April 10, 2005

Penal Injustice


From FoxNews today: DeLay in Hot Water Again.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay came under more fire Friday for his comments suggesting that judges who refused to further consider the Terri Schiavo case could one day pay for their decisions.

The Texas Republican on Friday suggested an impeachment case could be made against judges who rebuffed Congress’ will in the Schiavo case. As the severely brain-damaged Florida woman faded, Congress passed a law allowing federal courts to review the decisions of state judges who turned down her parents’ efforts to resume her feeding. But state and federal judges all the way up to the Supreme Court upheld those decisions.

Arguing that federal courts had “run amok,” largely because Congress failed to confront them, DeLay said: “Judicial independence does not equal judicial supremacy.”

The comments came in a videotaped speech delivered to a Washington conference entitled “Confronting the Judicial War on Faith.”

DeLay pointed the finger of blame at the courts for what he said was their invention of abortion rights and prohibitions of school prayer. He argued that courts had blatantly ignored the intent of Congress. ...

On the day Schiavo died, DeLay said: “The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior.”

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has taken a much more conciliatory tone on the issue, saying only that he wants to maintain the current independence of the courts and hopes a compromise can avoid a fight to change the rules.

President Bush on Friday said he supports “an independent judiciary” and declined to endorse comments by DeLay that were critical of judges.

“I believe in proper checks and balances,” Bush said. ...

Few other Republicans have gone as far as DeLay in criticizing an independent branch of government. [Emphasis added]

The Courier-Journal noted in an editoral: Tom DeLay’s jihad.

The needlessly inflammatory and divisive name of the conference at which he [Rep. DeLay] spoke (one he helped organize) is revealing: “Confronting the Judicial War on Faith.” There is no such war -- no evidence whatsoever that any court has set out to curb the rights of citizens to worship freely.

What Rep. DeLay is attempting to do is to inflame religious passions to further his reckless and destructive assault on the courts. He argued at the conference that federal courts have “run amok” largely because Congress has failed to control them. He said the proper response “is to reassert (Congress’) constitutional authority over the courts.”

But Congress doesn’t have that authority, beyond narrowly defined roles such as Senate confirmation of federal judges and impeachment powers in the case of criminal behavior. Otherwise, judicial independence is a cornerstone of the constitutional separation of powers that defines the American system of checks and balances. Conservatives should understand that.

The New York Times reported Friday: DeLay Says Federal Judiciary Has ‘Run Amok,’ Adding Congress Is Partly to Blame. (Via TIA Daily)

The organizers of the ["Confronting the Judicial War on Faith"] conference and Congressional staff members who spoke there called for several specific steps: impeaching judges deemed to have ignored the will of Congress or to have followed foreign laws; passing bills to remove court jurisdiction from certain social issues or the place of God in public life; changing Senate rules that allow the Democratic minority to filibuster Mr. Bush’s appeals court nominees; and using Congress’s authority over court budgets to punish judges whom it considers to have overstepped their authority.

UPDATE I -- April 11: Also in the news are allegations of ethics violations by DeLay. FoxNews reports: Shays: DeLay Should Step Down. Joe Gandelman has more on this aspect of the story (via InstaPundit).

UPDATE II -- April 14: From The New York Times: DeLay Asks House Panel to Review Judges.

Deflecting all questions about his ethical conduct and political future, Representative Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, on Wednesday stepped up his crusade against judges, announcing that he had instructed the Judiciary Committee to investigate federal court decisions in the Terri Schiavo case and to recommend possible legislation. ...

Mr. DeLay was not specific about what legislative changes, if any, he would like to see emerge from the Judiciary Committee's review. But in announcing that he had asked Representative F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., a Wisconsin Republican and the committee chairman, to examine the actions of federal judges in the Schiavo case, Mr. DeLay said the House had previously passed legislation limiting the jurisdiction of the courts and breaking up the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, a bill that died in the Senate.

"We set the jurisdiction of the courts," Mr. DeLay said. "We set up the courts. We can unset the courts."

Posted by Forkum at April 10, 2005 10:23 PM