Archive for the 'Impeachment' Category
An activist belonging to the birther movement has trained his sights on Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., suggesting the judge would be subject to impeachment if he swears in President Barack Obama for a second term.
A Huffington Post article reported that Craige McMillan, a commentator for WND.com, wrote last week by way of addressing the chief justice, “If you now administer the oath of office for the presidency to a man who by his own admission fails to meet the natural born citizen requirement imposed by that Constitution, you have violated your own oath of office and are rightly subject to impeachment by any House of Representatives, at any time, now or in the future.”
At a blog of the Rockford (Illinois) Register Star, Pat Cunningham remarked about McMillan’s assertion, “Just when you thought these people had crawled back beneath their rock, they come up with something like THIS.”
Once again, we are asked to consider impeaching a judge with whom a critic disagrees. It’s a bad idea, it has dangerous consequences for our justice system, and it ignores the Constitution’s requirement that impeachment be reserved for serious misconduct.
David R. Dow of the University of Houston Law Center calls in a Daily Beast commentary for impeachment of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, whom he finds guilty of conduct “boorish and intemperate;” of views “anachronistic and absurd;” and of moral authority that is “zilch.”
At Princeton this week, Justice Scalia explained to a student questioner why he why equates laws against sodomy, with laws against bestiality and murder (see Gavel Grab). In Dow’s view, Justice Scalia “said homosexuality is immoral in the same way that murder is immoral.” Dow concludes, “[I]t is high time for Congress to do the right thing, protect the legacy and the future of the Supreme Court, and immediately impeach Justice Scalia.”
Does Dow forget the demanding standards set by the Constitution for impeachment? It states that “The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” Disagreement with a Supreme Court justice’s views, no matter how fervently, doesn’t qualify.
Once again, state legislators in New Hampshire have raised the specter of impeaching judges. A grievance committee voted 8-2 this week to investigate impeachment proceedings against three judges after a state Senate candidate complained about their handling of a custody dispute with his former wife, the Concord Monitor reported.
Bill Raftery of the National Center for State Courts, a JAS partner group, spotlighted the impeachment bid in the Gavel to Gavel blog that he writes. His post was headlined, “NH House committee advances plans to impeach judges for their decisions in domestic relations cases; 4th time in 5 years NH judges threatened with removal from office over custody or divorce case decisions.”
The latest action was taken by the House Redress of Grievances Committee, after receiving a petition from Republican candidate Joshua Youssef. The Concord Monitor article was entitled, “Senate candidate refights custody case in House.”
Last year in New Hampshire, a controversy over whether to impeach a family-law judicial officer was parlayed by legislators into a blank check to investigate all state trial judges.
“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,” JAS Executive Director Bert Brandenburg cautioned in 2010, in a statement quoted by The Washington Post (see Gavel Grab).
Threats to impeach judges are alive and well in Iowa.
A proposed new Iowa GOP platform states a “demand” that state legislators act to impeach Iowa judges who have ruled to permit same-sex marriages and also that U.S. lawmakers impeach “activist” judges on the federal bench. It calls for appointment of judges who “respect the sanctity of life” and confirmation of only “strict constructionist” judges.
The document highlighted divisions within the state GOP. Last year, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican, said impeaching four state Supreme Court justices would not be an “appropriate” fix to correct the court’s controversial ruling that permitted same-sex marriages. Key Iowa House GOP leaders did not support the impeachment effort. Neither did U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, approve. In a poll, Iowa Republicans were divided over the impeachment proposal.
This week, Branstad downplayed the proposed platform in remarks to the the Des Moines Register, which posted the document online. ”At the end of the day, the platform is a grassroots document as developed by the delegates,” he said. “But what’s more important, in my mind, is the candidates that really articulate their stand on the issues. That’s really the important thing and that’s what goes to the voters.”
“Most people don’t read the party platforms,” he added, “and you can take either party platform and you find that parties tend to be controlled by the more ardent left or right and that doesn’t really reflect where the candidates are going to come down.”
In 2010, voters swept three state Supreme Court justices off the bench in retention (up-or-down) elections. The three were part of a unanimous court opinion that allowed same-sex marriage in Iowa, and their ouster followed a campaign funded heavily by out-of-state groups. Subsequent efforts in the legislature to impeach the remaining justices faltered.
New Hampshire’s House Judiciary Committee has rejected possible impeachment of a marital master, a court officer who handles family court cases, and also possible impeachment proceedings of any Superior Court justices.
That report comes from Gavel to Gavel, a state legislative roundup from the National Center for State Courts, a JAS partner group. The House Judiciary Committee approved a report on the issues after the state House had voted more than a year ago to let the panel investigate (see Gavel Grab).
The recent Judiciary Committee report found that the targeted marital master was “an at-will employee under the supervision of the Judicial Branch and not subject to impeachment as an officer,” according to Gavel to Gavel.
The same report found that the House’s authorization in HR 7 to investigate any justice of the Superor Court was vague and determined “lack of direction would result in a fruitless Read more
There’s no room in our constitutional system for talk about impeaching Supreme Court justices simply because critics disagree with their interpretation of the law, writes Chicago Tribune editorial board member Steve Chapman.
