Political Assault on the Justice System
Sobel, Allan D., Judicature
"The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior." House Majority Leader, Tom DeLay, after the death of Terri Schiavo.
It is time to "bring the courts back to heel [and] maybe remove some of their feeding tubes. " U.S. Representative Steve King.
Terri Schiavo has found her peace at last, but the battle for an independent (and accountable) judiciary and consistent recognition of the limits of federal power rages on. Congress' effort to bully its way through the courthouse and simply to pretend that years of state court litigation and judicial rulings did not exist-in its frenzied enactment of S. 686 "For the relief of the parents of Theresa Schiavo"-was a direct assault on the independence of our state and federal judiciaries, as well as on decentralized government.
This unprecedented effort of Congress, with assistance from the Executive Branch, to reenergize a private dispute that had already been considered, reconsidered, and resolved by the courts, sets a dangerous precedent and has degenerated into an alarming affront against the delicate balance of power that sustains our democracy. The American Judicature Society is most concerned about the toll this is taking on our courts. Political ambition and political rancor are once again driving our justice systems to a crossroads of either (1) stability through independence, accountability, and respect, or (2) timidity and submissiveness through unfair and intemperate criticism, irresponsible threats, and direct assault on their jurisdiction and powers.
Our courts are constitutionally charged with the interpretation of the laws of the land and the protection of our constitutional rights. The judicial branch is uniquely dependent on what the late Judge Richard Arnold called "the continuing consent of the governed" to fulfill its mission of interpreting the law and resolving peacefully seemingly irreconcilable differences. If the courts do not have the support of, and are not shown due deference by, elected officials, how can we expect citizens, our friends and neighbors, to uphold the sanctity of the law of the land?
To meet their common responsibility of protecting and empowering the citizens of this country, the navigators of each branch of government must remain above the fray of increasing moral and political polarization, resist resorting to incendiary rhetoric for selfish gain, and above all embrace due respect for and deference to one another.
Our democratic government has been challenged often during its history. …