Gavel Grab

Archive for the 'Attacks on Judges' Category

Could a federal lawsuit rescue Kansas Supreme Court?

Gov. Brownback

Gov. Brownback

A bill signed by Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback that “linked funding for the judiciary to the outcome of a Kansas Supreme Court case” as reported in Above the Law, continues to spark controversy. Now an analysis in Slate suggests that the Kansas Supreme Court may be able to strike back.

“He (Brownback) has forgotten one escape hatch against autocracy: the United States Constitution,” reported Slate. According to the analysis, the Kansas Supreme Court can sue Brownback under the so-called Guarantee Clause, an obscure provision of the Constitution.

Coverage of the crisis in Kansas has been overwhelmingly negative. “Brownback only wants to pay the courts if they render the decision that he wants,” said Above the Law; while The Aspen Times accused Brownback and his “cohorts” of using their position to “undermine the constitutionally backed independence of judiciary, in order to pack state courts with judges who agree with him.” It also said it was a “subtle political coup in the making.” The LA Times described the situation as “what can only be seen as attempted extortion,” and Slate  stated that Brownback was trying to “threaten it (the Kansas Judiciary) with total destruction.”

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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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Kansas Supreme Court Under Political Attack Again

Critic say Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is injecting politics into the Kansas judicial branch with criticism of the quality of the state Supreme Court judges.

According to, Kobach is calling for a change to the merit selection system of choosing state Supreme Court justices – this time making claims that Kansas federal judges are better qualified because they go through a Senate confirmation process.

That assertion is simply not true say fair court advocates.

“Secretary of State Kobach is once again meddling with the judicial branch and trying to bring politics into our courts. Our current system was put in place in 1956 following a political scandal involving appointments to the high court by the then-governor in what became known as the ‘Triple-Play.’ Our current selection system has proven to be the best way to ensure quality judges are on the bench and the threats of politicization are minimized,” Ryan Wright, Executive Director of Kansans for Fair Courts, told Gavel Grab.

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Column Faults 'Despicable' Attack on Arkansas Courts

Arkansas_quarter_reverse_side_2003It is time for citizens who are concerned about protecting fair and impartial courts to stand up and denounce “vile smears” and other attacks on the courts, a Lambda Legal official warns in a column for (San Diego Gay and Lesbian News).

The column by Eric Lesh, fair courts project manager for Lambda Legal, is headlined, “The despicable antigay attack on Arkansas’ courts.” Lesh criticizes a resolution by the Arkansas Legislative Council, submitted to the state Supreme Court, accusing a trial court judge of failing to uphold the state Constitution when he declared unconstitutional a state ban on marriage for same-sex couples (see Gavel Grab for more).

“Attacks on our courts are outrageous and put our system of justice at risk, but we do not have to resign ourselves to the ‘new normal’ of a politicized judicial branch,” Lesh writes. Lambda Legal is a Justice at Stake partner organization. Read more

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AK Judicial Council Can Inform on Judges before Retention

As a result of almost four years’ court contention, an opinion issued by Alaska State Supreme Court last Friday authorized the Alaska Judicial Council to release new information about judges within the three months prior to an election, reports Alaska Dispatch News.

According to the article, in 2010, the council advertised against former Alaska District Court Judge Richard Postma, who failed to be retained in the end. In response to voters’ complaints regarding the council’s authority before an election, the Supreme Court allowed it to make retention recommendations while forbidding it from issuing new information against the judge in the three months before an election.

Alaska Judicial Council Executive Director Susanne DiPietro described the new opinion, which freed the council to advertise and inform previous to an election, a “very good outcome for the council and the public.” “I think that the court is recognizing the importance of the council’s public information purpose,” she stated.

The Alaska Department of Law also praised the Supreme Court’s decision in a statement, which says “The Judicial Council plays a vital role in educating the public and ensuring that voters have the information needed to decide whether or not to retain a judge.”

