Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Case for Impeaching Justice Antonin Scalia

This blog has noted the open animus of Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia towards LGBT Americans.  Indeed, he has equated our relationships to murder and bestiality.  Yet his duties as a justice require that he be objective and base his rulings on the facts of the case before him and the legal arguments.  It's beyond obvious that there is no chance of that happening if Scalia is sitting on the Court when the Proposition 8 appeal and DOMA appeal cases come before the Court.  Scalia's conduct and statements go a long way to delegitimizing the Court and make it plain for all to see that impartial justice and equal rights under the law are impossible at least when Scalia is involved. Scalia has become a train wreck and needs to be removed from the Court.  A piece in The Daily Beast looks at why Scalia needs to be impeached.  Here are highlights:

By now it is well-known that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia thinks homosexuality is immoral. In responding to a student during a talk at Princeton earlier this week, he said homosexuality is immoral in the same way that murder is immoral.

Scalia may agree that killing someone of the same (or opposite) sex is worse than loving someone of the same sex; but of course, murder is also worse than robbery and rape. What they all have in common, in the worldview of Antonin Scalia, is they are immoral.

[I]t is high time for Congress to do the right thing, protect the legacy and the future of the Supreme Court, and immediately impeach Justice Scalia.   

First, let’s stipulate that people are entitled to be crackpots. They are entitled to hold absurd viewpoints; and in the United States, thanks to the First Amendment, they are even entitled to express them.
But an associate justice on the United States Supreme Court has to play by different rules. We elect presidents and members of Congress precisely because of their political views; but we appoint judges only if we believe they will make every effort to transcend them. If they cannot or will not, it’s Congress’s job to take them out of the game. In Justice Scalia’s case, the time for that drastic action has long since arrived.
Removing a judge from the bench for expressing deeply held views will make some people on the left nervous and, as we saw when I floated a similar suggestion back in April, it will surely make many on the right apoplectic. Admittedly, it’s not something Congress has done before—but that’s only because the high court has never before harbored a member quite so imperious and intolerant as Antonin Scalia.

First, judges are supposed to be impartial. What does that mean? It doesn’t mean they are not supposed to have personal opinions; it means they are supposed to work very hard to avoid letting those opinions influence their legal judgments. For example, in the many years I have worked as a death-penalty lawyer, several Supreme Court justices, including most notably Justice Harry Blackmun, have said they personally oppose the death penalty, but that did not stop them from ruling against my clients and paving the way for their executions, because that is what they understood the law to dictate in those cases.  .  .  . In other words, most justices work their hardest to put their personal viewpoints aside. Justice Scalia doesn’t even pretend to try.

Remember, if any lower federal court judge said what Justice Scalia said this week, that judge would be barred by judicial ethics rules from participating in any case involving gay marriage.

There are nine judges in the United States who are not bound by those rules, but that does not mean it is ethical or acceptable when they violate them. It only means that when they do violate them, and then refuse to remove themselves from proceedings in which ordinary judges would be subject to mandatory removal, we must remove them some other way.

This brings us to the second thing I suspect most people agree on: there are lines, and if judges cross them, they should be removed from office. Reasonable people will disagree about precisely where those lines are located, but there is no doubt but that they exist. 

As Paul Campos wrote here earlier this week, Scalia’s problem is not that he has views: the problem is that his views are so reactionary and so far outside the mainstream of modern moral sentiment.  .  .  .  . But it is not simply that Justice Scalia clings like the Taliban to anachronistic ideals; it’s that he seems unwilling or unable to understand that he should decline to participate in cases where those very views undermine his neutrality.

Being confirmed by the Senate to sit on the Supreme Court may be a lifetime appointment, but that does not mean it isn’t subject to oversight. The Constitution permits judges to be removed when they no longer exhibit “good behavior.” The simple truth is that there is no definition of “good” that encompasses Justice Scalia’s behavior, particularly with regard to gay rights. His conduct is boorish and intemperate; his views are anachronistic and absurd; his moral authority is zilch. In short, he lacks every quality a good judge requires. 

From slavery to the mistreatment of women to the criminalization of consensual homosexual conduct to the stealth appointment of a President, our constitutional history is already sordid enough. It’s time to get rid of Antonin Scalia before it becomes dirtier still.

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