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Archive for the ‘Impeachment’ Category

Political Conflict Embroils NJ Supreme Court

Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto of the New Jersey Supreme Court is the target of a state Senate-passed resolution urging him to resign if the state Assembly doesn’t start impeachment proceedings. The resolution reflects a political fight over the court.

Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto pledged in December to abstain from further decisions on grounds the current makeup of the court is unconstitutional. In January he said he would no longer abstain completely, but would cast a vote if a temporary justice seated on the court did not influence a case’s outcome, the Associated Press reported.

At the center of the controversy is the temporary appointment, made by the bench’s chief justice (see earlier Gavel Grab post). The vacancy was created when Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, decided last year not to reappoint an incumbent justice, saying the court had not done enough to give the state constitution a strict reading. Senate Democrats have refused to consider Christie’s nomination of a successor.

“If the Legislature does nothing in response to the actions of Rivera-Soto, we will be abdicating our authority as an independent, coequal branch of government that is vested by the New Jersey Constitution with the power of impeachment,” said the resolution sponsor, Democratic state Sen. Nia Gill, according to a Newark Star-Ledger article. Read more

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IA Legislators Urged to Drop Impeachment

A group that supports Iowa’s merit-based system for choosing judges has presented to a top Iowa Republican legislator a petition urging legislators to scuttle any idea of impeaching four state Supreme Court justices.

The group, Justice Not Politics, delivered a petition with more than 3,200 signatures, the Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier reported.

But Republican state Rep. Glen Massie was unswayed, and said he will proceed with an impeachment effort  “at the appropriate time.”

“We can’t just sit back on our hands and assume that wisdom will prevail,” former Lt. Gov. Sally Pederson, of the Justice Not Politics group, said of the petition effort.

In November, Iowans voted to deny re-election to three justices who participated in a controversial ruling that permitted same-sex marriage. Some conservatives have been pushing to impeach the remaining four justices. The court opinion in the case was unanimous. Learn more about the controversy by checking out Gavel Grab.

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Scholars Score IA Impeachment Bid

“We fought a Revolution, in part, to ensure that our judges would not be made dependent on the whim of politicians,” a legal scholar writes in denouncing a proposal to impeach four Iowa Supreme Court justices.

Miguel Schor, who teaches at Suffolk University Law School in Boston, takes issue in a Des Moines Register column with impeachment talk. He is a visiting professor at Drake University in Iowa.  Schor maintains that judicial independence — and the view that judges may not be impeached for unpopular decisions — form a bedrock of our constitutional culture.

“When politicians can change the rules of the democratic game by simply changing the judges, everyone’s rights and liberties are at risk,” Schor explains. Although the impeachment process has not begun in the legislature (photo of Capitol at left), there is debate about whether impeachment is an appropriate response to a controversial state high court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage.

In a separate Des Moines Register column, N. William Hines, professor and dean emeritus of the University of Iowa College of Law, explores the view that an impeachment vote in the state House alone could cause severe disruption for the courts. Read more

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Justice Cady Laments IA Impeachment Talk

Iowa Chief Justice Mark Cady has promised transparency and openness in the judiciary as he engages in a speaking tour.

In the wake of the Election Day ouster of three state Supreme Court justices, Justice Cady said he found himself in a position he never requested, of explaining how the justice system works, the Quad City Times quoted him as saying.

Several state House legislators have talked of drafting articles of impeachment for four remaining justices, including Justice Cady, over the court’s unanimous ruling in 2009 that permitted same-sex marriages.

“A judge has never been removed through impeachment for making an unpopular decision,” Justice Cady told the newspaper’s editorial board. “I don’t think Iowa wants to be remembered as the first state to do this.”

Earlier, the Iowa-based Justice Not Politics group and the Justice at Stake Campaign released poll results showing Iowans firmly opposing impeachment of the four justices (see Gavel Grab). The poll was featured in the Quad City Times article and in a Des Moines Register blog.

Iowa House Republicans, meanwhile, submitted a joint resolution aimed at ultimately eliminating equal marriage rights for same-sex couple, by using a constitutional amendment, the Des Moines Register reported.

And Craig Robinson of the “Iowa Republican” blog wrote a commentary entitled, “Impeachment Supporters Should Put Up or Shut Up.” You can learn more about the controversy in Iowa from Gavel Grab.

