Former Speaker Newt Gingrich recently called for abolition of the entire Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Speaking to the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, he got laughs and applause when he said Thomas Jefferson’s “judicial reform act of 1802 abolished 18 out of 35 federal judges, over half…I am more cautious than Jefferson. I would only abolish the Ninth Circuit Court.”
Urging abolition of a court is no laughing matter, however.
It is the kind of ideology-based attack, as described in a Justice at Stake report entitled “Crusading Against the Courts,” that seeks to undermine the independence of the courts by injecting religious politics into the selection of judges, how cases are decided, and whether to deny certain Americans their day in court.
The San Francisco-based Ninth Circuit is the largest federal appeals court. With a reputation for a bench dominated by liberals, it long has been the object of controversy.
Gingrich called for the court’s abolition after alluding to a First Amendment controversy over a cross in the Mojave National Preserve. It was erected as a memorial to soldiers who died in World War I. The cross was the subject of a Ninth Circuit Court decision now on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“The cross currently has a box over it because after all the ACLU is such a totalitarian organization it is threatened by a cross in the middle of the desert,” Gingrich said.
Last November, at a think-tank appearance, Gingrich went further in urging abolition of the Ninth Circuit.
“It is constitutionally permissible,” he asserted, “for the legislature and the president to say to a court, you are intolerable, and you no longer exist. And we need that debate because I am tired of secular fanatics trying to redesign America in their image.”
Perhaps Gingrich would have done better to quote Alexander Hamilton, who wrote, “The independence of the judges is…requisite to guard the Constitution and the rights of individuals.” You can learn more about the Founders and our courts from Justice at Stake’s issues page on the topic.