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There has already been talk on the winger fringe that Obama should be impeached just because the Repubs don't like him.  So it's not too far a leap from there to call for judges to be impeached if they make rulings Congress doesn't like.  Well, leave it to David Barton to go there.  I mentioned this yesterday, but the historical errors here are so egregious--even by Barton's standards--that I had to repost today for this to get more eyes.

According to PFAW's Right Wing Watch, Barton said on yesterday's edition of Wallbuilders Live that Congress has the right to hale a judge before the House Judiciary Committee if s/he makes a "bad" ruling, force him or her to defend it, and then begin impeachment proceedings.

Barton: There have been 97 impeachment investigations across history with judges; you've had 13 impeachments taken off the court. And the more often you have an impeachment investigation, the less often you have to remove a judge because, what Thomas Jefferson says, impeachment is a scarecrow - you sit out there in the middle of the field and that will scare them off.

Green: Because all the other judges are watching that, going 'I don't want that to be me.'

Barton: You betcha. For example, take the judge in California that says, oh no, having 'under God' in the Pledge of Allegiance, completely unconstitutional.

What you do is you convene a hearing in Washington DC, Congress says we want you to come appear before the judiciary committee and explain to us exactly what your thinking is that says we can't acknowledge God when that's in the Declaration and in the Constitution. What are you thinking?

And other judges see him getting called before Congress to be accountable and they go 'oh my gosh, we're not going to touch that.' Exactly!

The full show, if you can stand to listen, is available in Windows Audio.   Barton starts his spiel on impeachment at the 5:10 mark.  For instance, he claims that early on, a judge was removed from office for a private alcohol addiction, another for cussing on the bench, and a third for contradicting an act of Congress.  But, as you'll see after the jump, the historical record shows that Barton leaves out a lot of critical facts in the first case, and in the latter two gets the facts completely wrong.

The only reference I can find to a judge being removed for drunkenness during either of the presidency of a signer of the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution was the case of John Pickering, the first federal official in any branch to be thrown out of office by the impeachment process.  Pickering had a history of drunkenness--but it had progressed to the point that he was no longer attending court on a regular basis.  And when he did show up, his rulings troubled his colleagues so much that they thought he'd gone insane.  So yes, his addiction to the bottle was a factor in his removal--but it had progressed to the point that he was no longer competent for the bench.

I can't find any reference to a judge being thrown off the court during either of the Founders' presidencies for cussing or for contradicting an act of Congress.  I suspect that Barton may have been trying to conflate the case of Samuel Chase--the only case where a Supreme Court justice has been impeached.  Ironically, the Chase impeachment makes a shambles out of Barton's argument.  Chase was impeached for denouncing the repeal of the Judiciary Act of 1801, as well as for seven instances relating to cases he tried (in those days, Supreme Court justices also served as trial judges in circuit courts).  He was tried in 1805, and all eight articles were defeated in the Senate by lopsided margins.  By all accounts, several Senators who disagreed with Chase politically voted to acquit because they felt the quality of his judging wasn't an impeachable offense.  And since a good number of them took part in the Revolution, that should tell you something.

Here's the scary part, folks.  A lot of kids in Christian schools and in Christian homeschooling curricula are learning this garbage.  Fortunately, a lot of it is easily debunked.

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Comment Preferences

  •  And when I say "bad rulings" (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Hillbilly Dem, Dallasdoc, sfbob

    I mean "rulings I or any of my teabagging friends don't like."

    The Republican Party is now the sworn enemy of the United States of America.

    Listen to All Over The Place - we play all kinds of music!

    by TheGreatLeapForward on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 07:23:05 AM PDT

  •  Deja vu all over again (0+ / 0-)

    There was a diary just like this published yesterday.

