Gavel Grab

Archive for the 'Impeachment' Category

Kansas Bill Expands Grounds for Impeaching a High Court Justice

E69CB0D6193F5A84493B30750C6D812DLegislation introduced in the Kansas Senate this week spells out circumstances for impeaching a state Supreme Court justice, and it adds as a grounds for impeachment any attempt to usurp the authority of the legislature.

Republican State Sen. Mitch Holmes, reported to be the legislator behind the bill, told the Associated Press that existing constitutional language doesn’t give guidelines to legislators. Others, however, saw in the legislation another weapon for legislators to use in attacking Kansas courts, especially at a time where the courts and the legislature have not seen eye-to-eye about public education fund.

Political science professor Chapman Rackaway of Fort Hays State University told the Hutchinson News that parts of the legislation seemed “a very clear attempt to allow the legislators to impeach justices based on decisions like Gannon” v. State of Kansas, an ongoing case over education funding.

A Lawrence Journal-World editorial said the bill’s “attempting to usurp” language “opens wide the opportunity for two branches of the Kansas government to gang up on the other in arbitrary, unethical and damaging ways.” The editorial added: Read more

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Idaho House Approves Resolution for Impeaching U.S. Judges

Idaho_State_Capitol-3The Idaho House has voted 44-25 for a non-binding resolution urging Congress to impeach federal judges who don’t follow the Constitution’s original intent. The resolution was spurred by anger against federal judges who have struck down state bans on marriage for same-sex couples.

The sponsor, Republican Rep. Paul Shepherd, said he supports impeaching “every judge that votes against the original intent of the Constitution.” He would have supported impeaching then-Chief Justice Earl Warren over the Supreme Court’s ruling ending school prayer decades ago, Shepherd said in reply to a colleague’s question, according to the Twin Falls Times-News. Read more

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Idaho House Panel Backs Resolution for Impeaching Federal Judges

Idaho’s House State Affairs Committee voted 12-4, along party lines, on Tuesday for a non-binding resolution urging Congress to support the impeachment of federal judges who issue rulings in favor of marriage for same-sex couples.

The sponsor, Republican Rep. Paul Shepherd, told the panel, “All the people in the United States seem to be just rolling over with whatever the Supreme Court comes down with, so we need to do something about the Supreme Court.”

“I would say that arrogance and ignorance does not isolate itself to any one branch of this government. I cannot support this,” said Rep. Melissa Wintrow, a Democrat.

Rep. John McCrostie, a Democrat who is gay, said, “This bill puts us on the wrong side of history again, and I would encourage you to vote no on this.” He said his “life was transformed” when he exchanged wedding vows with his partner, according to a Spokesman Review blog post  about the resolution.

As more court rulings have struck down state bans on marriage for same-sex couples, there have been more impeachment calls (see Gavel Grab). Justice at Stake Executive Director Bert Brandenburg wrote in a USA Today op-ed recently, “Courts deal with important issues, so controversy comes with the black robes. But the use of political impeachment threats over decisions can only pervert justice. This kind of bullying has no place in our political culture.”

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In Idaho, a Legislator Calls for Impeachment of U.S. Judges

Idaho_quarter,_reverse_side,_2007State Rep. Paul Shepherd of Idaho, displeased with federal judges who have struck down state bans on marriage for same-sex couples, has proposed an impeachment resolution. The Idaho House State Affairs Committee voted along party lines on Monday to introduce it.

The resolution proposed by Shepherd, a Republican, seeks the impeachment of federal judges who don’t follow the Constitution’s original intent, according to a MagicValley.com article.

“They’re (federal judges) ruling just based on their agenda,” Shepherd maintained, according to the Idaho News Service. Last fall, Idaho’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples was effectively overturned in the federal courts. Shepherd said that judges violate their oaths of office when they read things into the Constitution that the nation’s founders didn’t intend.

“Original intent is really all we have,” he said. “Agenda and interpretation is what we’re all unhappy with.”

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N.H. House Panel to Look at Possible Impeachment of Judge

New Hampshire state Rep. Daniel Itse has sponsored a measure asking the state House of Representatives to explore whether to launch impeachment proceedings against Judge Jacalyn A. Colburn, a Superior Court judge, over a ruling in September.

According to a Nashua Telegraph article last month, Itse thinks the judge inserted personal belief into her ruling, involving addition of a city charter amendment to last November’s ballot. The newspaper said Itse “has sponsored or co-sponsored the removal of multiple judges in the past four years.” Read more

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Another Call to Impeach a Judge Over a Marriage Ruling

Even as the U.S. Supreme Court has decided to take up the issue of marriage for same-sex couples, there is another call for the impeachment of a state judge who made a marriage ruling considered controversial.

