Saturday, January 01, 2005

Does Rehnquist get this wrong?

Rehnquist Sees Threat to Judiciary from impeachment threats:

Ailing Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist said today that judges must be protected from political threats, including from conservative Republicans who maintain that "judicial activists" should be impeached and removed from office.

"The Constitution protects judicial independence not to benefit judges, but to promote the rule of law: Judges are expected to administer the law fairly, without regard to public reaction," the chief justice, whose future on the court is subject to wide speculation, said in his traditional year-end report on the federal courts.

The public, the press and politicians are certainly free to criticize judges, Rehnquist said, but politicians cross the line when they try to punish or impeach judges for decisions they do not agree with.
I disagree with Rehnquist's sentiment, if it is reported correctly here. Impeachment is the only check that the Congress has has on the Courts. In fact, neither the President nor the people can do anything to remove the lifetime appointed judges who sit on the federal bench, so Congress has the only check and balance on the federal courts. While judicial independence is necessary to promote the rule of law over the rule of politics, politics has infected the judiciary to the point that impeachment may be necessary to promote the rule of law, especially when judges more often than is tolerable say what they think the law should be, rather than what it is.