    "let's talk about that"

    by VClib on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 07:27:18 AM PDT

  •  David Barton's Resume' (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Christian Dem in NC, trumpeter, sfbob

    David Barton bills himself as "an expert in historical and Constitutional issues" but he holds no formal credentials in either history or the law. His academic preparation consists of a BA in Christian education; his work experience was teaching in a Christian Evangelical elementary school started by his parents.  He has written widely on American history, re-casting it from a Christian point of view, and founded WallBuilders, which publishes his work. He is accepted by the political right as a scholar of history but legitimate historians and Constitutional scholars have pegged him as a Christian revisionist and little else.  For example, Barton has extensively quoted the Founding Fathers as intending the United States to be a Christian nation but when pressed by academic historians to cite direct sources he has admitted that he has "been unable to find the exact quotations" in the writings of Madison, Jefferson, and Franklin but adds his certainty that his re-casting of their words shows their true intention that ours should be a Christian nation (in other words he fabricated the quotations and made false attributions).  He has done the same with Supreme Court decisions.

  •  Debunked is irrelevant to the willfully ignorant (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    These people believe Adam and Eve rode dinosaurs and the earth is 6000 years old. Of course they are going to willfully spread propaganda via home schooling. They want to infect everyone else w/ their "teh stewpid." Facts don't matter since these people have never entered the reality-based world.

  •  The constitution does not require any reasons (0+ / 0-)

    for impeachment of  a judge.  No crime need be committed.

    The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

    by nextstep on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 09:22:49 AM PDT

    •  Article II, Section IV (0+ / 0-)
      The President, Vice President, and all civil Officers of the United States shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors.

      A judge (or a president or a vice president) needn't have actually committed a crime that meets the definition of "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors" in order to be impeached, but articles of impeachment do actually have some content.

  •  He is a (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    total blowhard and liar, and his ideas are crap.


    If you want to impeach judges for bad rulings, let's start with "Bush v. Gore" and impeach the RW members of the supreme court.  If that goes through, we'll talk about more.

    I am not religious, and did NOT say I enjoyed sects.

    by trumpeter on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 09:48:42 AM PDT

  •  Good Lord, But This is Some Scary Stuff (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Take the example Barton comes up with:  having a federal judge who finds the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance to be unconstitutional should be summoned before Congress to explain his reasoning.  And Barton's explicit justification for doing so is "to scare other judges" so that they don't issue other rulings that Congress might not like.

    I have a really, really hard time seeing how Barton's proposal could be Constitutional at all.  If a federal judge issues an incorrect legal ruling, then the appropriate avenue of relief is to appeal it or - sometimes - petition for certiorari to the Supreme Court.  But it certainly is not for the Congress to act as a type of "super-judiciary" and substitute its own judgment for that of the court.  Any interpretation of Congress's power to impeach federal judges so as to make this possible would certainly be considered an unconstitutional interference between the separate branches of government.

    And how would that even work regarding any effort to uphold the Bill of Rights and - especially - the First Amendment?  The First Amendment, like no other, is explicitly countermajoritarian in nature.  It exists to protect the unpopular ideas, the unpopular religions, the unpopular people.  But Barton seems to believe that the will of the majority, working through their elected representatives, can be used to punish judges who issue rulings upholding the rights of the unpopular, or who issue rulings that the majority may not like even if they are constitutionally correct (there is, in fact, a very good argument to be made that the phrase "under God" in the pledge is unconstitutional).

    And what is fundamentally worse about this idea is that for Barton and those who think like him - a not insignificant number - the Constitution and our entire system of government is not an institution to be upheld (even when inconvenient) but just something to be controlled and used as a weapon against one's political enemies.

    These people have absolutely no idea that something like a "political compact" or the "rule of law" can exist.  For them it has, does and always will come down to which national faction can amass the most raw power - and they are determined to be that faction.  Undoubtedly this type of thinking is what leads so many to prattle about "second amendment solutions."

    Politics is the neverending story we tell ourselves about who we are as a people.

    by swellsman on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 12:41:24 PM PDT

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