Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Assault on judiciary

With worrisome problems on their own agenda still unsolved, the Idaho Senate suspended important business to align itself with those attacking federal courts as villains in constitutional due process.

Senators voted 25-5 to offer their support for legislation co-sponsored by Idaho's senior Republican Sen. Larry Craig to ban federal judges from dealing with disputes involving religious symbols and mottos in government, such as Ten Commandments displays and "In God We Trust."

Why stop there? Why not ban federal judges from ruling on the legality of a president wiretapping citizens' phones?

The congressional legislation (S. 520) to hamstring judges and the state senate's endorsement are insults to citizens who look to the courts to resolve disputes in a constitutional democracy.

Attempts to selectively muzzle judges is what former U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor warned about last week in a speech at Georgetown University.

In one chilling passage, Justice O'Connor said, "It takes a lot of degeneration before a country falls into a dictatorship, but we should avoid these ends by avoiding these beginnings."

Aiming squarely at Republicans such as Rep. Tom DeLay, who threatened judges when he said they must "answer for their behavior," Reagan Republican appointee O'Connor said, "We must be ever vigilant against those who would strong-arm the judiciary."

State senators who can't come to grips with homeowners tax relief or solve the decade-long dispute over school funding are hardly equipped to dictate what constitutional rights should be gutted to accommodate radical ideologies that threaten the very structure of American government.

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