Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Case For Impeaching Justice Scalia

It seems that the Constitution provides a somewhat lower standard for allowing federal judges to continue in office than the standard established for Presidents.  Whereas Article II, Section 4 only allows impeachment of Presidents for "high Crimes and Misdemeanors," federal judges, including of course the Justices of the Supreme Court, are allowed to continue in office so long as they exhibit "good Behaviour" (Article III, Section 1).

Hmm.  Good Behaviour.  Wonder what conservatives think about that British spelling in the founding document of American exceptionalism?  Oh, well, never mind.  My point is that, in exchange for a lifetime opportunity to rule upon legal issues that not only affect Americans but everyone else in the world, "good Behaviour" doesn't seem like an awful lot to expect in return.  And, of course, one person's good Behaviour is another person's unconscionable treason.  It's something of an eye-of-the-beholder thing, isn't it?

Except, perhaps for the case of Antonin "Nino" Scalia, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.

Now, Nino has, over the years, distinguished himself in a number of ways.  There has been his refusal to recuse himself in a number of cases in which he possesses an interest, a friendship, or some other connection that might, well, influence his decision about the outcome.  There was his decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, in which he decided that half of the language of the Second Amendment (the half that conservatives don't like) simply doesn't exist (or doesn't matter; read the decision and you be the judge, pun intended).  And, of course, there are those rhetorical flourishes that right-wing voiceboxes like George Will like to view as possessing "scathing wisdom."  Take, for example, Scalia's recent dissent in the most recent failed attempt to get the Supreme Court to gut Obamacare, in which he dismissed the majority opinion as "pure applesauce." Applesauce?  Wow. Feel the pain from an insult like that.

All of these episodes arguably can be seen as examples of something less than truly "good Behaviour," meaning that a case could be made with one or more of them that good ol' Nino should appear in the well of the U.S. Senate at the center of an impeachment trial.  But, just in case the above-listed indiscretions don't do it for you, I invite you to consider this.

Now, I believe that eveyone is entitled to their opinion.  But not every opinion is entitled to belong on the nation's court of last resort.  And if there is one thing that all of us should expect from every judge behind every bench, it is not that they should be perfectly experienced, or perfectly wise.  But they can and must be as perfectly fair as possible.  And it is impossible to treat people fairly if you are someone who is astonishingly upfront about your view that all African-Americans are slow learners. Just because that description might apply to Clarence Thomas, Scalia's fellow Associate Justice and second vote on the Court, that doesn't mean it applies to black students at the University of Texas. Or anywhere else, for that matter.

So I respectfully submit to you that Scalia's demonstrated, almost prideful lack of fairness is the exact opposite of "good Behaviour."  And that everyone in this county who still gives a right royal damn about fairness ought to contact their Members of Congress and demand Scalia's impeachment. Right now.  Before he can take even one more step to turn the Constitution into pure applesauce.

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