Gavel Grab

Archive for the 'Court Bashing' Category

Battle With Court Over Washington School Funding Escalates

A battle is escalating between justices on the Washington Supreme Court and some legislators who believe the court has overstepped its authority on education. The dispute could become “downright nasty,” said former Justice Phil Talmadge, who also served in the legislature.

An Associated Press article goes to some length to recap and explain the disagreement. It is headlined, “Lawmakers push back against Washington high court over education spending and budget authority.”

Gavel Grab has mentioned legislation pushed by state Republican Sen. Michael Baumgartner to shrink the court’s size from nine to seven justices, in part as pushback. The AP reports that he is not alone in contending the court has gone too far. A Democratic budget-writer, Sen. Jim Read more

No comments

Bill Seeks to Make Kansas Judges Subject to Recall Votes

How many ways are there for Kansas legislators to target impartial state judges?

With tensions running high between some legislators and state courts, a number of court-bashing proposals already have been floated, and Gavel Grab has mentioned them: lowering the mandated retirement age; ending the Supreme Court’s review of criminal cases; and eliminating merit selection of Supreme Court justices, to give the governor direct appointment power. This week, still another idea was unveiled in legislation sponsored by the House Judiciary Committee: to allow judges — including justices on the Supreme Court — to be subject to recall elections.

The legislation was reported by Gavel to Gavel, a publication of the National Center for State Courts. It said that since 1974, Kansas judges have been exempted from a constitutional amendment that provides for recall elections for “[e]very public officer holding either by election or appointment.” Read more

No comments

Sponsor of WA Court-Shrinking Bill Wants to 'Push Back a Little'

Legislators who are unhappy with the Washington Supreme Court are continuing to push legislation to shrink it from nine to seven jurists, and a sponsor of the bill made clear his intentions this week.

“The timing of this bill isn’t entirely coincidental,” Republican Sen. Michael Baumgartner (photo), told a state Senate committee, according to The Olympia Report. “It was developed partially in response to the recent egregious examples of the court  inserting itself into the budget-writing process of the Legislature.”

Baumgartner sponsored a similar but broader bill last year. It would have cut the state Supreme Court from nine justices to five, by their drawing straws (see Gavel Grab). News reports at the time said the Republicans who sponsored the bill were displeased with a court ruling that overturned tax-increase restrictions on the legislature.

At the hearing this week, a legislator thanked Baumgartner for his candor and asked whether  the legislation was “based on governance rather than substance.”

“It’s both,” Baumgartner replied. “There’s no practical reason why there should be nine justices, and there are economic and practical reasons why there shouldn’t. But at the same time, I’d like to see us push back a little. We’re on a very slippery slope with the court inserting itself into the domain of the Legislature.” Read more

No comments

Bill Would Shrink Washington Supreme Court by Two

Last year, several Republicans introduced a bill in the Washington legislature to cut the state Supreme Court from nine justices to five — by drawing straws — only a week after conservatives lost a major court decision.

The bill wasn’t passed, but legislators who’d like to shrink the court haven’t given up, according to Gavel to Gavel, a publication of the National Center for State Courts. A bill recently introduced by four state Senate Republicans would reduce the court from nine justices to seven through attrition, due to “resignation, retirement, death or otherwise.”

The National Center for State Court is a JAS partner organization.

No comments

Judge's Stop-And-Frisk Ruling is Assailed, Applauded

After a long trial, a federal judge held that the way New York City police used stop-and-frisk tactics has violated minorities’ constitutional rights. Mayor Michael Bloomberg (photo below right) denounced the ruling, saying the city had been denied a fair trial; in some other quarters, the ruling was praised.

“This is a very dangerous decision made by a judge who I don’t think understands how policing works,” Bloomberg said, according to the Los Angeles Times. In an appeal, Bloomberg pledged, attorneys for New York City would argue Judge Shira A. Scheindlin (photo at left) was biased, the New York Times reported.

There was favorable reaction as well. A New York Times editorial said Judge Scheindlin had “upheld the bedrock principle of individual liberty.”  At Huffington Post, Geoffrey Stone, a law professor at the University of Chicago, wrote a commentary headlined, “Stop-and-Frisk: Why We Have Courts.” He applauded the judge:

“The American judiciary exists, first and foremost, to protect the constitutional rights of those who are not in the majority. It exists to ensure that our government treats all of us with respect. It exists to protect the rights of the disadvantaged, the oppressed, the powerless and the despised, even when disadvantaging them advantages the rest of us.

