Gavel Grab

Archive for the 'Court Bashing' Category

‘Control’ of Impartial KS Courts at Issue, Lawyer for Judge Says

Kansas-Flag-2A lawyer for District Judge Larry Solomon of Kingman County, Kansas blasted in court the “tyrannical” actions of the Republican-led legislature and Gov. Sam Brownback. Solomon is challenging a 2014 law that removed the state Supreme Court’s authority to name chief judges in 31 judicial districts. 

Solomon also is challenging the legislature’s voting for a separate provision to defund state courts if they strike down the controversial administrative overhaul provision. Brownback signed both measures into law. “Their desire for control of the Kansas independent judicial system blinded their judgment and led them to pass laws creating a potential chaotic situation,” lawer Pedro Irigonegaray said, according to an Associated Press article about the Friday hearing. 

Solomon’s lawsuit is viewed by some legal experts as cutting “at the very heart of an independent judicial system,” the Lawrence Journal-World reported. But Stephen McAllister, the Kansas solicitor general, defended the actions as within the legislature’s legal authority. “There’s no precedent there saying there’s an inherent separation of powers … that the top court in the system must be able to choose every chief judge,” McAllister said, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal.  Read more

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Commentary: Political Tantrums Behind Attacks on FL Courts

Florida-Supreme-Court-Seal-300Republican leaders of the Florida Senate and House Judiciary committees have begun talking about court “reform.” But they’ve actually been talking about weakening the courts, in retaliation for the state Supreme Court’s correctly saying legislators gerrymandered political districts, Scott Maxwell writes in an Orlando Sentinel column.

This kind of attack on fair and impartial courts violates bedrock principles of the checks and balances upon which our nation was founded, Maxwell writes, and it smacks of legislators’ attacks on the Florida courts several years ago that were rejected by voters.

Maxwell doesn’t give up hope. Perhaps the leaders are reconsidering, he says. “I still have faint hope that statesmanship will prevail — that seasoned leaders such as [House Speaker Steve] Crisafulli and Senate President Andy Gardiner will realize that today’s tantrum-throwing politicians have no business trying to blow up the separation of powers that has guided this nation for generations. Read more

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Opinion: Brownback ‘Enemies List’ Includes State Judges

brownbackAre state judges on Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s “enemies list?” There’s plenty of evidence suggesting that’s the case, writes Kansas City Star editorial page columnist Yael T. Abouhalkah.

Judges make the list along with schools, gays, and the poor, Abouhalkah contends. He accuses Brownback of conducting an ongoing “war on judges.” Campaigns in his “war” include Brownback’s signing a bill to defund state courts if they dare to overturn earlier legislation removing authority of the state Supreme Court to name chief judges for district courts; and his calling in January for changes in the method of selecting Supreme Court justices, according to the columnist:

“Overall, this approach is Brownback’s way to try to have much more control over who sits on the court, especially when it is called upon to decide whether he and the Legislature are acting in accord with the state constitution.”

He concludes, “To the winners go the spoils, and Brownback won. Meanwhile, his ‘enemies’ continue to lose. Too bad they don’t deserve to be on that list.”

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Lawmaker Plans to Propose High Court Term Limits, Elections

FILE - In this March 14, 2013 file photo, Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, speaks at the 40th annual Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Md. King a member of the Judiciary Committee is one of five key representatives for approval of a reform of the immigration laws. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa, blasting a “rogue” Supreme Court, plans to propose a constitutional amendment for term limits and for elections for Supreme Court justices.

The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reported on some of King’s remarks made in an Iowa Public Television interview and noted that the lawmaker said he recognizes how difficult it is to amend the Constitution. He also voiced disagreement with the court’s rulings on marriage rights for same-sex couples and the federal Affordable Care Act.

“So what we’ve done, we are drafting a constitutional amendment that breaks the country up into eight separate sections that would elect their justice out of the electors that are elected for the president. And then the chief justice would be elected by electors nationwide and then they would turn over every eight to ten years or so as the sequence is set up,” King said in the TV interview.  Read more

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Legislators Criticize Florida High Court Over Redistricting Ruling

The Florida Supreme Court ruled last month that almost a third of the state’s 27 congressional districts violated the state Constitution. This week, at a special legislative session, lawmakers sniped at the court.

According to the Bradenton Herald/Times Tallahassee bureau, the lawmakers challenged whether the court had respected the separation of powers between the judiciary and legislature and suggested it had practically adopted a revised map drafted by Democratic “partisan operatives.”

“How does the court come in here to run roughshod over the Legislature?” asked state Sen. Tom Lee, a Republican. Read more

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Another Abortion Law Struck Down by Oklahoma Court

Seal_of_Oklahoma.svgIn Oklahoma, where court rulings against state legislation to restrict abortions have fueled attacks from the legislature, a state judge has tossed out a law restricting medication abortions.

A NewsOK article was headlined, “Oklahoma sees another abortion law fall in court/Oklahoma County District Judge Patricia Parrish struck down the current law, ruling that since it applied specifically to abortion-inducing drugs, it amounted to a ‘special law’ prohibited in the constitution.”

State Rep. Kevin Calvey earlier this year harshly criticized the high court and proposed an interim study on reforming the judiciary (see Gavel Grab). He told NewsOK about the new ruling, “We can blame our extremist liberal state Supreme Court for this latest deadly ruling against babies in Oklahoma.”

Other media coverage included reports from the Associated Press and Tulsa World.

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Official Compares KS Supreme Court to ‘Left-Wing’ CA Bench

Kansas-Flag-2In Kansas, where state courts have come under assault from elected politicians, a prominent state official has likened the state Supreme Court to that of California.

At a political picnic,  Secretary of State Kris Kobach talked about gun owners’ rights and said the state’s highest court does not share the same concern for protecting Kansans’ constitutional liberties as do the state GOP and governor.

“The California Supreme Court is arguably one of the most left-wing supreme courts in America. The Kansas Supreme Court is every bit as bad, and you can quote me on that,” Kobach said, according to Breitbart News. Kobach is a Republican.  Read more

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Grassley: The Supreme Court is ‘Like a River Flooding its Banks’

Confirmation Hearings For Supreme Court Nominee Sonia Sotomayor ContinueThe 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.


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Brownback’s Court Defiance Earns Unflattering Comparison

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.”

Gov. Brownback

Gov. Brownback

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.


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OK Opinion: Political Attacks Undermine Public Trust in Courts

Oklahoma flagIs 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.”

Read more

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