Wisconsin Republicans Want Court Stripping Legislation

The courts have long been a convenient whipping boy for the far right. When the courts rule in a way they don’t like, they often propose legislation to limit the authority of the judicial branch, as Republicans in Wisconsin are now trying to do with a new bill:

With some of their major legislative achievements thwarted by trial courts in the past two years, Wisconsin Republicans have been looking for ways to rein in local judges, particularly in liberal areas such as Dane County.

Since 2011, circuit court judges have blocked all or parts of laws backed by Republicans that required voters to show photo ID at the polls, limited collective bargaining for public employees and expanded the governor’s power over administrative rules. Under a measure announced last month, such injunctions would be automatically stayed as soon as they were appealed – meaning laws that were blocked would be put back in effect until a higher court issued a ruling.

Grothman argued that currently circuit court judges elected by only a fraction of the state’s population have the ability to block laws enacted by a Legislature and governor chosen by a majority of the voters.

“It seems inappropriate that a circuit court judge elected by a tiny portion of the electorate can put things on hold,” he argued.

Funny, when it comes to the federal courts, conservatives like to argue that courts should be limited because they aren’t elected at all. But when they are elected at the state level, it just isn’t by enough people. And isn’t it interesting how the very people who claim to revere the constitution so much object to one of its most central and important provisions, the establishment of an independent judiciary? That was done quite intentionally and much discussed in the Federalist Papers. In Federalist 78, Hamilton was as blunt as can be about this issue:

The complete independence of the courts of justice is peculiarly essential in a limited Constitution. By a limited Constitution, I understand one which contains certain specified exceptions to the legislative authority; such, for instance, as that it shall pass no bills of attainder, no ex post facto laws, and the like. Limitations of this kind can be preserved in practice no other way than through the medium of courts of justice, whose duty it must be to declare all acts contrary to the manifest tenor of the Constitution void. Without this, all the reservations of particular rights or privileges would amount to nothing.

They love the constitution — until they don’t.

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  • They also love the will of the people. Unless the people disagree with them.

  • scienceavenger

    Of course when the courts rule these court-limiting laws unconstitutional, it wil be presented as a conspiracy.

  • They love the constitution — until they don’t.

    Actually, I really don’t think that they love the Constitution, deep down. They say they do, because to be overtly anti-constitutional is to be “Un-American”. But their lineage can be traced all the way back to monarchists who don’t trust the unwashed masses to make good decisions. (And sometimes that fear is justified – look at the Sanford election in SC). But it’s why we are not a true democracy, but a republic with lots of checks and balances. One of those checks and balances is the independent judiciary.

    I would bet they’d be very happy to chuck the Constitution in favor of some autocratic theocracy that has a fetish for guns, hates women, and procreates in the missionary position.

  • DaveL

    Of course they love the Constitution, but it just makes them so angry sometimes that it makes them do these things to hurt it. It’s all the Constitution’s fault.

  • I think they’re flat out in love with the Constitution, and never would dream of violating it. The problem is, they’ve never read it. Like their Bible, they’re stunned when they hear the Constitution doesn’t support everything they want want it to.

    It reminds me of the Christine O’Donnell debate when she was laughing at a nearly verbatim quote of the First Amendment, “Really? The First Amendment says that?” ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=miwSljJAzqg ) or Barton’s assertion that the Constitution directly quotes the Bible.

    Our Legislative branch is not filled with as much evil as I think we give them credit for. I think much of it is that they really are that fucking retarded.

  • baal

    I’m more than half expecting the Republicans in charge of Wisconsin to appoint Scott Walker King and demand, under penalty of death, the various county council chairs to swear fealty. Anyone who does becomes a baron(or baroness). It’s clear that they are out to destroy rational governance.

    The other fraction of my expectation is that they go full communist (erm Freedom!) ala the Chinese model.

  • wpjoe

    @Donovan #5 “Our Legislative branch is not filled with as much evil as I think we give them credit for.”

    I think maybe you don’t know the WI legislature. 1) During the great recession, gave large tax breaks to corporations and then cut pay of all state workers by 10% because of the budget hole created. 2) Passed abstinence only sex-ed law that also prevents doctors, nurses, or scientists from assisting with sex-ed in the classroom. 3) Added new onerous regulations on wind energy while also stopping the conversion of power plants from coal to biofuel. 4) Lifted mining regulations so that a company could open a new mine that will destroy the hunting and fishing grounds of one of our Native American tribes. 5) Added new women’s health regulations that caused multiple Planned Parenthood locations to no longer offer pill-based pregnancy prevention. 6) Eased gun regulations and gutted government transparency laws such that now it is legal to take a gun into the state capitol, but you cannot use a camera there.

    I could go on all day. I sometimes wonder if there is anything evil that the WI republicans are not for.

  • steve84

    Judges shouldn’t be elected at all. What an absurd idea.

  • thumper1990

    think they’re flat out in love with the Constitution, and never would dream of violating it. The problem is, they’ve never read it. Like their Bible, they’re stunned when they hear the Constitution doesn’t support everything they want want it to.

    I think Donovan’s hit the nail on the head with this. From an non-USian’s perspective, I very much get the impression that Republicans treat the Constitution very much like they treat their Bible. It’s a sacred object to be revered and worshiped and selectively quoted to support whatever position you happen to hold; and on the plus side it’s also possible to interpret it in more than one way, albeit in a much narrower scope. The problem for them is that it is very much shorter and not nearly as contradictory as the babble, so it’s much easier to catch them out. The problem for us is that, on the rare occasions that the Constitution actually supports their position, we have to acknowledge that they’re right because the Constitution is actually a document worth following.

  • scienceavenger

    I think you guys are misreading that Christine O’Donnell moment. It’s a common trope in Wingnuttia that because the exact phrase “seperation of church and state” does not appear in the first amendment, the concept is an activist court invention. Her reaction to her opponent saying it was there is a perceived gotcha victory, similar to what Romney did with the “you didn’t call it an act of terror” moment.