Sunday, April 03, 2005

Republicans Attack American System of Checks and Balances

Portrait of Chief Justice John Marshall

In response to the Courts' perceived failure to intervene on behalf of Terri Schiavo, Tom DeLay, the Republican majority leader of the United States House of Representatives angrily attacked the judiciary. As has been reported about Mr. Delay:
The courts "had thumbed their nose at Congress and the President," the Texan said. More astounding still, he appeared to threaten vengeance against those who had defied his wishes. "The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behaviour," he thundered, implying that impeachment of the errant judges was not out of the question.
James Dobson, the conservative evangelist went further:
"It's time that the congress fulfill its constitutional responsibility to rein in the courts, the Constitution, Article 3, Section 1, gives the congress responsibility for all courts below the Supreme Court level. They can end the franchise, if you will, of a particular court. They can bring judges who make off-the-wall decisions to congress to explain what they've done." The "court is arrogantly thumbing its nose at every other form of authority."
The role of the courts in America has been established for over 200 years. In 1803, in Marbury v. Madison, Chief Justice John Marshall established the principle of judicial review by the courts and the need to keep them independent. As has been noted:
The fact remains, however, that participants in the ratification debates for the most part assumed that the Constitution empowered the judiciary to invalidate unconstitutional laws. What makes Marbury a landmark decision, is that it was the first case in which the judiciary's power to review and void the acts of another branch of the federal government was asserted.
In fact, criticism of the judiciary is not a new phenomenon. In the same article, it is pointed out:
Although Marbury set precedent for the proposition that the federal courts could and should serve as a check on the political branches and majoritarian whim without jeopardizing their independence, such a proposition has never implied immunity from criticism. To the contrary, criticism of the judiciary - including countermajoritarian criticism - has come and gone in cycles, beginning with the founding generation. Throughout that time, unpopular decisions have subjected individual judges to personal attacks and occasional calls for impeachment and removal. Never, however, has a judge been removed from office because of an unpopular decision alone.
However, the importance of an independent judiciary cannot be overestimated. As noted:
Whether judges use written constitutions, elaborate legal codes, a common law tradition, or religious texts, their decisions must be based on some generally recognized and approved standard if they are to endure. By removing courts from the daily political pressures and rapidly changing social forces confronted by other government leaders, societies can best preserve the element of judicial independence so vital to stable political systems.
A "stable political system." An independent judiciary not subject to the political whims of the day. Rule by law. Isn't that what we want for America?

The political party in power abuses its position by harassing the judiciary, voiding international agreements, evading responsibilities in justice questions as basic as the Geneva Conventions. We cannot afford to lose any of our last protections that shield us from a government intent on imposing its own view of morality and behavior upon us all.

America deserves better. America needs new leadership in Washington. Keep that door open for 2008 Senator Kerry! We have your back.



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