“To pillory or punish judges for doing their job undermines the legitimacy not just of the court, but of our entire constitutional system,” Chapman says in a column entitled, “The liberal attack on the court.” He is referring a blog post last week in which a law professor urged impeachment if the high court strikes down President Obama’s health care law.
Drawing a parallel with 1970, when House Republican leader Gerald Ford launched an effort to impeach liberal Justice William O. Douglas, Chapman notes the following:
“The effort to remove a justice over allegedly wrong views was an embarrassing failure then and would be again. Congress is not about to use the nuclear option merely because the party in power disagrees with the Supreme Court.”
Of all the bad, destructive ideas about courts, one stands out as the worst: turning decisions made from the bench into impeachable offenses.
Unfortunately, this stinker is becoming more bipartisan in recent years, as progressives increasingly echo the conservative mantra about “activist judges.” In a Huffington Post commentary, Nathan Newman, founder of Tech-Progress.org, says, “We should be talking about impeaching Supreme Court Justices who engage in such right-wing judicial activism.”
Actually, no. Not to get technical, but impeachment under the Constitution is limited to “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Courtroom decisions, conservative or progressive, are not criminal. They are not grounds for impeachment.
But looking beyond the law, there’s a practical side: If one judge is impeached for a decision, does anyone believe that would be the end? If we think the misery of hyperpartisan confirmation hearings is bad now, try to imagine a dozen or two judges being hauled in for impeachment hearings, for the crime of heretical judgments, every time party control changes in Congress. No credible system of justice could possibly survive this.
Fortunately, for more than 200 years, talk of impeachment has remained just talk. No state or federal judge has ever been removed from office for a courtroom decision. But any impeachment threat is irresponsible, regardless of party.
In 2011, we opposed calls by Republican legislators to impeach four Iowa justices for striking down a ban on same-sex marriage. The same in 2010, when Congressmen on both sides of the aisle threatened impeachment against a total of four U.S. Supreme Court justices. In 2009, federal appellate judge Jay Bybee faced impeachment calls over legal memos he wrote while working in the Bush administration. And last winter and spring, the National Center for State Courts reported a record number of impeachment threats against state judges.
As Bert Brandenburg, JAS executive director, said in October 2010, the same can be said again today:
“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. Political threats don’t belong in America’s courtrooms.”
A resurrected effort to impeach four Iowa Supreme Court justices over a controversial marriage ruling is going nowhere in 2012, but defenders of fair and impartial courts must remain vigilant, a Des Moines Register editorial cautioned.
A Republican legislator recently introduced anew resolutions calling for impeachment of the four justices, who were part of a unanimous court ruling in 2009 that permitted same-sex marriages.
The editorial said the failure of the impeachment resolutions to gain traction “shouldn’t be taken as evidence that the idea of firing judges for unpopular rulings has died. Indeed, talk around the Statehouse is that some legislators want to cut the state courts’ budget to further punish the court.”
“Those who believe in an independent judiciary should be prepared to fight for that principle in this state for a long time,” the editorial added.
Meanwhile the opinion page editor of The Gazette in eastern Iowa wrote, “Grounds for impeaching justices, as outlined in the state constitution, are for violating the law or their oath of office — not ruling on the constitution and laws.”
A Republican state legislator has tried to goad action on his resolutions calling for impeachment of four Iowa Supreme Court justices. The muted response included many legislators walking out of the chamber and a ho-hum remark by the House Majority Leader.
This week’s events in the Iowa legislature contrasted with those more than a year ago, when social conservatives engaged in a prolonged drumbeat to impeach the four justices who stayed on the court after an ouster drive in 2010 had removed three colleagues. Last year’s impeachment effort ultimately died.
This week, Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer said, “We’ll have to ponder that,” after hearing Rep. Dwayne Alons speak about the importance of acting on his resolutions calling for impeachment of the four justices. They were part of a court that unanimously permitted same-sex marriages in 2009, triggering controversy and the ouster drive.
“I do not relish confrontation,” Alons said in a floor speech this week, according to a Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier article, but said he could not “in good conscience stand by while injustice prevails.”
Many of Alons” colleagues left the House chamber when he spoke. The news report said action on Alons’ resolutions “does not appear imminent.”
2011 saw the introduction of 14 bills in 7 states to impeach judges the International Business Times reported.
In all but two cases, impeachment was sought because members of the legislature disapproved of a specific decision. None of the attempts were successful.
The findings were released by the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) on their blog, Gavel to Gavel last week. NCSC is a JAS partner organization.
In an article headlined “Co-Equal Opportunity: Legislators Are Out to Take Over Their State Judiciary Systems,” the ABA Journal writes about other types of attacks faced by state courts in 2011:
“[B]y 2011, the number and scope of legislative attacks had grown in dozens of states and covered nearly all phases of court administration, decision-making and judicial selection. Observers note that many such bills ignore the doctrine of separation of powers that establishes the judiciary as a co-equal branch of government.”
The article goes on to quote JAS communications director, Charles Hall, who characterized the scope of the attacks as unprecedented.
For more on impeachment efforts, read Gavel Grab.