“Three cheers for Judge Scheindlin. She is what the American judicial system, at its best, is all about.” Read more

No comments

Is Court-Bashing Ahead in Oklahoma? Governor Says No

Oklahoma state Sen.  Patrick Anderson has written state judges that an upcoming special session to be convened by the governor with legislative leaders will be focused on “attacking the judiciary.” But that’s not the case, said a spokesman for Gov. Mary Fallin.

According to an Associated Press article, Anderson wrote, “Based upon some of the rumors I am hearing, I expect that there will be an attempt to place term limits on judges and that there will be an effort to eliminate the Judicial Nominating Commission in order to allow the Governor to have complete judicial appointment authority.”

A Fallin spokesman said, however, that Anderson was “incorrect” and elaborated, “The governor is considering calling a special session. However, the topic the special session would address is lawsuit reform.  She is not planning to consider judicial reform or any other issue.”

House Speaker T.W. Shannon recently announced an interim study on term limits for appellate judges, and some critics characterized the move as retaliation over rulings that legislators didn’t like.

Anderson, Fallin and Shannon are Republicans.

No comments

Article Spotlights 'National War on State Courts' and Quotes JAS

A failed proposal to slash the salaries of four Iowa Supreme Court justices over their votes on a marriage ruling (see Gavel Grab) is part of a “national war on state courts,” reports an ABA Journal article. It prominently cites concerns identified by Justice at Stake.

To lay the groundwork for favorable court rulings, special interests are hitting judges with attack ads in campaigns, and legislators are trying to “pack or unpack higher courts with like-minded jurists,” says the article by L. Jay Jackson, a lawyer and free-lance journalist. She quotes JAS Executive Director Bert Brandenburg as saying an entire “outrage industry,” including politicians, pundits, and fundraisers, has accelerated the push against our courts:

“’The judiciary has to be ready for a more or less permanent challenge to its legitimacy,’ Brandenburg says.”

“Legal observers say the judiciary is under attack as never before, jeopardizing the American tradition of impartial jurisprudence,” the article warns. At the same time, when the public is informed Read more

No comments

'Retaliation' in Oklahoma Plan for Study of Judicial Term Limits?

Are fair and impartial Oklahoma courts coming under attack? Some critics described a newly announced interim study on term limits for appellate judges as retaliation for rulings that legislators didn’t like.

House Speaker T.W. Shannon (photo), a Republican, said in announcing the study, according to the Tulsa World, “The forefathers created a system of checks and balances. We must make sure that system is not completely controlled by a powerful handful of activists.”

Only days earlier, the Oklahoma Supreme Court invalidated a lawsuit reform law. The court ruled 7-2 the statute was unconstitutional because it violated what is called the state Constitution’s single-subject rule, the Insurance Journal reported. 

“We have a great judiciary in the state of Oklahoma,” said Senate Minority Leader Sean Burrage, a Democrat, according to an Oklahoman article. “They’re not a state agency; they are a third branch of the government.” He added, “It seems to me this may be retaliation by the Legislature toward the judiciary.” Read more

No comments

NJ Gov. Christie Berates Judge Who Spoke Out

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has repeatedly attacked the state’s Supreme Court as liberal activists, berated Justice Barry Albin this week. On Friday, before a State Bar Association conference, Justice Albin had urged the public to help protect impartial jurists from retribution by politicians, while stopping short of naming Christie (see Gavel Grab).

According to a (Newark) Star-Ledger article, Christie said the following:

“He can say, as far as I’m concerned, whatever he wants to say. He can be as wrong as loudly as he wants to be. But it’s interesting that they pick and choose when it’s appropriate for them to be speaking out on things and they get to be judge and jury on that.

“It’s very interesting. But, you know, Justice Albin …went down to the bar association and played to the cheap seats like the grandstander that he is. So, he can do what he wants to do.” Read more

No comments

Federal Judge Hits 'Below-the-Belt' Attack on Record

After the staff of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg released a negative review of a federal judge’s record, the judge criticized a “below-the-belt” attack on judicial independence.

U.S. District Judge Shira A. Scheindlin is hearing a civil rights case challenging the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk practices, which are alleged by plaintiffs to discriminate against Hispanics and blacks.

Bloomberg’s office compiled an internal report painting the judge as “as biased against law enforcement,” the New York Daily News reported recently. In 15 written “search-and-seizure” rulings since Judge Scheindlin took the judgeship in 1994, she made a decision against law enforcement 60 percent of the time, the review indicated.

In an Associated Press interview, the judge took issue with the conclusion.

Read more

No comments

« Previous PageNext Page »