Gavel Grab

Archive for the 'Impeachment' Category

Opinion: Ginsburg Within Rights to Officiate at Same-Sex Weddings

RespondingA general view of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington to remarks by Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore about marriage equality, the U.S. Supreme Court, and impeachment (see Gavel Grab), ThinkProgress blog has published a lengthy reply.

It makes no sense to talk of impeaching U.S. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg because she officiated at the marriages of same-sex couples, said the liberal blog, explaining as follows:

“The same-sex weddings Ginsburg has officiated were all conducted in Washington, DC, where it was legal for the couples to marry. Ginsburg was certainly correct that the Constitution vests her with judicial power, and DC law allows any ‘judge or retired judge of any court of record’ to officiate a marriage ceremony. Ginsburg was simply performing one of her official duties, administering the law as befits her constitutional title. Furthermore, she made no public comment on whether the couples were entitled to those marriages under the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution, the actual question at stake in the same-sex marriage cases.”

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Alabama’s Moore Floats Idea of Impeaching Some U.S. Justices

set-5a-color-roy-moore-chief-justice-14825913jpg-df54fe1459ae944bIn a talk with a conservative host, Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore floated the idea of Congress launching impeachment proceedings if U.S. Supreme Court justices weighing a marriage equality decision “disobey” the U.S. Constitution.

The interview with Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins was posted by Right Wing Watch, a project of People for the American Way. Chief Justice Moore said that U.S. Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan had performed marriage rites for same-sex couples. He went on to quote from a news article reporting that when Justice Ginsburg did so recently, she said she was doing so by powers vested in her by the U.S. Constitution.

Chief Justice Moore said, “She is doing it in the face of plain evidence that she is violating the ethical rules set for federal judges.” Justice Ginsburg was commenting on the issue that is before the court in a pending case, he said. He also registered his own view that the U.S. Constitution does not mention marriage. When asked by Perkins if Congress has a responsibility to act, Chief Justice Moore said yes.

“If Congress is going to let these justices disobey the Constitution they are sworn to uphold, then Congress has a check and a balance. It’s called impeachment,” he said. Huffington Post reported, “Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore Wants Ruth Bader Ginsburg Impeached.” Read more

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Blog: Judicial Impeachment as a Check on Courts Is Constitutional

111002075249-supreme-court-building-story-topIn a guest blog for the Washington Post, Michael S. Paulsen, co-author of The Constitution: An Introduction delves into his analysis of the power of Congress to impeach other officials, specifically federal judges. He explains:

“By implication, at least, our book takes a more charitable view of impeachment than of either court-terminating or court-packing as a check against (believed) judicial lawlessness. Impeachment of judges for perceived deliberate abuse of office by their lawless decisions — ‘a series of deliberate usurpations’ in violation of their oaths — is directed (as the impeachment inquiry properly should be) at individual culpability, not institutional capability. That is more constitutionally defensible in principle, even if it has fairly obviously troubling implications and (like all powers and checks) is capable of being abused.”

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In Marriage Case Before High Court, Impeachment Once Was Urged



On April 28, the Supreme Court will hear long-awaited oral arguments in order to decide whether marriage is a constitutional right for same-sex couples. The historic day is drawing lots of media attention, including for a plaintiff at the center of the cases the court will hear; the favorable ruling he won in a lower court was so controversial that a politician urged the judge’s impeachment.

The marriage lawsuits are consolidated under the case named Obergefell vs. Hodges. A Los Angeles Times feature explained,The justices are widely expected to rule in favor of legalized gay marriage nationwide. But they also asked to hear arguments April 28 on a possible smaller step, letting states resolve the issue but forcing those where same-sex marriage is illegal to recognize unions performed in other states. That dispute is at the heart of Obergefell’s suit.”

