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The Guardians of Democracy

Pennsylvania GOP Moves To Impeach Four Supreme Court Judges Over Gerrymandering Decision

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania


Pennsylvania GOP Moves To Impeach Four Supreme Court Judges Over Gerrymandering Decision

A Republican state representative has introduced resolutions to impeach the four Democratic Pennsylvania Supreme Court justices who ordered lawmakers to redraw the state’s congressional districts after ruling they were unfairly gerrymandered to benefit Republicans.

Rep. Cris Dush introduced resolutions seeking to impeach Justices Christine Donohue, Kevin Dougherty, Debra Todd and David Wecht, accusing them of-of misbehavior in office.

The four justices voted to strike down the old map of congressional districts on the basis they were unconstitutionally drawn to favor Republicans. Their ruling ordered lawmakers to draw a new map in time for the May 15 primary.

In a memo to fellow House members, Dush said their ruling amounted to an overstep of judicial authority under the state Constitution, which lays out the path by which a bill becomes a law — in this case, a bill to delineate the district lines after the decennial Census and reapportionment process.

“The five Justices who signed this order that blatantly and clearly contradicts the plain language of the Pennsylvania Constitution engaged in misbehavior in office,” Dush wrote to fellow members.

“This is basically junior high civics course material,” Dush said.

“If the court is willing to overstep on this element to their benefit, at some point, when the court shifts, there will be probably a willingness on the part of the court to go the other way and cite this action on the part of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court as precedent in order to do it,” he added later.

House Minority Leader Frank Dermody (D., Allegheny) called Dush’s resolutions “an absurd attack on common sense.”

“It’s an attack on the independence of every judge in our state, one of the bedrock principles of our democracy. If pursued, this would be a clear and present danger to the administration of justice in Pennsylvania,” Dermody said in a statement.

The Hill notes:

Pennsylvania lawmakers have only impeached one member of the state Supreme Court in the history of the Commonwealth. That vote came in 1994, when state Supreme Court Chief Justice was removed from office after being convicted on two counts of conspiracy.

The state House has the sole power to impeach justices, and Republicans control 120 of 203 state House seats. Actually removing justices would require a two-thirds vote in the state Senate. Republicans control 34 of the 50 state Senate seats — enough to remove any justice on party-line votes.


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