Gingrich’s Judiciary Hunt Riles Conservatives, Reformists
Newt Gingrich's most recent assault on the judiciary continues to rile reform groups and conservatives, who have called the speaker's ideas everything from "totally irresponsible" to "politically foolish."
Justice at Stake, a group dedicated to keeping federal courts impartial, has growing concern about the escalation of some of Gingrich's proposals regarding the judiciary.
"These proposals are radical, they're frightening, and they would plunge the rule of law into chaos and dysfunction," Executive Director Bert Brandenburg said.
Brandenburg is particularly concerned about Gingrich's comments on CBS last weekend. "Face the Nation" host Bob Schieffer asked the former House speaker about his idea that a judge, in some circumstances, should be brought before Congress to explain an unpopular decision.
"How would you enforce that?" Schieffer asked. "Would you send in the Capitol Police down to arrest him?"
"If you had to," Gingrich responded, "or you would instruct the Justice Department to send the U.S. Marshals."
In last Thursday's Fox News GOP debate, Gingrich reiterated his belief that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals should be abolished for ruling in 2002 that 'one nation under God' is unconstitutional in the Pledge of Allegiance.
The Ninth Circuit is authorized to have 29 judges and serves nine western states.
Gingrich said that after that ruling, he "decided that if you had judges that were so radically anti-American that they thought 'one nation under God' was wrong, they shouldn't be on the Court."
Former Judge Michael Mukasey, who served as the attorney general under the Bush administration and supports Mitt Romney for president, disagrees with Gingrich. In an interview with Fox News, Mukasey said, "But to say that you are going to undo an entire court, simply because you don't like some of their decisions, when there are thousands of cases before that court, is totally irresponsible."
Writing for the National Review Online, Edward Whelan, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and former clerk to Supreme Court Justice Justice Antonin Scalia, called Gingrich's idea to oust judges "awful" and "politically foolish."
Whelan said Gingrich's proposal could be a "political hit" with Republican primary voters, but it also might set terrible precedent if he ever won the presidency.
"I think that the prospect that the Gingrich plan would be successfully adopted is zero," Whelan writes, "but consider how terrible it would be if Gingrich did succeed: The precedent he established would equally apply to Supreme Court justices, so the left could unseat, say, Chief Justice Roberts or Justice Thomas the next time Democrats controlled the White House and Congress."
During the debate, Gingrich said the Courts "have become grotesquely dictatorial, far too powerful and I think, frankly, arrogant in their misreading of the American people."
On his website, newt.org, Gingrich has posted a "position paper" titled "Bringing the Courts Back Under the Constitution."
One section is called "Ignoring a Judicial Decision":
"In very rare circumstances, the executive branch might choose to ignore a Court decision. One can imagine such a circumstance when Courts attempt to usurp the foreign policy powers of the executive and legislative branches and such usurpation compromises the national security of the United States and threatens the safety of Americans."
Quinn Gillespie Communications President John Feehery, who worked for almost 20 years for prominent conservatives on Capitol Hill, is puzzled by Gingrich's statements.
"It is a curious time to go to battle with the Supreme Court, especially since it is now run by John Roberts (who is as conservative as any Chief Justice in the last century), and because the Supreme Court is the best chance that conservatives have of overturning 'Obamacare,'" Feehery wrote in a recent blog post.
"There is some speculation that Newt is playing to a conservative base in Iowa, a base that successfully recalled a couple of state judges a few years ago. But recalling State Judges because of policy disagreements is one thing," Feehery says. "Impeaching federal judges because of policy disagreements is something else entirely… it is called over-reach."