In 2013, Federal District Judge Timothy S. Black recognized the marriage of James Obergefell and John Arthur of Ohio, who were wed in Maryland as Arthur was dying. As a result, Obergefell was listed on an Ohio death certificate as Arthur’s surviving spouse, despite an Ohio ban on marriage for same-sex couples.  Read more

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Editorial Scolds Idaho Lawmakers for Judicial Impeachment Stance

An editorial in the Idaho Press-Tribune takes Idaho legislators to task for passing a resolution urging the impeachment of federal judges who support marriage for same-sex couples.   In a sharply worded piece, Opinion Editor Phil Bridges notes that the state House resolution disregards the fundamental constitutional principle of separation of powers.  He goes on to remind lawmakers that many of them voted for a law requiring the state’s high school seniors to pass a basic civics test.

Underscoring his point, Bridges writes, “You can’t declare that a judge should be kicked out because he or she has a difference of opinion on constitutional interpretation. That would be akin to judges declaring that lawmakers should be impeached for passing ‘bad law.’”

A wave of court rulings affirming marriage rights for same-sex couples has generated increasing calls for impeachment and censure of judges in a number of states.  While some have been symbolic, as in Idaho, others could result in penalties for sitting judges if passed.  See Gavel Grab.



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KS Editorial: Even School Children Know About Checks and Balances

4332594_origAnother Kansas editorial is sharply critical of legislation that would expand the ways a state Supreme Court justice can be impeached (see Gavel Grab). The Hays Daily News editorial says the legislation tramples on the checks and balances of the three branches of government.

Among other things, the legislation would add as a grounds for impeachment any attempt to usurp the authority of the legislature. The editorial says the legislation has an agenda, and it involves elected politicians who are allied with Republican Gov. Sam Brownback retaliating against the court:

“In other words, justices who negatively evaluate the laws passed in Kansas by the Brownback bunch could be removed from office. That is not the way the system is supposed to work. Even children are being taught that in Kansas schools — at least for now.

“Brownback’s power grab has to be stopped. Laws need to be reviewed for their constitutionality, not their moral or political bent. If the executive and legislative branches are checked when they attempt to starve the education system or discriminate in the name of religion, the answer is not to replace the justices. Attempting to do so is an affront to democracy, the state, and this great nation.”

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Editorial: What About Expanding Impeachment for Elected Officials?

KansasLogoCapitolGradientBlueDisagreement with a judge “can’t be a reason to impeach anyone,” a Hutchinson (Kansas) News editorial says in taking issue with a Republican lawmaker’s legislation (see Gavel Grab) to expand the grounds for impeaching state Supreme Court justices.

The editorial not only takes issue with the legislation pushed by state Sen. Mitch Holmes, it denounces “brazen hypocrisy” by some lawmakers who would expand the reasons for impeaching judges while maintaining silence about impeaching elected officials.

Holmes “thinks it is just the judicial branch that should be subject to more liberal impeachment rules,” the editorial says. “His bill makes no mention of what happens when the legislative or executive branch tries ‘to usurp the power’ of the judicial branch. We do, after all, have in this country a three-branch system designed of each to have a check and balance on the others.” Read more

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JAS: Bill Disregards Kansas Constitution, and Checks and Balances

Kansas_quarter,_reverse_side,_2005A Kansas legislator pushing legislation to expand the grounds for impeaching state Supreme Court justices has said the courts view themselves as “autocratic” and complained about a list of their decisions. He also wants the legislation expanded to include lower-court judges.

As Gavel Grab mentioned earlier, the legislation by State Sen. Mitch Holmes, a Republican, adds as a grounds for impeachment any attempt to usurp the authority of the legislature.

Debra Erenberg, Justice at Stake Director of State Affairs, told the Hutchinson News that his legislation “stands out for its blatant disregard for the Kansas Constitution and the system of checks and balances in our democracy.” The state legislature has thrown just about everything, including the kitchen sink, at the courts this session, she said. Read more

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Idaho Judicial Impeachment Resolution Dies in Senate

A non-binding resolution urging Congress to impeach federal judges who don’t follow the Constitution’s original intent, although passed by the Idaho House, has died in the state Senate, according to the Idaho Press-Tribune.

The resolution was spurred by anger against federal judges who have struck down state bans on marriage for same-sex couples.

The Senate Affairs Committee chairman told another legislative leader that his committee would not hear the resolution, an Idaho Public TV blog said. 

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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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