John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


Impeaching Judges

Posted on December 19, 2011
Impeaching Judges

When I worked for Tom DeLay (a long time ago, I might add), he spent a couple of months promoting an idea of his, which I thought was a bit wacky at the time.  He wanted to impeach judges he disagreed with.

DeLay’s point was that the Congress had the right and the ability to impeach members of the judiciary with whom it disagreed.  And I suppose that if you read the Constitution, you can kind of come up with that interpretation.  Article III, Section 1 says the following:  The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their offices during good Behavior, and shall, as stated Times, receive for their services, a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office.”

In other words, the Congress can’t cut its pay if it doesn’t agree with decision of the court.  Now, many conservatives believe that the good behavior clause gives ample room to the Congress to get rid of judges who make bad decisions.  And in fact, many people point out that the impeaching judges used to be fairly routine in the 19th century.  Of course, dueling used to be fairly routine in the 19th century too, as was slavery.

Newt Gingrich, in a curious twist of history, has taken up the Tom DeLay cause in the last couple of days.  He too wants to impeach judges as a tool to get the Judicial branch to do what he wants them to do.

He also said that he reserves the right to ignore the Supreme Court whenever he wants.  As long as the Congress is on his side, he could do anything he wants.

This is but one example why Newt Gingrich wouldn’t be my top choice to be President.  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.

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.  Impeaching federal judges because of policy disagreements is something else entirely.

It is called over-reach.  Gingrich is trying to throw a Hail Mary to win in Iowa, but this twist in his campaign has put him off message.  The former Speaker got in a lot of trouble for going all in on a political strategy to impeach Bill Clinton for having an affair with an intern.  My guess is that this new impeachment strategy isn’t going to work any better for him.