February 13, 2018

The New York University School of Law's Brennan Center for Justice just released another study regarding state legislative attempts to weaken their judiciaries. As Republicans have taken over and maintained their stranglehold on state and local governments, they have sought to rig any and all branches of those governments in their favor. From voter gerrymandering to school districts, republicans have been steadily manipulating every institution that they can get their grubby little hands on.

In January of this year alone, the Brennan Center reports that at least 14 states are feverishly working to tie the hands of judges. There are currently at least 42 bills in various states that intend to take away the checks and balances that judiciaries provide against unconstitutional laws written by legislators.

The Oklahoma state legislature proposes to only allow judicial nominees that they approve of, change non-partisan elections of justices to partisan and reduce their supreme court from 9 to 5 judges. Another bizarre bill before the Oklahoma legislature would require appellate and supreme court justices to retire if their years of service and their age combine to over 80 years. Should this pass, 7 of the 9 current Oklahoma Supreme Court justices would be immediately removed. These proposals follow recent rulings against conservative overreach with regard to the death penalty, abortion and religion, according to the Brennan report.

North Carolina is following their unconstitutional voting district gerrymandering with the most bills seeking to weaken their judiciary. Bills currently before the legislature seek to limit judges' terms from 4 to 2 causing them to constantly be in re-election mode. Other bills include one to eliminate "emergency judges" that aid in reducing backlogs, one to redraw judicial districts to Republicans' advantage and one to strip the current Democratic governor's power to appoint justices and give it to the Republican-controlled General Assembly.

Other states working to limit judicial powers include Iowa, Hawaii, Alaska, New Mexico, Florida, Missouri and Pennsylvania. Some seek to limit the power of their judiciaries by limiting resources and budgets, others by making it illegal for courts to determine the constitutionality of laws passed by legislatures.

Just last week, Republican Pennsylvania State Representative Chris Dush demanded that legislators should have the ability to impeach justices for ruling against Republican gerrymandering of voting districts. According to a CNN report:

"The five Justices who signed this order that blatantly and clearly contradicts the plain language of the Pennsylvania Constitution, engaged in misbehavior in office," a memo from Dush read. "Each is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office and disqualification to hold any office or trust or profit under this Commonwealth."

The whole point of the judiciary and legislative branches of government is to provide checks and balances of power. Republicans are proving once again that if their ideology cannot win elections and power, they will cheat and corrupt the system.

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