DeFazio investigating impeachment of Chief Justice John Roberts

Carla Axtman

I'm not sure where the line is crossed between ballsy and crazy--but its entirely possible this is straddling that line.

Amanda Terkel, Huffington Post:

With Democrats increasingly outraged over the Supreme Court's Citizen United decision that allowed unlimited corporate spending in elections -- a change conservatives have been more successful at taking advantage of -- a Democratic congressman is raising the prospect of impeaching the Supreme Court's chief justice over the issue.

"I mean, the Supreme Court has done a tremendous disservice to the United States of America," Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) told The Huffington Post on Tuesday. "They have done more to undermine our democracy with their Citizens United decision than all of the Republican operatives in the world in this campaign. They've opened the floodgates, and personally, I'm investigating articles of impeachment against Justice Roberts for perjuring during his Senate hearings, where he said he wouldn't be a judicial activist, and he wouldn't overturn precedents."

I'm not sure where to even begin with this. Maybe I'm really bad at reading political tea leaves, but I'm having trouble seeing a tremendous upside for DeFazio here. The Citizens United ruling is by any real objective account an absolutely awful ruling. But I'm not sure how whacking at impeachment on Roberts does anything but tag DeFazio with a "crazy" label.

But..maybe I'm missing something.

Comments

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    I don't think you'll see DeFazio putting any real energy into this effort but it does solidify his reputation as not the typical, buttoned-down establishment politician, which probably doesn't hurt him this election year or into the future.

    I wouldn't waste time worrying about Peter's reputation (or his sanity). He likes to be a little unpredictable anyway. At least no one has ever accused him of being dull.

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    If Chief Justice Roberts perjured himself during congressional testimony then Congressman DeFazio is taking a fully appropriate course of action in investigating articles of impeachment.

    It may be the case that moderate Republicans are a rare breed these days, I think the same thing can be said for truly populist Democrats like DeFaz.

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      I don't think this is perjury. Perjury has to be a willful act of swearing a false oath or affirmation to tell the truth. Roberts said in general terms that he wouldn't overturn precedent, but there are exceptions to every generalization. Roberts hasn't committed any crime, and investigating impeachment is grandstanding at worst. I like DeFazio but this is out of character.

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    Congressman DeFazio's understanding and opposition to cap-and-trade is a similar kind of position: one that is based on principle.

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    If anything I'd think that case would bolster Roberts' claim, since he was REMOVING what might well be considered an "activist" placing of regulation upon speech. In other words, it was activism that made the Constitution allow that kind of restriction on campaign contributions.

    Are we sure we're not talking about Justice THOMAS? Because he pretty well denied the accusations made by Hill, which are now being bolstered in context by new, recent statements.

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    This comes nowhere close to being impeachable conduct. Even granting that Roberts is an activist judge (because he clearly is), nothing about "being an activist judge" seems to fall into the "treason or bribery" category of "high crimes and misdemeanors" that we should impeach people for. "Doing your job badly" isn't the same as "doing your job crookedly."

    But even if you could call "activist judge" an impeachable offense (or technically, being one after promising not to), "activist judge" is an incredibly subjective term, and even harder to define if you're trying to prove a legal case. For starters, how many "activist" decisions does one need to make to be an "activist judge." One? Five? Three percent? Twenty percent? I have no idea how you could possibly prove the charge even if this went forward.

    And impeaching a judge over one or two horrible decisions? That's the end of the independent judiciary right there. I really don't want this country to go down that road.

    But in terms of grabbing headlines before the election -- good play, Pete.

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      Are you being purposefully obtuse?

      You do understand that DeFazio doesn't want him impeached for the decision, but for the fact that he LIED UNDER OATH, don't you?

      Making a decision in a court case is not impeachable. But lying under oath can get you disbarred. It is a felony and certainly counts as a 'high crime or misdemeanor.'

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    It won't go anywhere but it will highlight the blot on the integrity of the conservative activist Supreme Court and their political agenda.

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    It is a strange scenario. Obviously there is great danger to the republic if something like this came to any fruition, an independent judiciary is a pretty indispensable deal if you're serious about a lasting government structure that can be called a republic or democratic. Still, it draws attention to the fact that being independent from the other branches of government is not the same as being independent from other political considerations, or even money. Off the cuff, I think it would be helpful if there was some formal way for the state bars to weigh in and vote if something like this is warranted. Obviously it's just election year bluster, but intriguing none the less.

