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Shorter Newt: Impeach Earl Warren and Bring Back the Trail of Tears

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I have a piece up at the Prospect about the attacks on the federal judiciary increasingly made by several Republican candidates, all of whom apparently have yet to be informed about the death of Earl Warren:

This returns us the question of why attacks on the federal courts have been so common in the Republican primary, when in fact the Rehnquist and Roberts Courts have largely been bonanzas for Republican interests. The four judges praised by most of the Republican candidates in the Iowa debate are not remotely deferential to the political branches. If there is any case that represents an “arrogant misreading” of the American public, it is the Citizens United decision. The public mood may have turned against corporate America, but the Roberts Court remains its best friend. And, of course, the same Republican candidates who have spent a great deal of time decrying “judicial activism” are also urging the Supreme Court to strike down the centerpiece legislation of Barack Obama’s first term on the basis of an extremely dubious legal argument….

Not only are many of the Republican attacks on the courts potentially dangerous; they also reflect a bizarre world in which Republican-dominated federal courts are seen as bastions of liberalism. As on so many other issues, wealthy, privileged Republicans have the remarkable ability to be permanently aggrieved no matter how much they’re winning.

The thing is is that, while Gingrich’s arguments are obviously unserious, I am actually not a big fan of judicial supremacy, and don’t think that all of the policy proposals being made by Republicans are unreasonable. I actively support non-renewable fixed terms of Supreme Court justices, and have no objection to a legislative override (although as a look across the northern border would make clear these changes would have much less of an effect on the institution of judicial review than the politicians making the proposals seem to understand.) Granted, I wouldn’t bring up Andrew “John Marshall has made his ruling, now let us proceed with ethnic cleansing” Jackson or Jefferson’s abolition of federal circuit courts as salutary examples, but I certainly don’t think that courts should have any kind of monopoly on constitutional interpretation. But what amazes me is that to listen to the Republican candidates you’d think it was still 1965.

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