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JAS Poll: Iowans Firmly Oppose Impeachment

Iowa voters are solidly against a proposal to impeach four state Supreme Court justices, according to two new polls, one of them commissioned by the Justice at Stake Campaign and an Iowa-based group.

The impeachment proposal has drawn increasing national attention in recent weeks, following the historic ouster of three other Iowa justices by voters last November. That vote followed a campaign by social conservatives irate over a high court ruling in 2009 that permitted same-sex marriages.

Fifty-four percent of voters oppose the call for impeachment, while 36 percent favor it, according to the poll released today by Justice at Stake and the Iowa-based Justice Not Politics group.

In addition, only 17 percent of the voters said a court decision amounts to an impeachable offense, compared to 63 percent who said a court decision does not meet the standard for impeachment.

These voters gave their views after being advised that the Iowa Constitution’s standard for impeachment is commission of a “misdemeanor or malfeasance.”

“There can no longer be any doubt that Iowa voters have said a loud, emphatic ‘No’ to impeachment,” said Bert Brandenburg, JAS executive director, in a press release. “Iowans, like all Americans, want their justice system insulated from hard-ball political attacks, even when they disagree with a particular decision.”

Leaders of the Iowa-based group are urging  the legislature to quickly end a “misguided” impeachment effort by several legislators. Read more

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Will IA Impeachment Proposal Stall?

A key Iowa Republican thinks it’s unlikely that legislators will impeach four state Supreme Court justices.

“I don’t believe there’s any likelihood of impeachment,” said state Rep. Richard Anderson, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which would have to clear articles of impeachment before the full state House could take them up, according to a Radio Iowa report.

“I haven’t done any kind of person-by-person inquiry….but I do not believe from the feedback I’m getting from colleagues that there’s a majority of House Republicans that think impeachment is an appropriate remedy in this case,” Anderson said.

Several House Republicans are drafting articles to impeach the four justices who remain on the high court bench after voters dumped three of their colleagues on Election Day. The driving issue in the ouster vote was the high court’s unanimous ruling in 2009 that permitted same-sex marriages.

Anderson holds the personal view, the Des Moines Register reported, that the high court’s action doesn’t meet impeachment standards set in the Iowa Constitution. The state Constitutional  allows for impeachment of a justice in the event of malfeasance in office, or when a misdemeanor is committed.

The legislator had at one point applied to to be considered for one of the court’s three current openings. He has changed his mind. Anderson made his remarks after Iowa Chief Justice Mark S. Cady delivered remarks Wednesday on the state of Iowa’s judiciary, in which he defended the gay marriage ruling Read more

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Top Justice Defends IA Merit Selection, Marriage Ruling

With national attention on Iowa, state Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark S. Cady today staunchly defended both a controversial court decision permitting same-sex marriage and Iowa’s merit selection process for choosing judges.

Justice Cady (photo at right) delivered his State of the Judiciary Message to legislators on the same day a New York Times editorial, entitled “Impeachment as Intimidation,” denounced a proposal by several Iowa House Republicans to impeach four state Supreme Court justices, including the chief justice.

Meanwhile Bob Vander Plaats, a conservative activist who helped lead a successful drive that ousted three Iowa justices from the court last year, launched a statewide tour by urging the four sitting justices to resign and recommending a start to impeachment proceedings if they don’t.

“Iowa has the best method in the nation for selecting its justices,” Justice Cady told joint session of the Iowa General Assembly, according to an Iowa Independent article. “This method, known as merit selection, must be maintained today to help us move forward toward a better tomorrow.”

Justice Cady indicated he and his three fellow justices are staying on the bench. The justices knew the marriage decision would provoke strong reaction but the ruling was appropriate, he said:

“In our government, courts are legal institutions — not political institutions. When a person comes before a judge, that person expects the judge to be neutral and to render a ruling based upon the proven facts of the case and applicable legal principles — not based upon public opinion. Public opinion often shifts. The will of the people followed by the courts is the will expressed in our law as constrained by the written principles in the constitution. If this were any other way, ‘why have a constitution?’

“It is also written into our code of ethics, modeled after national standards, that all judges must make decisions without being ‘swayed by public clamor or fear of criticism.’ If it were otherwise, the rule of law would surely be compromised, as would our constitution. Read more

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IA Paper: Impeachment Plan is 'Pure Insanity'

A propose to impeach four Iowa Supreme Court justices amounts to “pure insanity,” a leading state newspaper editorialized as the legislature opened today.

