Monday, October 24, 2011

GOP Candidates Ready to Dismantle Federal Judiciary

The GOP primary contenders appear ready to tear the federal judiciary apart:

- Perry wants to have term limits on the USSC justices.
- Bachman and Paul want to forbid to the USSC from considering cases involving same sex marriage (although for different reasons, of course).
- Gingrich and Santorum want to abolish the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

An article by Adam Liptak and Michael Shear in this morning's NY Times - Republicans Turn Judicial Power Into A Campaign Issue - details the GOP's opposition to some or all of the federal judiciary.
Criticism of “activist judges” and of particular Supreme Court decisions has long been a staple of political campaigns. But the new attacks, coming from most of the Republican candidates, are raising broader questions about how the legal system might be reshaped if one of them is elected to the White House next year.

The complaints are in line with the candidates’ general opposition to federal authority. Like the elected branches of the federal government, they say, the federal judiciary has become too powerful and intrusive.

Liptak and Shear take pains to outline why many of these anti-judiciary positions are completely out of the question. Perry's suggestion about term limits would, of course, require amending the Constitution since Article III, Section 1 confers lifetime tenure on the federal judiciary. Perry's proposal that Congress would have the right to overturn a USSC decision by a 2/3 majority would mean the abrogation of Marbury v. Madison - something Gingrich thinks would be a good thing.

Still, there may be a way for Congress to limit the power of the federal judiciary. Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution provides that the USSC, “shall have appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact, with such exceptions, and under such regulations as the Congress shall make.” These and other Constitutional waters remain untested.

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