Judicial Impeachment Bill Debated at Kansas Legislative Hearing

At a state legislative committee hearing on Thursday, a critic said a proposal to expand the criteria for impeachment of Kansas Supreme Court justices amounts to a naked “power grab.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee heard from both sides about a bill that would expand grounds for impeachment of justices to include new justifications, including a judicial effort to “usurp” the authority of legislators. Justice at Stake has called the bill “clearly unconstitutional” and an attack on Kansas courts.

“I suggest to you the bill’s political motivation should be seen for what it is. It’s a power grab. It’s attempt to control every aspect of our government by those who are presently in control,” said attorney Pedro Irigonegaray, according to The Topeka Capital-Journal.

A Republican proponent of the bill, Sen. Mitch Holmes, said, “Courts have the ability to harm society with their decisions. And impeachment was what our founders intended to be a check and a balance on an unchecked system, or what has evolved into an unchecked system.” (more…)

MO Proposal Would Add New Grounds for Impeaching Judges

Under a proposed constitutional amendment introduced in Missouri, judges could be impeached if they “make certain decisions that fail to interpret the state’s constitution as originally understood by voters,” according to Gavel to Gavel.

Gavel to Gavel is a publication of the National Center for State Courts, and it tracks legislation introduced in the states. Its article says the Missouri proposal provides for a three-step system for judicial decisions and threatens with impeachment any judge who fails to follow the three-step test.

A bill summary available at the state Senate’s website says the measure “delineates procedures a court must follow when assessing a claim against a government entity, that such entity has enforced a law or policy that might limit a person’s exercise of a right or freedom enumerated by the Missouri Constitution or penalize a person for exercising such right or freedom.” (more…)

Praise, Scorn for Kansas School Funding Decision

Gov. Sam Brownback lit into the Kansas Supreme Court after it struck down the legislature’s “block grant” plan to provide public school financing and gave the state until June 30 to enact an “equitable” school funding formula or risk shutdown of its public schools.

“Kansas has among the best schools in the nation and an activist Kansas Supreme court is threatening to shut them down,” Brownback said, according to KSN-TV. “We will review this decision closely and work with the Legislature to ensure the continued success of our great Kansas schools.” Amid ongoing tension with the high court over school funding and other issues, Brownback and allies have sought to change the way its justices are selected (see Gavel Grab), and one such effort recently was defeated in the state House. (more…)

Legislatures Asked to Weigh Restrictions on Use of Foreign Law

Efforts to restrict Islamic, foreign, or international law, in our courts continue on a widespread basis, and in West Virginia, proposed legislation threatens impeachment of a judge found to have violated such a restriction.

That news comes from Gavel to Gavel, a publication of the National Center for State Courts. “A raft of new legislation” has been introduced in 12 states this year, Gavel to Gavel reports, and some of the proposals continue to specifically ban use of sharia in state courts.

The National Center for State Courts is a Justice at Stake partner organization. You can learn more about issues around impeachment of judges from the JAS web page on the topic.

Lawmaker Wants Impeachment of Two Supreme Court Justices

Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan ought to be impeached because they participated in the court’s marriage equality ruling last year after having performed marriages for same-sex couples, Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, said.

“We have two of them who had done same-sex marriages before they participated, they were disqualified, but they illegally participated, it’s an illegal decision, and it’s time to start impeaching judges and remove them from the Supreme Court,” he said in an interview with a Florida talk radio host, according to Right Wing Watch. It is a publication of People for the American Way. (more…)

Impeachment of Utah Juvenile Court Judge is Urged

There is a call to impeach a Utah judge who ordered the removal of a foster child from the home of lesbian parents, saying the girl would have a better life as the child of heterosexual parents. Amid a backlash, he reversed himself a few days later (see Gavel Grab).

The Alliance for a Better Utah urged impeachment of Judge Scott Johansen, according to ABC 4 Utah, and said he was reprimanded by the Utah Judicial Conduct Commission several years ago. The reprimand came after the judge slapped a teen-aged boy in a meeting at a courthouse, the group said.

The Human Rights Campaign, meanwhile, has submitted a complaint with the Utah Judicial Conduct Commission contending that the juvenile court judge violated rules of judicial conduct, according to Fox 13 Salt Lake City. HRC cited a section of the code stating that “A judge shall not, in the performance of judicial duties, by words or (more…)

Report: Impeachment of U.S. Judge Urged by Talk Radio Host

Conservative talk radio host Bryan Fischer has urged impeachment and removal from office of U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning, who recently ordered Rowan County, Ky. Clerk Kim Davis to jail because she refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Fischer’s stance was reported by Right Wing Watch, a project of People for the American Way. Fischer said the judge had imposed an unconstitutional “religious test” on Davis by finding her in contempt of court, according to Right Wing Watch. She was jailed for several days and then released (see Gavel Grab).

Justice at Stake has cautioned about the wielding of impeachment threats over individual rulings. “Efforts to impeach judges over a controversial ruling are particularly troubling. They ignore the U.S. Constitution and are destructive to our justice system. The Constitution limits impeachment to ‘high crimes and misdemeanors.’ Whether courtroom decisions may seem progressive or conservative, they are not criminal. They are not grounds for impeachment,” Liz Seaton, who now is JAS interim executive director, wrote with co-author Jamie Barnett in a Governing op-ed in March (see Gavel Grab).

WA Legislators Apparently Drawing Judicial Impeachment Articles

It appears some Washington legislators are making good on a recent threat to seek to impeach state Supreme Court justices over their ordering higher public education funding and sanctions when the state did not comply (see Gavel Grab).

“The Republicans are working on articles of impeachment for the Supreme Court justices,” Democratic Sen. Jamie Pedersen told Capitol Hill Times.  “I don’t believe that we’ve ever impeached Supreme Court justices.”

“When politicians threaten to remove judges from office for a single ruling, it strikes at the heart of the checks and balances system embedded in our democracy,” Justice at Stake said earlier this year about judicial impeachment threats in another state, Oklahoma.

Calls for Impeachment After WA Court Issues Education Sanctions

Seal_of_Washington.svgThe Washington Supreme Court has fined the state $100,000 a day until legislators come up with a concrete plan to adequately fund K-12 education. Some legislators reacted by raising impeachment threats.

“The time has come for the court to impose sanctions,” the court said on Thursday, according to The Spokesman-Review. It is the latest step in a long-running battle. Because  some legislators believe the court has overstepped its authority on education, there are implications nationally for defenders of impartial courts (see Gavel Grab).

Republican Rep. Matt Shea said the court order violated the separation of powers, and said he had requested the drawing of articles of judicial impeachment. “They are not black robed philosopher kings and queens,” he said on his Facebook page. (more…)

Commentary: ‘Dangerous’ to Seek Impeachment of Justices

US Supreme CourtTo seek the impeachment of five U.S. Supreme Court justices over the court’s recent landmark ruling on marriage rights for same-sex couples would “set a dangerous precedent,” Denis Montenier writes in a Waterloo-Cedar Falls (Ia.) Courier op-ed.

Montenier responds to an earlier commentary that voiced disagreement with the court’s ruling and called for impeaching the justices in the 5-4 majority. He writes:

“To initiate impeachment proceedings against the five justices who ruled in favor of same-sex marriage would not only set a dangerous precedent but would be most divisive. It would only succeed in making the American people more cynical and distrustful. While impeachment might get through the Republican-controlled House, it would be virtually impossible for the Senate to garner the two-thirds majority required for conviction, making the attempt a colossal waste of taxpayer time and money.”