March 28, 1997 in City

Judges Often Save Us From Tyranny Dangerous Whim Constitution Works Best When Balanced.

By The Spokesman-Review
 

What should Americans do when a judge makes a decision with which they disagree?

The first thing we ought to do is thank God that we live in a nation governed by law rather than by paramilitary coups, privileged interest groups or the whims of popular prejudice.

However, some Republicans in Congress contend that judges who make unpopular decisions ought to be impeached - by Congress, of course, that bastion of open-mindedness and integrity. Some so-called conservatives even want to make the legislative branch into a final court of appeal, with power to review and overturn unpopular decisions by the judiciary.

Never in U.S. history has a federal judge been impeached for politically unpopular decisions - nor would the Constitution allow such a thing. Impeachment is permitted only for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”

Yes, some judges have made noxious decisions. Some have even exceeded their authority, inventing new laws such as a right to euthanasia or taking over the management of public agencies such as schools and prisons.

But our Constitution offers adequate remedies. We elect the presidents who name our judges. The time to reject jurists who’d be close-minded ideologues, activist lawmakers or bossy tyrants is when the president is nominating and the Senate is confirming. The time to challenge the validity of a judge’s decision is in the appeal of that decision. And when appeals conclude, legislators or voters can change the laws on which court rulings are based.

Americans should be loathe to assault the balance and separation of powers. Why? Because the majority can be wrong. Down through our history when the majority of Americans have supported the oppression of human rights or have despised the free voices of political or religious dissent, only one thing stood between us and the slippery slope that ends in tyranny: The Constitution, and an independent judiciary with power to enforce it.

Often when “activist” courts intervene, it’s because the other two branches have failed to hear the people’s cry.

Congress reflects popular opinion. The executive branch leads. An independent judiciary offers justice for all. Each can fail. So each must be denied the power to corrupt the other.

, DataTimes MEMO: For opposing view see headline: It’s judges who’ve become tyrants

The following fields overflowed: SUPCAT = COLUMN, EDITORIAL - From both sides CREDIT = John Webster/For the editorial board

For opposing view see headline: It’s judges who’ve become tyrants

The following fields overflowed: SUPCAT = COLUMN, EDITORIAL - From both sides CREDIT = John Webster/For the editorial board


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