. Their alternative ‘court-packing’ plans would have made Franklin Roosevelt blush.” Read more

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Retired Judge Sees ‘Very Real Crisis’ Facing Kansas Courts

With controversy simmering over whether Kansas could face a shutdown of its entire court system at the hands of the legislature, a retired district judge has weighed in with his concerns.

“It’s a very real crisis. There’s a genuine chance that the judicial branch will shut down,” retired Judge Don Noland told KOAM for its report on the controversy, involving a budgetary provision to defund the courts that was written by the legislature. It was written to be triggered if a court struck down a separate law removing some authority of the Kansas Supreme Court, and that scenario has occurred.

However, a sitting district court judge recently ordered that the defunding measure not be enforced until mid-March (see Gavel Grab), when the legislature is in session, and some analysts believe the situation has calmed. “[A]n outrageous attempt to intimidate the state’s judges thankfully is unraveling,” Davis Merritt writes in a Wichita Eagle opinion.  Read more

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