- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 10, 2005

Senate Republicans yesterday said Congress should scrutinize some federal court decisions and would not rule out impeaching activist judges for imposing their own preferences on public policy.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay suggested such a review of judges last week in response to the Terri Schiavo case, words that Democrats interpret as a threat to impeach judges.

Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, says judges who violate the law have been impeached and that the Constitution gives Congress the task of judicial oversight.

“Should we look at situations where judges have decided to go off on their own tangent and disobey the statutes of the United States of America? I think that’s a legitimate area for oversight,” Mr. Santorum told ABC’s “This Week.”

Mr. Santorum said he would not support impeachment of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy for his decision in the Schiavo case. Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, added that no member of Congress has suggested impeaching Justice Kennedy, but agreed that Senate oversight of the judiciary is needed.

“I don’t think anybody should suggest that it is inappropriate for anyone, particularly members of Congress, to exercise their right of free speech to question the basis upon which some judges are reaching policy decisions from the highest levels of our federal judiciary,” Mr. Cornyn said.

The Texan told “Fox News Sunday” there are “legitimate concerns” in conservative circles that the judiciary has exceeded its power in cases involving the Pledge of Allegiance, same-sex “marriage” and other issues.

“Unfortunately, some of the policy-making we see happening at the highest levels of the judiciary are causing some people to wonder what’s going wrong,” he said.

Mr. Cornyn caused a furor early last week by wondering aloud whether “there may be some connection” between some recent murderous attacks on courthouses and anger at activist judges.

In yesterday’s Fox interview, Mr. Cornyn stood by the substance of his “unartfully” expressed remarks — that the judiciary’s prestige depends on it not being a policy-making body.

“My point was, maybe unartfully stated, is that the Founders thought that judges would be what they call “the least dangerous branch” because they wouldn’t be making policy decisions. They’d be enforcing policy decisions made by Congress,” he said.

Democrats say Republicans have already begun impeachment plans against judges, with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada saying impeachment would be “radical,” and Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat, calling it “extreme.”

“The Constitution, the Framers, were very clear. They wanted checks and balances, and they wanted to be able to make sure that no one section of the government — either executive, legislative or judicial — would dominate the other,” Mr. Dodd told ABC. “This is very worrisome to me to have a leader in the Congress … start threatening judges because we don’t like their opinions. That’s not a way to proceed, and that’s why I think many people are concerned about this.”

“This Week” host George Stephanopoulos asked Mr. Santorum whether Congress having authority over the courts “is a new interpretation of the separation of powers doctrine.”

Mr. Santorum said, “We do have authority to set the jurisdiction of the court, and that’s very clear. Article 3, Section 1 in the Constitution says that Congress has the authority to set the jurisdiction of the court.”

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