Earlier this month Judge Sarah Zabel of the Miami-Dade Circuit Court in Florida responded to a federal court ruling, lifted a ban on marriage for same-sex couples that had been in place temporarily pending appeals, and married two couples. Several days ago, Mat Staver, head of Orlando-based Liberty Counsel, said Judge Zabel is “not objective but should be impeached,” according to the Christian Examiner.

As more court rulings have struck down state bans on marriage for same-sex couples, there have been more impeachment calls (see Gavel Grab). Justice at Stake Executive Director Bert Brandenburg wrote in a USA Today op-ed recently, “Courts deal with important issues, so controversy comes with the black robes. But the use of political impeachment threats over decisions can only pervert justice. This kind of bullying has no place in our political culture.” Read more

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JAS in USA Today: Political Impeachment Threats ‘Pervert Justice’

What’s the outcome when politicians and others call for the impeachment of judges over controversial rulings? It “can only pervert justice,” Bert Brandenburg, executive director of Justice at Stake, writes in a USA Today op-ed.

JAS-LogoBrandenburg’s column cites recent impeachment calls over court decisions to delay executions, to scuttle state bans on marriage for same-sex couples, and even for the impeachment of U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. if he votes in a current case to gut the Affordable Care Act (see Gavel Grab). The impeachment calls come from both the right and the left.

“These attacks haven’t resulted in actual proceedings. Nor should they,” he writes. “The Constitution gives judges life terms, presuming good behavior. Impeachment of judges was not designed as a tool to settle political disagreements. If courts can’t make hard calls without a threat of political retaliation from the other two branches, they won’t be able to protect our fundamental rights, especially when doing so is unpopular.”

He concludes, “Courts deal with important issues, so controversy comes with the black robes. But the use of political impeachment threats over decisions can only pervert justice. This kind of bullying has no place in our political culture.”

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Journalist: Roberts Deserves Impeachment More Than President

In a Nation commentary, journalist and author William Greider assails the conservative justices of the U.S. Supreme Court and floats the idea of impeaching Chief Justice John Roberts Jr.

Justice at Stake has consistently cautioned against impeachment calls based on disagreement with specific rulings. JAS Executive Director Bert Brandenburg warned in a statement when there was talk in 2010 of impeaching Chief Justice Roberts: 

“Almost every American, liberal and conservative, has been angered by particular legal rulings, but that’s because we ask courts to settle tough legal disputes. It is reckless to threaten judges with ouster simply because we don’t like a particular decision.”

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High Court on Marriage: 'Judicial Activism' or 'Watershed Moment'?

Screen shot 2014-10-07 at 12.12.27 PMThe Supreme Court has opened its new term with a surprise blockbuster. When it let stand decisions that struck down five states’ bans on marriage for same-sex couples (see Gavel Grab), the court cleared the way immediately for scores of new marriage vows, drawing both acclaim and condemnation.

A New York Times headline declared, “Supreme Court Hands Gay Marriage a Tacit Victory,” and an accompanying article reported, “Scenes of Exultation in Five States as Gay Couples Rush to Marry.” A Washington Post article called it a “turning point” and quoted a top ACLU lawyer as saying, “It is a watershed moment for the entire country.”

The white-hot marriage issue has provided plenty of grist in past years for foes to unload on judges over rulings they don’t like, however, and some of that continued on Monday.

David Lane, head of the American Renewal Project, warned, according to the Washington Post, “Impeachment begins in the House. I can’t figure out why a simple congressman won’t drop a bill of impeachment to remove people who are doing this to our country.” He added, “We’re going to deal with these problems — unelected and unaccountable judges — who have no right to interfere with the will of a free people.” Read more

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Rumblings of Threat to Impeach Justices in Tennessee

justices_22442There’s no action yet, but there are rumblings in Tennessee of a possible bid to impeach three state Supreme Court justices who were retained by voters in a closely watched election this month.

According to a blog of the Knoxville News Sentinel, serial litigant John Jay Hooker, a longtime foe of Tennessee’s merit system for selecting judges, has gotten assurances from some legislators that they will seek impeachment next year.

A Davidson County grand jury met earlier this year with lawyer Hooker and subsequently voiced questions about the legality of the Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission (see Gavel Grab for background about JPEC.) Hooker plans to ask the grand jury to issue a report stating the three incumbent justices were on the Aug. 7 retention ballot illegally. Read more

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