In a stunning display of contempt for democracy and the rule of law, Pennsylvania Republican state Rep. Cris Dush has introduced a resolution to impeach four of the five Democratic state Supreme Court justices who recently struck down the GOP’s congressional gerrymander and replaced it with a much fairer map for the 2018 elections. This maneuver comes just a day after the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously rejected the GOP’s bid to block the state court’s ruling, demonstrating that even the conservative-majority federal bench thinks Pennsylvania Republicans have no legal leg to stand on. But top Republicans had previously voiced support for this extreme measure, and GOP state Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman refused to rule it out on Tuesday.
Disturbingly, Republicans hold enough seats needed to impeach judges without any Democratic votes thanks to their gerrymanders of the legislature, which gave them a solid hold on the state House and the minimum two-thirds of necessary seats in the state Senate. Should they proceed with (and succeed with) this supremely destructive effort, Republicans still wouldn’t gain control over the court unless Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf loses re-election in November, which appears unlikely as of now. But because Wolf could only appoint replacement justices with Senate approval, the GOP could cripple the court for years to come, potentially imperiling fairer districts after the 2020 census.
One might think such a naked attack on the rule of law would be a bridge too far for Republicans, but we’ve seen in state after state how the GOP has tried to undermine judicial independence after the 2010 wave election swept them into power across the country. And even if they don’t ultimately impeach judges this time, this brazenly undemocratic proposal could send a chilling message to judges in the future that they could be impeached and removed from office for their jurisprudence if they don’t rule the way Republicans want.
This story has been updated to reflect that Dush introduced new resolutions for impeachment on Tuesday after previously advocating impeachment in a February memorandum.