As continued reports of excessive amounts of corporate cash flooding electoral races come in, the damaging impact of the Citizens United decision has become more and more clear. Democrats have used the decision, and its impact, as a rallying cry of sorts and a way to unite and organize their base for November. But for one Democrat in particular, this is just not enough.
Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore) told The Huffington Post last week that he was investigating articles of impeachment against Chief Justice John Roberts for perjuring himself during his Senate hearings. The base of DeFazio’s charge is Roberts’ testimony that he would not be a judicial activist and that he would not overturn precedent. In Citizens United, the Chief Justice did both.
DeFazio is primarily relying on Justice John Paul Stevens’s dissent in the case in which he protested that the case was not properly before the Court. Indeed, the majority seemed to go out of its way to find a reason to rule on the broad First Amendment issue and Justice Stevens’s complaint was picked up by others in the minority.
That said, articles of impeachment against a sitting Supreme Court justice (or a sitting President for that matter) is not something to toss around lightly. And while most Supreme Court confirmation hearings amount to nothing more than Kabuki theatre, even by those standards there is nothing in what John Roberts said during those proceedings that rise to the level of perjury, at least not on its face.
There is nothing I would like to see more than for Chief Justice John Roberts to step down (and take a few of his colleagues with him), and for Congress and the Court to remedy the significant damage done by Citizens United. But impeachment is not appropriate in this case, nor is it something that the left should throw around in response to every unpopular Supreme Court decision. The Roberts Court may very well be one of the most activist courts in the history of our nation. And the Citizens United decision will likely be judged as one of the worst of its kind (akin to Dred Scott, for example). But if our democracy is to function at all for the long term then we must have the patience and the fortitude to let policy right itself rather then suggest political witch hunts.
photo courtesy of Jeff Kubina via Flickr