* * Republicans Seek Federal Judicial Accountability * *
- J.A.I.L. News Journal
Los Angeles, California July 27, 2003Republicans Seek FederalJudicial AccountabilityFor many years the Senate and the House, although being made knowledgeable of the massive corruption of the federal judiciary, has treated federal judicial appointments as a political football, each side struggling to acquire their persuasion upon the federal bench, never on accountability.If appointments of federal judges were a game of checkers, it would be like having one of your checkers crowned king with lifetime status, once obtained.Most voters, while carefully watching jostling positions in Congress, and observing the shifting landscape between both struggling parties, never realize what the game rules really are. The issue is not really who gets elected to the House or Senate (that is for show), but rather which team gets his checker crowned king.Particularly for the last ten years, the inflow of complaints against federal judges has risen sharply with subsequent rises in pleas for judicial impeachments. Despite the existence of the House Judicial Committee, and the Senate Judiciary Committee, history shows judicial impeachments occur less often than the return of Haley's Comet, which is every 64 years. With the constitutional standard that "...judges, both of the Supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behavior," in order to believe the credibility of either party in Congress, one must believe that bad behavior of any federal judge only comes around once during their lifetime. Such conclusion defies human nature, and draws the conclusion that federal judge's black robes come with a halo, or some kind of sainthood that surpasses that of ministers and priests. (Perhaps priests should be wearing federal judicial robes.)The fact is that the mounting complaints of "bad behavior" of the federal judiciary directed at Congress are met with a strange silence. If there is any noise at all, it is the grinding of the paper shredder just inside the door of the mail-drop marked "Place judicial complaints in this slot." (I've dropped around six in there.) No one in Congress wants to lay their head on the chopping block of the federal judiciary.The Federal J.A.I.L. Bill has been presented to numerous Congressmen. One of our responses was a letter from then House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde telling us about his proposed "Judicial Reform Act of 1997," which he wrote one year after Ron Branson wrote the "Judicial Reform Act of 1996," which was the former name of "J.A.I.L." (Not necessarily any connection based upon the content.)J.A.I.L. possesses Henry Hyde's April 24, 2000 letter of more than three years ago telling us he would consider the Federal J.A.I.L. Bill, however, there is not one shred of evidence that he, or the House Judiciary Committee has ever considered anything of the kind. Anyone curious in asking Congress for a progress report on the status of the Federal J.A.I.L. Bill submitted to the House Judiciary Committee 4/24/00? (At the end of the below published article is the complete text of that Federal J.A.I.L. Bill.)Does Congress really desire to obtain judicial accountability? I doubt it. I believe they are more interested in playing political checkers while appearing to convince us they really are trying to do something about the problem. Comes now the following story of the perplexity of finding some kind of a remedy to the problem, "...the new group will seek to assert more influence through floor speeches, editorial pieces and other efforts," but you may rest assured that absent passage of the Federal J.A.I.L. Bill, it will only be a congressional white wash, and we shall still be here many years later complaining about the "bad behavior" of the federal judges while awaiting the return of Haley's Comet.* * *GOP group plans to turn up scrutiny on federal judges
WASHINGTON Federal judges get lifetime tenure, and they are supposed to rule without fear or favor. But that doesn't mean they can escape criticism.
Last week, House Republicans led by Lamar Smith of San Antonio announced a new task force to scour the output of federal judges for evidence of what they call "judicial abuse." Like umpires, Mr. Smith said, judges shouldn't root for any side, and they should only enforce rules, not write them.
Violators judges who legislate from the bench, as the task force sees it will suffer exposure, public pressure and denunciation, and may be called before Congress to explain themselves.
"Many subscribe to the notion that judges are above it all, that the judiciary is sacred and should be left alone. We say: wrong," Mr. Smith said. "Shining a spotlight on the abuses will go a long way to correcting them. ... This is the beginning of many steps, many news conferences and many reports."
Four Texans are on the 13-member House Working Group on Judicial Accountability: Mr. Smith, chairman of a House Judiciary subcommittee; House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Sugar Land; John Carter of Round Rock, who spent 20 years as a state district judge; and John Culberson of Houston.
"We in the House are putting America's judges on alert: We are watching you," said Mr. DeLay.
Frustration at rulingsThis is a drum Mr. DeLay has beaten for years, reflecting conservative frustration at rulings that, for instance, have kept religious displays out of public buildings.
In 1997, as GOP whip the 3rd-ranked House member he proclaimed that impeachment was a "proper solution" when judges issue "particularly egregious" rulings. And he said "judges need to be intimidated" to ensure they uphold the Constitution.
In that round, a number of House Republicans, including Rep. Sam Johnson of Plano, scoured the federal bench for candidates worthy of impeachment. Mr. DeLay told the Senate Judiciary Committee that "we have a whole big file cabinet full" of names. Examples included a judge who ordered tax increases to support local schools, and one who blocked West Texas GOP candidates for sheriff and county commissioner from taking office pending questions about absentee military ballots.
Impeachment isn't the goal of the latest effort, Mr. Smith said, though once the research starts coming in, "there may be an instance in which that's called for ... . We don't have anybody in mind."
Members of the new task force cited a handful of cases they said smack of judicial activism, including a recent Supreme Court decision that struck down a Texas law banning homosexual sodomy. Texans also lashed out at William Wayne Justice, the semi-retired federal judge who kept the state's prisons under court oversight for two decades.
Mr. Carter, a state district judge for 20 years, said the changes Judge Justice ordered credited by prisoner advocates for curtailing brutality in Texas prisons made them too dangerous to visit.
"I've seen the results of a judiciary run wild," he said.
Backing courts' integrityThe American Bar Association and other legal groups denounced Mr. DeLay's impeachment effort. The chairman of the ABA's standing committee on judicial independence, Dudley Oldham, a senior partner at the Fulbright & Jaworski law firm in Houston, expressed similar concerns about the latest effort.
Ascribing political bias to judges undermines public confidence in the judiciary, he said as does the idea that public pressure can or should influence judges.
"If we impugn the integrity of that system by implying that judges are acting other than in consideration of the facts before them and the law ... if we're putting some sort of political overtone to what they've done, that is not a proper attack," he said.
Although the Constitution gives the House no formal role in judicial nominations, the new group will seek to assert more influence through floor speeches, editorial pieces and other efforts to mobilize public opinion methods many House members in both parties already employ in the most controversial cases, such as the Democrats' ongoing filibuster of conservative lawyer Miguel Estrada to a key federal appeals court.
Similar tactics will be used to "call out" sitting judges deemed to be judicial activists, Mr. DeLay said.
Mr. Culberson cited his hero Thomas Jefferson's quip that the judiciary, being the least accountable branch of government, is also the most dangerous.
"Mr. Jefferson said we may have beaten back our opponents at the polls but they have retreated into the bunkers of the judiciary and turned their guns on the people. We face that here today," he said.
Todd J. Gillman covers Congress and the Texas delegation. E-mail him at tgillman@....