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Tue Feb 13, 2018, 06:04 AM

14 states are considering legislation that would diminish the role or independence of the courts

Mostly Republican ones, you'll be unsurprised to hear:

In the Trump era, courts frequently appear to be the last line of defense against partisan overreach. But in many states, courts’ vital role in our democracy is under threat.
Yet, so far this year, legislators in at least 14 states are considering at least 42 bills that would diminish the role or independence of the judicial branch, or simply make it harder for judges to do their job – weakening the checks and balances that underlie our democratic system. The Brennan Center reviewed legislation identified by CQ StateTrack, provided by Piper Fund, the National Center for State Court’s Gavel to Gavel website, and a review of media reports.
Twenty-three bills in eight states would inject greater politics into how judges are selected
Four bills in four states would increase the likelihood of judges facing discipline or retribution for unpopular decisions or would politicize court rules or processes
Six bills in three states would cut judicial resources or establish more political control over courts in exchange for resources
Four bills in three states would manipulate judicial terms, either immediately removing sitting judges or subjecting judges to more frequent political pressures
Four bills in four states would restrict courts’ power to find state legislative acts unconstitutional

In two states, North Carolina and Oklahoma, legislative proposals betray a concerted effort by legislators to gain a partisan advantage in the courts. In North Carolina, these proposals follow the Republican legislature’s loss of the governorship and a conservative majority on the state supreme court in the 2016 election. In Oklahoma, bills follow high-profile rulings on the death penalty, abortion and religion that ran against the state’s conservative politics, and continue a trend in the state which saw 15 bills to change how judges are selected in 2016 alone. And in Iowa, a dispute between the legislature and judiciary over allowing guns in courthouses is at least partially fueling a number of the new proposals.

As Charles Pierce says:

The motive is obvious. These legislatures have found themselves caught between the hammer of judicial review and the anvil of what may be coming in state elections in November, and in the 2020 census. So, as with all good smash-and-grab artists, they’re making off with as much of their loot as they can. Read the whole thing.


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