In an editorial entitled “Stop the impeachment effort now,” the Des Moines Register strongly condemned talk of impeaching four justices who remain on the court after voters removed three others in November. The three, appearing on a retention ballot, were dumped in response to the high court’s 2009 ruling that permitted same-sex marriages in the state.

The editorial maintained that “extraordinary and unacceptable behavior” may be the grounds for impeachment, “but an unpopular court decision is no basis for impeachment.” It concluded:

“It is time for bipartisan condemnation of this reckless impeachment movement before more damage is done to Iowa’s courts and constitutional government. This is an opportunity for reasonable and thoughtful legislators in both parties to stand up and defend the principles of separation of powers, and judicial review by an independent and courageous judiciary able to give meaning and force to the principles articulated in the Iowa Constitution 153 years ago.”

Meanwhile state House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Democrat, vowed, “We’ll try to shut the place down” if Republicans push for impeachment when the justices have done nothing wrong, according to a Des Moines Register article. Democrats hold a 40-member minority in the 100-member House.

On Wednesday, Iowa Chief Justice Mark Cady will deliver the annual State of the Judiciary address to legislators at 10 a.m., and it will be available live through the judicial branch website, www.iowacourts.gov.

According to an Iowa Independent article, the remaining  justices showed they are immoral and “open enemies of God” by choosing Justice Cady to lead the court, conservative radio host Steve Deace and Republican Party of Iowa Central Committee member Wes Enos agreed.

You can learn more about the impeachment controversy in Iowa from Gavel Grab.

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JAS Op-Ed on Iowa in Washington Post

BULLETIN: ‘”Iowans have better choices” than impeachment of four state Supreme Court justices, JAS Executive Director Bert Brandenburg said in a statement today.

The Washington Post today published an op-ed by JAS Executive Director Bert Brandenburg, decrying the looming impeachment crisis in Iowa. His column was quickly recognized by the Atlantic Wire, which tracks the hottest opinions of the day, as one of the five best columns published on Friday.

Some Iowa lawmakers have vowed to impeach four justices who joined a 7-0 opinion that struck down a ban on same-sex marriage. Three other justices already were dumped by voters when they appeared on a retention ballot in November.

In the op-ed, titled, ”End this war on judges,” Brandenburg noted that no federal or state judge has been impeached for judicial opinion or philosophy since the earliest days of our nation.

He described a “safety barrier” shielding “our nation’s courts and democracy” that has stood for more than two centuries but could be breached. While the Iowa debate started over a controversial social issue, he wrote, the impeachment plan has transformed it into something far more incendiary:

The debate may have started over same-sex marriage, but the specter of impeachment has transformed it into an assault on constitutional government….

Impeachments of judges were not designed as a tool for this kind of political disagreement, and the reason is essential to our democracy. If courts can’t make tough calls, they won’t be able to uphold the Constitution and protect our rights.

Brandenburg said that ”impeachment is reserved for serious misconduct,” and that impeaching judges for political reasons would paralyze government, undermine courts and even put state economies at risk. Read more

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Group Blasts IA Impeachment Threat

As some Iowa lawmakers discuss possible articles of impeachment against four state Supreme Court justices, a Des Moines-based group has warned that such a move threatens an independent judiciary.

“Impeachment for a single controversial decision would be a dangerous precedent, an irresponsible use of legislative power, and a disservice to the citizens of Iowa,” cautioned William D. Johnston, president of the American Judicature Society, in a statement.

“Impeachment diverts time and resources away from the vital work of courts and legislatures while undermining the founders’ vision of an independent and impartial judicial branch that would guarantee equal access to justice for all citizens, even if their cause is politically unpopular,” Johnston added.

AJS, a partner of Justice at Stake, is a non-profit devoted to preserving fair and impartial courts and improving the administration of justice.

Several state House Republicans have signaled they are drafting impeachment articles that will target four justices who participated in a unanimous ruling that permitted same-sex marriages. Three other justices were on the retention ballot in November and were denied re-election by voters.

Meanwhile, U.S. District Judge Robert Pratt heard oral arguments Thursday in a conservative-led challenge to the composition of the Iowa Judicial Nominating Commission, a 15-member panel that recommends finalists for openings on the state Supreme Court. Read more

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