Archive for the 'Court Bashing' Category
The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee criticized important U.S. Supreme Court decisions from this past term on Tuesday. According to Legal Times, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa stated that the votes of certain justices “give rise to an appearance that their loyalties are to each other and to their preferred principles and policies, rather than to the Constitution.”
“The Supreme Court, like a river flooding its banks, is not staying within its proper channel, I strongly encourage all justices of the court to exercise the self-restraint that the Constitution demands and the Framers ultimately anticipated,” he said, specifically referring to cases King v. Burwell, Obergefell v. Hodges, and Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans.
On these cases, according to Grassley, “liberal justices” have gotten their way because Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Anthony Kennedy, and Justice Clarence Thomas have “voted with the liberals in at least two close, significant cases.”
Grassley, “didn’t offer any proposals during his critique of the high court,” reported Legal Times.
In a piece for the Kansas City Star headlined “Gov. Sam Brownback’s war on the courts will be historic,” columnist Steve Rose likens Brownback’s defiance of court authority to that of Arkansas segregationist governor Orval Faubus. “Faubus and his successor ilk are alive and well in Kansas,” Rose writes. He goes on to note that while Faubus only resisted one court order, the Supreme Court’s ruling on school integration, “In Kansas today, there are four separate threats to the courts by politicians in the Legislature and by the governor.”
Those threats revolve around marriage rights for same-sex couples, school funding, and the constitutionality of a court reorganization scheme passed into law last year. “Since when did we get to pick and choose which court orders to obey?” Rose asks, adding that the state appears to be barreling towards a constitutional crisis.
Long-running efforts by Kansas’s governor and legislature to challenge the structure and authority of the state’s court system have been documented in Gavel Grab.
Is an age-old tension between the political branches and the judiciary escalating to a new and dangerous level? In Oklahoma, where several legislators recently called for impeachment of state Supreme Court justices, attorney David Poarch fears that’s the case.
Poarch is president of the Oklahoma Bar Association. In a Norman Transcript op-ed, he labels the impeachment call (after the court had ordered removal of a Ten Commandments marker from the capitol grounds–see Gavel Grab for background) “just one example in a sea of comparable unending rants in response to decisions handed down by our highest courts.” At both the state and national level, he says, the fire of hostility against our courts is fueled by partisan politics. Poarch warns of damaging fallout:
“To all appearances … this historical tension appears to be escalating at an unprecedented pace to a disrespectful level of outright hostility and malevolence. The increasing political attacks on our judges and justices diminish the independence of the judiciary, and at least equally, if not more importantly, the public’s confidence in our system of justice. The distinction between fair criticism of judicial opinions and intimidation and threats directed at judges is an important one.”
It is a “dangerous path” when partisans who disagree with Supreme Court rulings try to change the rules of the justices’ selection to make them accountable to political pressure, the Justice at Stake Campaign said on Wednesday. JASC issued the following statement after a Senate panel hearing, led by Sen. Ted Cruz, debated “Supreme Court Activism and Possible Solutions”:
“Today’s hearing featured an array of proposals for limiting the terms and authority of U.S. Supreme Court justices, most of them in direct contradiction of the founders’ intent to insulate justices from political pressure. From Sen. Cruz we get the singularly reckless idea to impose retention elections on justices. But with elections come campaigns, and campaigns cost money. Who would raise money for a Supreme Court justice’s campaign, and what would they want in return? And if you can stomach the notion of special interests paying big bucks to put a Supreme Court justice back on the bench (or take her off), try to imagine the spectacle of that justice on the campaign trail. What would her platform be?
“Some witnesses who testified today offered up other suggestions, including the notions of state or Congressional override for specific rulings or the imposition of term limits on Supreme Court justices. But let’s call these ideas what they are: wholly partisan responses to a pair of rulings, on marriage and healthcare, that some politicians and interest groups simply do not like. That happens in our democracy, but the answer is not to change the rules to make justices accountable to political pressure. That puts us on a dangerous path indeed.”
Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican presidential candidate who has called for periodic retention elections of Supreme Court justices, will chair a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing this week entitled “With Prejudice: Supreme Court Activism and Possible Solutions.”
