When U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito on Monday declined to review the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s recent ruling to force the drawing of a new Congressional district map for the state, it appeared that the state GOP was out of options for challenging the change in districts.
However, if the Trump era has taught us anything, it’s that traditional standards of normalcy in politics aren’t quite as durable as they once were.
According to a memo released late Monday by a Republican state representative, an effort is now afoot to pursue the impeachment of the five democratically elected Pennsylvania Supreme Court justices who voted, in a 5-2 ruling, in favor of the plaintiffs in the redistricting case.
The memo, by Republican Rep. Cris Dush and addressed to the entire body of the House, alleges that the five justices in the majority “engaged in misbehavior in office… wherefore, each is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office and disqualification to hold any office or trust or profit under this commonwealth.”
If at first you don't succeed … Republican St Rep Cris Dush wants to impeach all five @SupremeCtofPA Justices who found the PA congressional map to be an unconstitutional gerrymander. cc: @DKElections @PoliticsWolf https://t.co/KmR0V9F5mg pic.twitter.com/QF3RKaiBZN
— Adam Bonin (@adambonin) February 5, 2018
Rep. Dush asks his colleagues in the House to join him in co-sponsoring legislation to remove the entire majority of the duly elected state Supreme Court, implicitly in order to replace them, in the next few weeks, with judges who will let the current districts stand. It’s not clear why the opponents of the redistricting ruling didn’t move for the judicial impeachments immediately, as opposed to going to the U.S. Supreme Court first.
It’s completely without precedent, it should go without saying, for a legislative body to remove a judge — much less five of them — for the simple misdeed of issuing a ruling with which they disagree. It’s a pure mockery of separation of powers and rule of law.
Unfortunately, it’s not without precedent for Republicans to try to mess with the separation of powers — including interfering with the judicial branch when it does something they don’t like. Daily Kos political editor Carolyn Fiddler pointed out several examples of this in a Twitter thread last night, including one from Kansas that echoed the stunt the Pennsylvania GOP is trying to pull:
Kansas Republicans tried to pass a bill authorizing the impeachment of justices if their decisions "usurp" the authority of other branches of government. And by "usurp" they meant YOUR DECISION IS MEAN AND WE DON'T LIKE IT https://t.co/R4zdsbac8n
— Fiddler (@cFidd) February 6, 2018
Under the Pennsylvania state constitution, according to ThinkProgress, a two-thirds majority is required in the Senate, as well as a majority in the House, in order to remove a statewide official; the state GOP has large majorities in both houses.
However, it would appear unlikely that the effort will go anywhere. As pointed out by our own Robert Wheel, Dush represents one of the most conservative districts in the state, and a successful impeachment would likely require the votes of Republicans from more moderate parts of Pennsylvania.
Dush, meanwhile, took to his Facebook page to complain that people have been really mean to him in reaction to his cockamamie idea. And as is often the case with rants from conservative rural politicians in Pennsylvania, there’s an early, gratuitous shot at Philadelphia.
“I want to alert all of you to the fact that you will start to see some people from the greater Philadelphia area and out of the state start to attack me (in fact it’s already happening) for my willingness to stand up for the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the United States,” Dush writes.
Meanwhile, somewhere at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., the president is likely kicking himself that he hasn’t thought to head off possible future court challenges by moving to simply toss every liberal Supreme Court justice from the bench.