Gallery C

A Broken Court
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Impeaching The Supreme Court

By James Donahue

The rash of politically unpopular 5-4 rulings by the nine members of the United States Supreme Court has stirred a movement to somehow “fix” what appears to be a broken legal system at the very top.
The latest Hobby Lobby decision allowing corporations to deny women’s insurance for birth control appears to have been the final straw. The decision appears to have been a ruling exclusively against women’s rights, made by five male members of the court. Also the five that ruled in favor of the decision were all appointed by Republican presidents.

We were probably one of hundreds of thousands of people to receive a recent e-mail asking us to sign a petition and send money supporting a movement by a group called Peaceteam to impeach the five troublesome and obviously conservative members of the court.

We all know who they are: Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Anthony Kennedy and Samuel Alito Jr.

The letter offers a plan of attack that begins with a major take-over of Congress by liberal Democratic Party candidates in the upcoming mid-term election. It reads: “after we replace enough bought off members of Congress to get this constitutional amendment on the road to ratification, we will automatically, at the same time, have enough votes to start impeaching these reactionary judicial activists for their crimes against critical thinking.”

The suggested Constitutional Amendment, the letter states, clarifies the issue that “corporations are not people and money is not speech.”

This all sounds like a great plan, but unfortunately, bringing change to a corrupted government is not quite as simple as the Peaceteam organization suggests.

The first trick will be getting a Democratic majority to seize seats in Congress. A lot of clever redistricting has been going on in Republican held regions throughout the country since the 2,000 census, and you can bet the districts are carefully mapped to give the GOP an vote advantage. Also there is a lot of corporate money now flowing into television, radio, Internet and printed advertising designed to convince voters that the Democratic candidates are leading the nation down the wrong path.

Indeed, the Constitution does provide for the impeachment of Supreme Court members, but more than a majority vote of the Congress is required. Only certain kinds of offenses are necessary to justify such a vote. If and when Congress determines that a judicial member is guilty of such an offense, and votes for impeachment, the case then goes before the Senate, which then holds the equivalent of a public trial.
Felony crimes bring natural cause for judicial removal. But the Constitution defines problematic behavior as a failure to maintain “good behavior,” which some have regarded at the level of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” But that would be up for legal interpretation, and probably decided by the very judicial bench that is targeted for impeachment.

While there have been attempts to impeach Supreme Court members, it has never happened. And because of the way the Constitution is worded, and because members are appointed to that court for life, it probably will never happen.

The best solution to this problem is to get a Constitutional amendment adopted that sets term limits for the court. Getting an amendment like this approved by legislators is only the first step. It then must be ratified by a majority of the state governments before it is an official amendment. This process alone could take years.

In the meantime, the Supreme Gang of Five appears free to continue ravaging the nation’s way of doing business and tipping the scales of our once balanced system of government without any way of stopping it.