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Lawmaker Renews Call to Impeach Judge

justice-scalesOhio state legislator John Becker is renewing demands that federal judge Timothy Black be impeached, according to  a report on the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s news website.   The threat followed Judge Black’s indication in recent days that he would strike down Ohio’s ban on recognizing marriages for same-sex couples that were performed in other states.

Becker also called for Black’s impeachment last year, following the judge’s ruling that Ohio must recognize marriages of  same-sex couples legally performed elsewhere, when issuing death certificates (see Gavel Grab).  Becker is the sole sponsor of a resolution in the Ohio House calling on the U.S. House to impeach Black.  In a statement issued by his office, Becker accused Black of being influenced by “personal political bias” in his rulings, according to the website.  But the president of the Cincinnati bar association, quoted in the same piece, maintained that Black was upholding the Constitution, not violating it.  Click here for more on impeachment threats against judges.


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Editorial: Iowa Group 'Bullies' Judges

Election watchers who observed the role played by The Family Leader in Iowa’s judicial retention elections in 2010 and 2012 will note that the group remains active on the court front.  A Des Moines Register editorial  entitled “Family Leader Is Wrong to Try to Bully Judge”  covers recent action by the group, led by conservative activist Bob Vander Plaats.  A column in the same paper by columnist Rekha Basu takes aim at what it calls the group’s “vendetta campaign.”

According to the Register, The Family Leader refers to its part in a successful effort to unseat three Iowa Supreme Court Justices in 2010, in a direct threat against Polk County District Judge Karen Romano.   A recent ruling by Romano holds up implementation of an Iowa Board of Medicine regulation on medication abortions.

In a statement headlined “Remember the Romano,” The Family Leader references the 2010 judicial retention election and warns, “Apparently Judge Romano has not learned a lesson from that vote. The Family Leader encourages Iowans to remember Judge Karen Romano’s activism when she is up for retention in November 2016.

In its editorial, the Register  calls the statement a “pre-emptive attack on a judge” that “should not be tolerated in this state.”

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Shot Fired Into Home of Federal Judge in Florida

At least one shot was fired into the home of a federal district judge in Florida. The judge, who was home, escaped injury in the early-morning shooting, and a window and glass door were shattered.

The FBI, U.S. Marshals Service, local Sheriff’s Office and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were investigating the shooting at the Jacksonville home of Judge Timothy Corrigan, the Florida Times-Union reported.


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Race for Eastern Kentucky's State Supreme Court Seat Gets Ugly

Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Will T. Scott narrowly won a judicial race eight years ago against then Supreme Court Justice Janet Stumbo. The two are once again running against each other in this year’s election, and the rematch “is no nicer,” a Lexington Herald-Leader article says.

In his TV advertisements, Scott has accused Stumbo “of being soft on crime.” One such ad says that Stumbo voted to overturn the convictions of two black men for murdering a pregnant woman.

Stumbo is running an ad which says Scott voted against convicting a man of abusing his three children for confining them to their rooms without food, water or access to a bathroom.

The Kentucky Judicial Campaign Conduct Committee, which encourages judicial candidates to avoid false advertising, called Scott’s ad misleading because the images of pregnant white women it used were not involved in the case, the article reports. Read more

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Ohio GOP Ad Calls Judicial Dem. Candidate 'Sympathetic to Rapists'

A new ad released Wednesday by the Ohio Republican Party claims that Democratic Supreme Court candidate Bill O’Neill “sympathizes with rapists.” Republican Justice Robert Cupp has tried to distance himself from the ad and claimed he had no knowledge of its content, the Ohio Plain Dealer reports.

Mark Weaver, spokesman for Cupp’s campaign, said “Justice Cupp does not believe the purported ad is an appropriate approach to judicial campaigning, which is why he has not and would not approve a commercial like this.”

Matthew Henderson of the Ohio Republican Party confirmed that the ad was not brought to Justice Cupp’s attention beforehand, and that the party was doing it for themselves.

Ohio Democratic Party spokesman Jerid Kurtz argues that the “video is not possible without the consent of the campaign.” The ad refers to an opinion O’Neill wrote in 2000 which reversed a rape conviction, the article says. Read more

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