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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Can independent state judiciaries survive the onslaught of Republican misrule?

by Joan McCarter
Wingnuts at the state level have altered their tactics from bemoaning "activist judges" to stacking the deck to make sure that any activism state judges do complies with their own political wishes. Some examples from Liz Seaton, Interim Executive Director for​ Justice at Stake Campaign writing at TPM:
Republican presidential candidate Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) speaks at a Family Research Council
What the Kansas legislature actually did pass, and Brownback signed into law, is […] a measure to defund all Kansas courts if any state judge overturns a 2014 law removing the state Supreme Court's authority to select 31 chief district judges. Could the message be any clearer? "Decide a legal case the exact way we want, or we'll put you out of business." This month, after a judge struck down the judicial-appointment law for violating the separation of powers, the court-defunding law is now facing a constitutional challenge in court. In Wisconsin, legislators pushed through a ballot initiative this year on a party line vote to amend the state constitution, laying the foundation for replacing a liberal, longtime chief justice in the middle of an elected term of office, with a wingnut one.
And that’s exactly what happened. The court’s wingnut majority voted quickly, by email, for the change in leaders. This consolidated political clout on a court that has subsequently quashed a campaign finance probe, with several special interest groups under investigation.
Finally, in North Carolina, legislators passed a bill changing the way elected Supreme Court justices go about seeking a new term. They will have an option to run in retention (up-or-down) rather than contested races. Pat McCrory, a wingnut teabagger, signed the bill into law and it takes effect next year.
That last one doesn't sound like such a bad idea, until you find out its effect: "The first North Carolina Supreme Court member to be affected by the new law? A wingnut judge now sitting in the majority in a 4-3 split on the state’s highest court. If the old law were standing and voters toppled the wingnut judge in a contested election next year, the wingnuts would lose their majority." They don't want to take a chance on a wingnut judge running a contested race in a presidential year, potentially favorable to Democrats. All examples of those famous "law and order" wingnuts, but since at least 2000 it's been clear that they only respect the rule of law when it decides in their favor.

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