August 03, 2003

Controlling the Court

Joseph Sobran thinks the Supreme Court should be impeached:

Public servants, of all people, should never enjoy job security in a republic. Both elections and impeachments are supposed to be guarantees against the virtual ownership of power. Impeachment should therefore never be regarded as a drastic emergency measure; it should be as normal as any power to hire and fire.

Unfortunately, it is so rarely invoked that it has come to seem an extraordinary last resort. It has seldom been used against presidents, and never against justices of the Supreme Court. Is this because it is seldom or never warranted? Hardly. As a result, we have been defenseless against the judiciary, which doesn’t even have to worry about elections. It has enjoyed virtually perfect job security, and it has behaved accordingly. The neglect of the impeachment power has only strengthened the courts’ natural temptation to use their power irresponsibly.

So once again we have been shocked, but not surprised, by the Court’s bold affront to the rule of law. To read Kennedy’s opinion in the sodomy case is to hear the confident voice of sheer power, assured that it will face no consequences for whatever it may choose to say, knowing that even its whims have weight. But precisely because the High Court doesn’t have to face elections, it should have to think about impeachment.

At this point it’s unlikely that an attempt to impeach justices of the Court could succeed. But unless the subject is at least raised, it will be even harder to impeach in the future. And even a reminder of the possibility might deter the justices from taking their constitutional duties as lightly as they are in the habit of doing.