Cruz is chair of the panel, named the Subcommittee on Oversight, Agency Action, Federal Rights and Federal Courts. The hearing will be held Wednesday at 1:30 p.m.
A Washington Times article mentioned the hearing. It was headlined, “Justices Roberts, Kennedy fall from GOP favor after recent Supreme Court decisions.” To read about debate over Cruz’s call for retention elections of Supreme Court justices, see Gavel Grab.
A Wichita Eagle editorial warns, “The weapons are silent court papers rather than bombs, but make no mistake: The war over the independence and authority of the Kansas judiciary is escalating. The courts’ ability to function risks serious injury, as does the separation of powers.”
The editorial says Kansas courts are under attack from the legislature and governor. One salvo involves the legislature reducing certain administrative authority of the state Supreme Court (see Gavel Grab for background about the controversy). A second involves the legislature setting in a 2014 law a 180-day deadline for delivery of court decisions. The Supreme Court recently struck down that provision as unconstitutional, saying it violated the separation of powers doctrine, according to a Topeka Capital-Journal blog.
The Wichita Eagle editorial pointed a finger at elected politicians. “In the wake of Supreme Court decisions he disliked, Gov. Sam Brownback has been unable to find the votes to amend the state constitution and give himself freer rein to select justices. Instead, he and conservative lawmakers have sought other ways to weaken and bully the high court while trying to downplay the reforms,” it said. Read more
Sen. Ted Cruz’s proposal for retention (up-or-down) elections of U.S. Supreme Court justices (see Gavel Grab) continues to spark outcries from pundits who say it would virtually upend our government’s system of checks and balances.
A Wichita Eagle blog post by Davis Merritt was headlined, “‘Unelected, unaccountable’ justices are essential,” playing off the language used by several Supreme Court dissenters in the court’s recent blockbuster opinion that legalized marriage for same-sex couples. (The post is accessible through searching by Google.)
“Electing justices or making them subject to retention votes would not only violate the core principle of separation of powers but also would usher in an era of pure majoritarian rule in which basic rights would be subject to suspension by popular whim,” Merritt wrote. Read more
With some presidential candidates assailing the U.S. Supreme Court on the stump (see Gavel Grab), there’s no let-up for editorial boards debating the merits of the attacks.
In the latest round, the Topeka Capital-Journal editorialized that Supreme Court decisions in the past have been extremely controversial too, in addition to this term’s blockbuster decision about marriage for same-sex couples. It said the high court is independent from the other branches of government and “deserves a measure of respect, regardless of how anyone feels about its position on a specific issue.”
Meanwhile a Baltimore Sun op-ed written by Maryland Del. Dan Morhaim, a Democrat, urged staggered term limits for U.S. Supreme Court justices. Morhaim was critical of recent dissents by Justice Antonin Scalia. The delegate has sponsored state legislation urging federal lawmakers from Maryland to end lifetime tenure for Supreme Court justices.
Defenders of fair and impartial courts in Kansas are continuing to chart strategies for challenging a provision in a new funding law for the state’s judiciary. It has been widely described as an attack on the courts.
The Lawrence Journal-World said lawyers representing Judge Larry Solomon submitted a brief threatening to challenge the constitutionality of this year’s funding law, saying the independence of the judiciary is threatened. The controversial provision (see Gavel Grab) states that if the courts strike down a year-old administrative overhaul statute that removed authority of the Supreme Court to name district court chief judges, then the funding itself will be struck down.
Attorney Matt Menendez of the Brennan Center for Justice, who is among Judge Solomon’s lawyers, noted how the Kansas episode has attracted national attention. “People are terrified that this could happen in their own state,” he said. “This is being seen as a template where state courts around the country could come under attack. Nobody has seen anything like it.” Read more
With controversy continuing over recent blockbuster rulings of the Supreme Court, editorial boards across the nation are responding, and often rebutting politicians who have launched attacks on the court.
“It is easy to criticize the court. Liberals have done it. Conservatives have done it. But its rulings and place in the architecture of the federal government should be respected,” a Concord (N.H.) Monitor editorial said after cataloguing calls by Sen. Ted Cruz for retention elections of Supreme Court justices and by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker for a constitutional amendment that would let states define marriage. Read more