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January 06, 2009 07:31 PM UTC

Groundhog Day: GOP Resurrects "Judicial Activism"

  • by: Colorado Pols

As the Rocky Mountain News dutifully reports:

A group of Republican lawmakers concerned that the Colorado Supreme Court has favored Democrats in recent decisions demanded Monday that the chief justice address the issue before the legislature.

Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey is scheduled to talk to lawmakers Friday about the state of the judiciary.

The lawmakers listed several court decisions they believe justify their concerns.

“Favoritism to political party, partisan ideology and results- oriented judging should not be an issue,” said Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma.

“After looking at some of the court’s recent decisions, we increasingly are concerned that the Mullarkey Court has abandoned its duty of interpreting the law and instead has embarked on a course of partisanship and political activism.”

But Democratic Rep. Terrance Carroll, who will become the House speaker Wednesday, said Republicans should be worried about creating jobs instead of “manufacturing allegations against the court.”

“I find it interesting that they want to try to trump up charges in what is one of the worst economic crises in history,” said Carroll, a Denver attorney…

Although Republicans frequently point out that Mullarkey is a Democrat, judges in Colorado are nominated by a nonpartisan committee and appointed by the governor. The voters then decide whether to retain or reject the judges, whose party affiliation does not appear on the ballot.

It should be encouraging for Democrats to watch Republicans lead off the new session with the same John Andrews hand-wringing about judges that they pull basically every year. Should help clarify whether or not they’ve learned any lesson at all from the last three stringing defeats in as many elections–guess not. This is not what sells, voters find it a petty concern at best. Remember the drubbing of Andrews’ judicial term limits amendment at the polls in 2006? So why keep prattling on about it? Why make an overtly partisan, not to mention meaningless (what, are they going to impeach?) tantrum the first big push of the year?

Between traction-free perennial grandstands about judges not ruling the way they’d like, way too public abortive “retirements,” divided leadership, and red-on-red ethics allegations, Democrats may be able to sit back with some popcorn and enjoy the self-immolating show. For, well, how many sessions does this make again?


15 thoughts on “Groundhog Day: GOP Resurrects “Judicial Activism”

  1. We are correct more often.

    Some research about a year ago that it was the conservative US Supreme Court bench that were the real judicial activists.  

    But facts never get in the way of right wing ideoology, do they?  

    1. Compared with the top courts in most other states, Colorado’s supreme court appears to be controlled by political hacks.

      When a court gives up its objectivity to satisfy its political masters, we all suffer.

  2. For proving that you have the best interests of Colorado at heart. He is 100% correct that we should be working to solve our most pressing matter: the recession, and it’s effect on Colorado.

    Obviously the Republicans are more interested in hurling accusations.

    1. This is a change, how?  The Republicans have been losing on distracting issues for 4 years now – they’re racking up quite a record of it.

      It seems they’ve decided that they just need to be better at doing what they’ve been doing, and it will all work out.  Keep going, guys – you’ll march yourselves into obscurity.

  3. A lot of U.S. Supreme Court jurisprudence involves intepretations of the U.S. Constitution that are nearly impossible to legislatively overrule.  The federal law making process also tends to be more lethargic than the state law making process, which makes it harder to respond to bad court cases that interpret federal statutes.

    But, a very large share of the Colorado Supreme Court and Court Court of Appeals docket involves intepretations of statutes that the legislature can and has overruled when it doesn’t like the rulings, and interpretations of common law that can be modified by statute.

    In any case, the areas of law that tend to be most politicized, like class actions and “public law” (i.e. lawsuits involving government and civil rights) tend to make up a much larger share of the federal court docket than the state court docket.  Run of the mill unpaid bills, real estate title disputes, ordinary felony cases and domestic relations cases make up much of the docket.

    Also, even when these courts interpret the Colorado Constitution, it is far more straightforward to change the Colorado Constitution (which we do several times every couple of years), or to rely on evolving intepretations of federal law and the U.S. Constitution (for which the Colorado courts are often not the last word) to trump Colorado Constitutional provisions.  

    Finally, the overwhelming share of U.S. Constitutional issues handled by the Colorado appellate courts come in the area of criminal procedure, which exhaustive studies of judicial bias have shown to be among the least partisan area of the law, because there is so much precedent in this area to guide courts compared to more obscure areas of the law.

    In short, the separation of powers issues that arise in the federal courts are not nearly so intense in the state courts.

  4. The Colorado GOP has become a kind of idler’s dream for its members in elective public office.  I mean, why craft a stragegy to be relevant in post-Andrews Colorado when you can retread the same discredited thoughtways with current punchlines?  What the Colorado GOP calls leadership is chasing the tails of dogs that don’t hunt.  [I had to turn the metaphor blender to ‘puree’ on this one.]  I guess Cory thinks his 15 minutes are about to begin.

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