Throw Out Judges, Politicians Who Cripple American Ideals
By tradition, we rarely impeach judges.
But corrupt billionaires and their Republican allies have cheated and ignored old traditions so much, progressive Democrats need to boldly use every legal method to fight back.
It’s very undemocratic to have fairly young federal judges appointed by a president instead of elected and then serve for life, influencing our policies for 40 or 50 years.
When our Founding Fathers made this rule in the Constitution in 1787, the average life expectancy was only 35 and a Supreme Court justice served only an average of 8 years.
So a lifetime appointment means something very different than it did then.
It’s especially bad now that corrupt billionaires have trained and brainwashed judges to sabotage our core American values and ideals.
There are a number of ways we can get rid of incompetent or extremist judges or politicians who are:
- against voting rights
- against LGBT rights
- extremely pro-wealth or pro-corporations
- biased against the rights of workers & consumers
- biased against protecting the environment
First, we can impeach judges, the president, and the vice president for “high crimes and misdemeanors.” And Congress can throw out (expel) any of its members for the same thing.
Legal scholars and historians agree that “high crimes and misdemeanors” are serious violations of public trust, such as abuses of power, and that you can impeach even if the person has committed no crime.
Judges and politicians have been impeached or expelled for things like corruption, abuse of power, bribery, perjury, sexual misconduct, favoritism, disloyalty, election fraud, income tax evasion, and embezzlement.
Impeachment for Bigotry
We can also impeach judges or presidents for bigotry. And we could throw out members of Congress for it.
The historical precedent for impeaching for bigotry is our first presidential impeachment, that of Andrew Johnson in 1868.
- The 10th of the 11 articles of impeachment quoted at length from racist speeches Johnson made.
- Like Trump, Johnson was a champion of white supremacy who manipulated racial hatreds for political gain.
- After the Civil War, Johnson vetoed and fought against laws giving black Americans the right to vote or hold lands confiscated by the Union Army and distributed to them.
- He fought against blacks having civil right to make contracts, sue, and inherit, purchase, sell, or lease land or property.
- Because Johnson vetoed these proposed laws, Congress passed the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution to give African Americans the right to vote and these other civil rights.
- Johnson vetoed all federal laws to protect blacks from racial terror and put former Confederate officials back in charge, appointing them as governors.
- Johnson pardoned a white man who murdered a black man in broad daylight and ignored reports of massacres of freed black slaves.
- The 10th article of Johnson’s impeachment described his inflammatory, scandalous, racist language and the resulting cries, jeers, and laughter in the crowds as dangerous threats that bring disgrace, ridicule, hatred, and contempt to our government.
- Johnson only avoided removal by the Senate by one vote because one senator appears to have been bribed to vote for him.
Our House of Representatives technically impeached Johnson because he broke a Tenure of Office Act.
But historians see the impeachment as the result of the fierce battle for African American rights after the Civil War. Johnson likely set back American race relations for the next 100 years.
Congress impeached President Andrew Johnson because they understood his racism was a threat to our Constitution, to human rights, and to the future of our country.
Trump clearly deserves impeachment for bigotry. His obvious bigotry has surely contributed to the recent resurgence of Hitler’s old black, Jew, and LGBT race hatreds and to the increasing rates of violence against these peoples.
We Should Impeach Far More Often
Congress can impeach federal judges and state legislatures can impeach state judges in every state except Oregon.
But impeachment is a rarely used option.
We have a long history against impeaching judges for “policy disagreements” so that judges remain independent and free from political pressure.
Of course, judicial independence is extremely important.
But it should not protect bigot judges and those sabotaging our voting rights or other core American values and ideals.
In fact, we need to impeach judges for bigotry because no bigot can obey the constitutional oath to dispense justice fairly.
Any president, judge, or politician biased against African Americans or LGBT people is a danger to the equal protection of our laws that our Declaration of Independence and Constitution require.
Impeachment is a fairly weak option because it requires such a large majority in the Senate to convict (2/3) and so is useless against those with a large political power base.
In most democracies around the world, it is easier to get rid of an incompetent leader.
For example in parliamentary democracies, a political party can simply replace its unpopular or incompetent Prime Minister without even waiting for an election.
Most states have a judicial review mechanism besides impeachment for investigating complaints, qualifications, evaluating conduct or performance, and disciplining or removing judges for misconduct.
For example, Alabama twice removed its bigoted and accused serial sexual predator former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore from office.
Most states elect judges. Some states allow citizens to recall elected judges by starting with a petition.
And we already have a law that stops judges from hearing or deciding cases if they have been convicted of a felony, whether in state or federal court.
Some Constitutional experts argue that you can remove a judge for far less than the bar required in impeachment and far less than a conviction in court that makes the person unfit to hold public office.
- In a 2006 article in the Yale Law Journal, two conservative scholars showed that the Founding Fathers understood the Constitution’s provision saying federal judges “shall hold their offices during good behavior” to mean you could remove a judge by simple judicial review.
- They showed centuries of English law at the time used reviews to remove judges.
- Before 1787, the early US state constitutions of Maryland, New York, South Carolina, and Massachusetts did, too.
- And the Northwest Ordinance for courts in the territories also used this “good behavior” standard for judges, even before there was a separate House and Senate to impeach
Surely the Founding Fathers agreed that a panel of judges can remove misbehaving or incompetent judges, like Alabama did Roy Moore.
Laws We Need
Fortunately, it is very clear Congress has broad powers to structure any department of our government, including the federal courts.
- For example, Congress already passed a law that says any judge convicted of a felony cannot hear any cases unless a council of judges decides to give him or her permission to do so.
- Congress also passed a law saying judges convicted of taking a bribe could never hold any office again, even without impeachment.
Right now, not every state allows impeachment, we rarely impeach anyone, and not all states have laws to review and remove incompetent or misbehaving judges.
We need better, standardized ways to discipline and remove bigoted and bad judges nationwide and also judges whose ruling show they clearly don’t care about democracy, voting rights, or human rights.
The two conservative scholars who wrote the 2006 article in the Yale Law Journal above suggest Congress could:
- establish a law that automatically removes any judge if a court convicts that judge for any of a list of offenses.
- pass a law creating a separate judicial process to remove judges accused of misconduct by the Justice Department.
- create another review board in which federal judges can police their own using the “good behavior” standard.
If the president signs any such law from Congress, it would become the law of the land.
Judges have experience in evaluating evidence and weighing criminal charges, so they are well suited to decide about removing judges for misbehavior.
Creating boards or committees of judges to review, discipline, and remove judges protects the independence of the judiciary.
To protect our sacred ideals and values enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution, we should require the use of judges who are experts in human rights, on Constitutional law, and on environmental issues on the judicial review boards or committees.
Close Loopholes & Establish Term Limits
We should close the loophole that stops ethics or misconduct investigations just because a judge joins the Supreme Court or because the judge resigns or retires.
- When newspapers uncovered the massive tax fraud of President Trump’s family, Donald Trump’s sister Maryanne Trump-Barry resigned and retired from a federal appelate court in order to end the investigation.
- Another federal judge avoided an investigation into accusations of sexual misconduct by more than a dozen law clerks by retiring.
Judges don’t always recuse themselves from cases despite personal conflicts of interest.
- As head of the Justice Department, William Barr refused to recuse himself from overseeing the Mueller investigation.
- Barr also refused to recuse himself from Trump’s Ukraine scandal despite being involved in it.
We should stop letting judges and high government officials decide for themselves whether or not a conflict of interest means they should recuse themselves from a particular case.
We could establish review boards to make sure judges don’t preside over cases in which they have personal interests.
We can also establish term limits for federal judges.
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