- Caleb Walsh illustration
Despite bipartisan opposition, last week the Idaho House of Representatives passed a memorial to Congress calling for the impeachment of federal judges. North Idaho Representative Paul Shepherd, who said during the debate that he wished he could have impeached Chief Justice Earl Warren, sponsored the measure.
Besides chairing the Warren Commission, which investigated the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and serving a decade as governor of California, Earl Warren is best known for a series of Supreme Court decisions. Under Warren, the court ended school segregation, strengthened the rights of the accused, ended public school-sponsored prayers, and instituted the "one man, one vote" rules for congressional apportionment.
The decisions of the Warren Court have become fundamental pillars in protecting the minority and the individual from the totalitarian rule of the majority.
It's exactly the idea of the rights of the individual, and the court's responsibility to protect those rights, that was under attack on the floor of the Idaho House last week. In particular, the stated target was recent rulings in favor of the freedom to marry, but the goal was actually much larger: to ensure that the judiciary was subservient to the legislature and the will of the majority.
Our rights are too important and simultaneously too fragile to be trusted to the whims of majority rule. It's for exactly this reason that we have the Bill of Rights, or a constitution at all for that matter. The entire concept of balance of powers is built on the notion that no one branch of government will be in complete control.
But the Idaho House declared last week that they didn't like that constitutional notion. They should have the power over everything and everyone, and no judge should be able to get in the way of how they choose to treat minorities or individual citizens.
Perhaps they've got a point. It would certainly be more efficient to toss out the Constitution — Bill of Rights and all — eliminate the judiciary and allow 50 percent plus one of the population to do anything they choose.
Of course, even then in most states, the governor still has the power to veto bills and interfere with the legislature's power. No worries. If we're already eliminating the judiciary's independence, why not eliminate the executive branch, too?
That would create a simple and effective government that would finally let the Idaho House have the power they deserve — except there's still this pesky body across the rotunda: the Idaho Senate. All too often the Idaho House's best ideas, like impeaching judges, are stopped in the Idaho Senate. Senators say the proposals are too extreme and not based on "facts."
Simple solution: eliminate the Idaho Senate, too. Then, finally, the Idaho House would have the power it deserves — except there's the matter of enforcement. Why give that power to the state police when we can simply give every House member a siren to throw on top of their car; they can pull people over whenever they see a violation. And since they're now acting as the judiciary, they can simply pull over the next 12 cars and conduct a jury trial right there on the side of the road.
Or we could keep the American constitutional system we've known and loved for more than 225 years. Tough call. Or at least it apparently is for a majority of the Idaho House. ♦
John T. Reuter, a former Sandpoint Councilman, has been active in protecting Idaho's environment, expanding LGBT rights and the Idaho GOP.