Some elements of the Arkansas legislature Crackpot Caucus emerged Saturday to talk of impeaching Pulaski Circuit Judge Chris Piazza for his ruling striking down the state ban on same-sex marriage. It would be easy to laugh this off as meaningless political posturing except that it comes from towering hypocrites who illustrate broad disrespect for the rule of the law in the new Republican majority. If a House majority impeaches every judge who issues an unpopular decision, do we really need the judicial branch of government?
Here’s what we know so far:
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Ryan Saylor at The City Wire wrote yesterday that calls for impeachment had followed Piazza’s ruling. The calls weren’t actually so numerous.
There was Sen. Jason Rapert, no introduction necessary, who said he’d been contacted by unnamed House members asking whether Piazza could be impeached for violating an oath to uphold the Arkansas Constitution. Rapert, a bluegrass fiddler and preacher who’s been so far thoroughly unsuccessful in his calls for impeachment of President Obama, is exactly who I’d turned to for constitutional law advice.
Saylor’s further investigation turned up two (2) Republican representatives who’d join the impeachment posse — daycare operator Justin Harris, who had to be reined in from unconstitutional religious teachings at the publicly financed daycare he operates, Growing God’s Kingdom, and Rep. David Meeks, the Conway propane truck driver who is the canary in the Arkansas legislature coal mine. If you’ve got Meeks’ vote, your cause is undoubtedly mean-spirited and/or wrong-headed.
These legal giants think Piazza has violated his oath by holding that a portion of the state Constitution — the popularly adopted amendment that bans same-sex marriage — was unconstitutional.
To the Constitution:
Article 19 – Section 20 -Oath of Office
Senators and Representatives and all judicial and executive, State and county officers, and all other officers, both civil and military, before entering on the duties of their respective offices shall take and subscribe to the following oath of affirmation.
“I, ______ do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Arkansas, and that I will faithfully discharge the duties of the office of ____________, upon which I am now about to enter.”
Note two things. 1) state officials swear to uphold BOTH the state and U.S. Constitution. When they are found to be in conflict, well-established rules of law say the feds rule. 2) this oath applies to ALL state elected officials, including Meeks and Harris and Rapert.
These fine fellows have:
* Voted for a change to the Arkansas’ constitution’s initiative process that has been ruled unconstitutional.
* Voted for a change to the Arkansas constitution’s rules on voter registration that has been ruled unconstitutional.
* Voted to pass — and override the veto of — two obviously unconstitutional anti-abortion bills. Rapert’s was struck down by a Republican federal judge almost before the ink was dry it was so unconstitutionally extreme.
* Voted to pass — and override the veto of — an unconstitutionally approved tax break for the fracking industry.
* Voted to trample the U.S. 1st Amendment by gagging state officials when it comes to guiding people to the private option expansion of health insurance coverage.
* Raised no objections to unconstitutional expense reimbursements legislators took as pay supplements until a lawsuit ended the unconstitutional grifting
Now you tell me who should be impeached for violating an oath of office. I propose not impeachment but a Stupid Tax to be imposed on legislators who run up the state’s bill with unconstitutional folly.
Anybody with sense knows that judges are expected to resolve conflicts in statute and constitutions. Anybody who’s not a rank demagogue knows that the Founding Fathers (who Rapert, Meeks and Harris and Co. cite only when it suits) tempered majority rule with checks to insure that a tyrannical majority didn’t infringe on the rights of a minority.
Thus, Brown v. Board of Education. And Loving vs. Virginia. And the federal case that struck down the Arkansas Constitution’s ban on abortion. And struck down our Constitution’s segregation amendment. And the federal precedent that struck down the religionists’ effort to prevent gay people from adopting children (a unanimous Arkansas Supreme Court did this, maybe the Crackpot Caucus should impeach them, too.) Thanks to Matt DeCample of Gov. Mike Beebe’s staff for calmly explaining to Saylor why the Crackpot Caucus was all wet. Would Beebe back impeachment?
“No, because when it comes to the judiciary, you don’t try to impeach a judge just because you don’t agree with his ruling,” DeCample said. “That’s what the appeals process is for. That’s the path we already know it going to be pursued.”
Here’s how stupid this idea is. Even Rep. Stephen Meeks, usually a yoked pair with his bro on bad legislation, said on Twitter that, much as he disapproves Piazza’s ruling, he couldn’t go along with impeachment.
By the way: The legislature isn’t in session. The Crackpot Caucus is emulating Mike Huckabee in the Jim Guy Tucker days by talking wildly of an impeachment that is impossible to undertake, at least until the legislature reconvenes in January. Nutty as the Republican majority can be — and a few more tea bagger victories in this primary could make it worse — I still think I could identify at least five of them who wouldn’t join an impeachment parade. Beginning with the lawyers in their number. I won’t name them for fear of making them outcasts in their party
So: A majority of the House wouldn’t vote to impeach. Two-thirds of the Senate wouldn’t vote to convict. This is simply a matter of religious extremists playing to their belief that you can’t lose in Arkansas by beating up on gay people. I want to believe the Crackpot Caucus is living in an echo chamber of diminishing size on this issue, but there’s no doubt the short-term still holds political peril for equal rights.
Make no mistake. This philosophy turns up time and again in legislative matters these days. The new majority is intolerant of even criticism. They will punish those who dare.