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    The way I see it, Nancy Pelosi will most likely want to have nothing to do with such an investigation...and that most likely could have been taken advantage of by Pete to prove that everything Art Robinson is building his case on to replace him is nothing but fantasy...which we didn't already know, but still, there are a lot of people who have been buying into those ads. And that only would have been effective a month or two ago.

    Maybe it will help pump up some voters and get them out to the polls who were considering sitting out as a protest due to a perceived lack of progress, who knows. (And don't anyone parse out the word "perceived", because we all know that a whole lot HAS been accomplished if you were actually paying attention and not just waiting for typical political grandstanding on every little piece of legislation being passed. May not have been everything, and on some issues, it's been bad news...but a whole heck of a lot more has been done than would have been done by any Republican president and the facts are out there if you look them up.)

    That aside, a whole lot of those people sitting out are sitting out because they're too lazy to look at the facts, and just absorb it from the various opinion media outlets of their choice or availability. On the progressive side of the media, the Citizens United case has been discussed ad nauseaum, and a politician stepping out to address that issue could be perceived as being worthwhile to vote for. A lot of the Democratic types who would be sitting out are the types who listen to progressive media, which keeps its listeners not by defending the administration's policies, but by criticism. If you just soak that stuff in without looking at the facts, you're getting the glass half empty effect. Those are the people I think he's trying to connect with.

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    While Roberts' perjury (plain as day though it may be) might not be sufficiently brazen to make its way through the impeachment process, two other justices have engaged in conduct that should be a slam-dunk:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/10/20/scalia-thomas-koch-industries_n_769843.html

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    It's just Peter being Peter. Crazy like a fox. This will get some media attention and in a small way highlight how dangerous this Supreme Court is. I also don't see much downside for Peter in doing this. His constituency seems to be rock solid behind him.

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    Defazio is officially off the deep end here. No doubt pushed over by a certain hedge fund guy.

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      Kremer- well, we have a situation where Roberts said he'd respect precedent and he didn't- result is that shadowy hundreds of thousands are backing a certifiable lunatic in the 4th District.

      Why didn't Roberts have the guts enough not to misrepresent himself?

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    This is an action and post that invites speculation (since, obviously, until DeFazio shows his work, we're all just guessing). So here's mine.

    DeFazio is a politician, so it's worth considering the politics of such an action. Since no sitting Supreme Court justice has ever been impeached, and since DeFazio isn't crazy, I'm going to assume the endgame isn't impeachment. So what would be the gain in agitating for it? Well, lots. For one thing, Citizens United is enormously unpopular, though its consequences haven't much stained the GOP--the principal beneficiaries. We know that when politicians push for stuff like this, the media must report. If you wanted to shed some light on the Citizens United case, whinging about it in committee isn't likely to produce a candle's flicker. Impeaching the chief justice? Better.

    What else? Well, the GOP have had a hammerlock on defining what constitutes "mainstream" judicial philosophy. They use Alito and Roberts as the models of mainstream--though they are among the most conservative justices in the past century--and define all Democratic nominees by comparison. So a pure centrist like Sandra Day O'Connor would become a liberal, and anyone to her left is wildly dangerous.

    By trying to impeach Roberts, DeFazio raises the question: is he mainstream? If the debates shifts to how radical the GOP-nominated justices have been, it might make for a more inviting public atmosphere for center-left Dem nominees. It might make it possible to put pressure on the GOP to confirm Obama's nominees.

    All of these seem like worthwhile endgames--and not exactly crazy.

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    This is a symptom of the loss of legitimacy of the Supreme Court when the conservative activist majority have become political activists actively aligned with the right wing GOP. Look at the active attendance by Scalia and Thomas in right wing political events. The Supreme Court no longer represents the constitutional law of America but the agenda of the right wing. It is dangerous for American democracy if the Supreme Court no longer has the respect and authority of law in our country. At this point DeFazio's threat is a shot across the bow, a red flag warning to Supreme Court justices that they are not there to advance the right wing revolution and to destroy decades, even centuries, of legal precedent.

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