On Tuesday, in his dissenting opinion to the Arizona immigration case, Justice Scalia lashed out at President Obama for not doing enough to enforce immigration laws. With his blatant partiality and total disregard for the institution of the Supreme Court, isn't it time Justice Scalia was impeached?
image from Wikipedia
Way back in 1803 Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase really stepped in it. Thomas Jefferson was the President of the United States at the time, and his supporters in Congress called themselves Democratic Republicans. Jefferson's chief political rival was John Adams, whom he defeated in the election of 1800, and Adams led the Federalists against the Democratic Republicans. The Federalists fought hard to protect the wealthy elite, succeeding in eliminating the direct election of U.S. Senators by the people. While you can't compare them apples to apples, the Federalists are basically today's Republican Party, at least in their belief that society is best organized when there's a wealthy ruling elite at the top. Samuel Chase, who was appointed to the High Court in 1796, proudly called himself a Federalist. So Thomas Jefferson was already a little uneasy with Samuel Chase as a Supreme Court justice. And after Chase joined other Federalists on the Supreme Court to create judicial review in the 1803 Marbury v. Madison case that gave the court the power to strike down laws passed by both Congress and the president, making it the most powerful, and unaccountable, of the three branches of government, Jefferson's anger with the court -- and Samuel Chase -- only intensified.
So later in 1803, when Samuel Chase went in front of a Baltimore Grand Jury and publicly criticized President Jefferson and the Democratic Republicans for trying to expand voter rights, Jefferson had had enough. Chase argued that the policies being advanced by Jefferson and the Democratic Republicans to give more men the right to vote would: "...rapidly destroy all protection to property, and all security to personal liberty, and our Republican Constitution [would] sink into mobocracy, the worst of all possible governments.... The modern doctrines by our late reformers, that all men in a state of society are entitled to enjoy equal liberty and equal rights, have brought this mighty mischief upon us, and I fear that it will rapidly destroy progress, until peace and order, freedom and property shall be destroyed." This was a blatant political attack against President Jefferson by a sitting Supreme Court justice who was supposed to be politically impartial. But it was just the latest in a long series of politically-motivated decisions by Samuel Chase.
In 1796, Chase made several partisan campaign speeches for fellow Federalist John Adams. That would be like a Supreme Court justice going on the campaign trail and telling people to vote for Mitt Romney today. And Chase openly supported passage of the Alien and Sedition Act of 1798, which gave President Adams the power to jail his political rivals. Chase even used his power as judge to give harsher sentences to Jefferson's Democratic Republican supporters in court. So after Chase went out and publicly ridiculed the President in 1803 over voter reforms, Jefferson and his allies in the House of Representatives basically said enough is enough. In 1804 the House of Representatives impeached Samuel Chase on charges of judicial misconduct. And to this day, Samuel Chase is the only Supreme Court Justice to ever be impeached. Ultimately Chase remained on the bench, escaping getting kicked off by the skin of his teeth when the Senate failed to muster up the 2/3 majority needed to remove Chase from the Supreme Court. He would serve on the bench for 7 more years before dying of a heart attack in 1811. And that's the end of Samuel Chase's story.
But in 1982 the man was "reincarnated" when Ronald Reagan appointed Antonin Scalia to be a justice on the Supreme Court. And on Tuesday in his dissenting opinion against the majority's decision to strike down three out of four provisions in Arizona's controversial anti-immigration laws, Justice Antonin Scalia had his "Samuel Chase moment." He went unhinged and publicly ripped President Obama for not enforcing immigration laws just a few days after the president had announced that the nation would no longer deport young undocumented immigrants who were brought here as children and are now in school or working, keeping their nose clean.
Scalia said: "To say, as the court does, that Arizona contradicts federal law by enforcing applications of the immigration act that the president declines to enforce boggles the mind...if securing it's territory in the fashion is not within the power of Arizona, we should cease referring to it as a sovereign state."
So in 1803 Samuel Chase criticized the president for trying to expand voter rights and got impeached. In 2012 Antonin Scalia criticized the president for trying to save young undocumented immigrants from deportation... but there's virtually no chance he'll be impeached. But it goes beyond Scalia's comments on immigration -- the guy has a history of tarnishing the integrity of the Supreme Court. Scalia is the Justice who went on a hunting trip back in 2005 with Vice President Dick Cheney right before deciding to hear a case against Dick Cheney -- and then ruled in favor of Cheney.
Scalia also went on a hunting trip with the Dean of the Kansas Law School and then agreed to hear two cases in which that very same Dean was the lead attorney. According to federal law, any justice must recuse himself from a case where his or her impartiality might be questioned, like Justice Kagan just did for the Arizona immigration case as she was U.S. solicitor general when the federal government sued Arizona. And just like how Justice Samuel Chase refused to recuse himself in cases dealing with his political allies the Federalists -- ultimately leading to his impeachment -- Justice Scalia is guilty of the same misbehavior. Chase was also slammed for campaigning on behalf of John Adams. But Scalia today has attended and spoken at political retreats hosted by the Koch Brothers -- major supporters and founders of today's Republican Party.
And Scalia refused to recuse himself from the Citizens United case despite the Koch brothers ties to political advocacy groups that benefited immensely from Scalia's decision in Citizens United. So what's the point of all this? The point is that Justice Antonin Scalia needs to be impeached, just as Justice Samuel Chase was impeached way back in 1803 for demonstrating a similar lack of integrity and impartiality while serving on the High Court. If we are truly going to have an independent judiciary with the task of impartially interpreting the Constitution then there's no longer any room for Justice Scalia on the court.
Time for Congress to do it's constitutionally defined job in Article 3, Section 2 and regulate the High Court. Time for Congress to Impeach Justice Antonin Scalia.