Shannyn Moore for the Anchorage Daily News
When you can’t win, change the rules.
I’ve wondered why our legislators have spent the better part of their time on bills likely to struck down as unconstitutional. They are trying to rewrite our constitution to hand public money to schools, deny women reproductive justice and deny citizens the right to weigh in on resource development.
Lawmakers will vote on bills that they know will end up in court. That takes money that they don’t have to pay for on either side. Maybe we need an amendment that requires those who vote for bills deemed unconstitutional have to pay the legal costs, not the state of Alaska.
I have been disappointed by some decisions by Alaskan judges, but I’ve had to shrug and know it’s our law. Oh, and there’s that handy appeals process.
It’s starting to make sense why the Republican super majority in Juneau feels so free to just make up stuff and stick it on a bill.
How our judges get selected is specific to Alaska. We have the Alaska Judicial Council, made up of three appointments from the Alaska Bar Association, three governor’s choice citizens and a chief justice. Senator Pete Kelly from Fairbanks is pushing for a change. He wants to double the number of the governor’s appointment.
Why? Because several judges have been turned away by the Council in the past several years. The are the sort of judges who could have been under the “activist judge” banner — and not in a good way. There was some mumbling from bill supporters that this was to give rural Alaskans more representation. If anyone is buying that, look at what they do and how they vote, not what they say
This idea to stack courts isn’t new. In Alaska, it would help get judges friendly to the administration on benches. That’s because the governor’s appointed citizens would outweigh the votes of the Bar Association members and judge. It’s a bit of a no brainer.
In 1935, the Supreme Court struck down multiple provisions of the New Deal. After a landslide victory in 1936, President Franklin D. Roosevelt decided he’d take that as a mandate and went after the court. He proposed that he’d get to add a justice for every justice that sat on the bench that was 70 years old or older. That would have given him six appointments!
Can you imagine? See, there’s nothing in the Constitution that says the Court has to have nine judges. The first court had six judges.
Can you imagine if after the Citizens United case, or parts of the Affordable Care Act, or the most recent decision saying police don’t necessarily need a warrant to enter your home, or the Voting Rights Act decision — all terrible decisions by the Supreme Court — Obama decided to just add two more justices to the court?
Oh, lookie! Now you have to get gay married in a socialist school while eating government-funded birth control pills like they’re TicTacs while petting a spotted owl and not wearing a flag lapel pin!
Relax. Obama is the worst socialist ever and isn’t coming for your guns or expanding the Court.
As much as I’d like to see the Supreme Court loaded up with people who aren’t fascists, and as much as I’d like to see the Alaska courts continue with the process that is not broken, it’s the sore loser problem that bugs me most.
The Republicans have had a few of their pet projects thrown out of our courts. Their solution? Change the way we pick judges.
If they were a sporting team would they change the way they pick referees to just people from their hometowns?
How did it work out for FDR and his plan? His own vice-president held his nose and gave a thumbs down. Folks who supported his New Deal and were disappointed in the elements struck down by the highest court didn’t support his plan to take it over. He did make three appointments to the court, one being Justice Robert Jackson who eventually oversaw the Nuremberg Trials.
Justice Jackson said, “It is not the function of the government to keep the citizen from falling into error; it is the function of the citizen to keep the government from falling into error.”
So, there it is, citizens of Alaska. I guess it’s up to us to keep our lawmakers from the error of stacking courts through the Judicial Council expansion.
Shannyn Moore is a radio host on 1480 AM in Washington, D.C., and on Netroots Radio.