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View Full Version : Brownback throws separation of powers under the bus



Norman Bernstein
06-09-2015, 09:18 AM
Yup, the conservative solution to courts it doesn't like: defund them!


On Thursday, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback signed a bill (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/07/us/courts-budget-intensifies-kansas-dispute-over-powers.html?_r=0) that threatens the entire state's judiciary with destruction if it rules against a law he favors. Brownback has spent much of his tenure attempting to curb the state supreme court and consolidate power in the executive branch. Thursday's startling maneuver suggests the deeply conservative governor (http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2014/10/sam_brownback_s_ruinous_economic_policies_the_kans as_governor_s_experiments.html) has no compunction about simply obliterating separation of powers when another branch of government gets in his way.

The Kansas trouble started in 2014, when the state supreme court ruled (http://www.kansas.com/news/politics-government/article1136471.html) that the disparity between school funding in rich and poor districts violated the state constitution. The justices ordered the legislature to fix the problem. Soon after, the legislature passed an administrative law that stripped the supreme court of its authority to appoint local chief judges and set district court budgets. (Instead, district court judges—who are often quite conservative—were allowed to elect their own chief judge.)

Arriving shortly after the school funding ruling, this law was widely seen as a retaliation against the court—and a warning. In their first ruling, the justices stopped short (http://www.kansas.com/news/politics-government/article8071974.html) of declaring that the school system as a whole was constitutionally underfunded. But the court acknowledged that it would one day answer that question. And if the justices mandate more school funding, the legislature will have to raise taxes, a step few legislators are eager to take.

The administrative law, then, was likely an effort to scare the court out of issuing a dramatic ruling in favor of greater school funding. Just in case the court didn't get the message, Brownback and the legislature have also threatened the justices (http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/05/final-front-sam-brownbacks-battle-control-kansas) with blatantly political reforms, like subjecting them to recall elections, splitting the court in two, lowering the retirement age, and introducing partisan elections. (Currently, a nominating commission creates a pool of candidates, and the governor selects from that bunch.)

Now the court has an opportunity to strike down the administrative law, which probably violates the state constitution. And that's where Brownback's insane new law comes in. The law declares that if the supreme court strikes down the administrative law, the entire state judiciary will lose its funding. Brownback and the legislature are essentially bullying the judiciary: Uphold our law or cease to exist.

Any right wingers want to try to DEFEND this?

David G
06-09-2015, 12:38 PM
More Republican 'laboratory for democracy' dingbattery. He's failed. He doesn't want to admit he's failed. He's flailing and lashing out anywhere/everywhere that the failure is pointed out.

In his frantic desperation - he's forgotten the importance of the separation of powers. He's forgotten the Constitution. He's forgotten what democracy looks like. He's forgotten the interests of the people of Kansas. He's just scrambling for his political life, while wrestling with an extreme case of cognitive dissonance, and to heck with anything that gets in his way.

EVERYONE!!! Please stop voting for the Republicans until they come to their senses...

S.V. Airlie
06-09-2015, 12:45 PM
Yup, the conservative solution to courts it doesn't like: defund them!



Any right wingers want to try to DEFEND this?Yup! They will be around in a minute!

Keith Wilson
06-09-2015, 12:53 PM
It seems very likely that the Supreme Court's going to have something to say about this. Brownback is a fine upstanding member of the loathsome creatures club.

John Smith
06-09-2015, 05:19 PM
Just when you think it can't get any more insane.....

This is why some of us feel it is absolutely imperative to vote for every Democrat in every race. It appears to be the only possible way to get the Republican party back to sanity, assuming it ever was sane.

htom
06-09-2015, 10:37 PM
What is this separation of powers? Is not the majority the ruler?

Ian McColgin
06-09-2015, 11:16 PM
The majority is NOT the ruler. The checks and balances between executive, legislative and judicial at all levels - federal, state and local - was designed because our founders had a well developed suspicion of all concentrations of power.

At the federal level and in many states (Texas for example, hence the current governor's legal problem) a politician's threatening retaliation is exactly an inverted bribery and is treated as such. Especially with the judiciary, it's the most flagrant abuse of power to attempt to coerce a legal decision by any form of threat. Dictators do that sort of thing. Not presidents or governors.

Glen Longino
06-09-2015, 11:46 PM
The majority is NOT the ruler. The checks and balances between executive, legislative and judicial at all levels - federal, state and local - was designed because our founders had a well developed suspicion of all concentrations of power.

At the federal level and in many states (Texas for example, hence the current governor's legal problem) a politician's threatening retaliation is exactly an inverted bribery and is treated as such. Especially with the judiciary, it's the most flagrant abuse of power to attempt to coerce a legal decision by any form of threat. Dictators do that sort of thing. Not presidents or governors.

Exactly so!
Brownback=Throwback!
He will never get away with this in the long run but will cause hardship for the Kansas troglodytes who elected him. They elected him; they deserve him!

Chris Coose
06-10-2015, 05:10 AM
It appears to be the only possible way to get the Republican party back to sanity, assuming it ever was sane.

The reason to vote Democrat is certainly not to save Republicans from themselves. They've taken a turn toward bat**** and all we ought to be doing is waving them good-by.

elf
06-10-2015, 07:14 AM
There are no Republicans any more. Stop thinking in those terms.

Somewhere out there are a large number of Moderates. Whether they will find a home in the Democratic Party and then split it up, or actually come to understand (from watching the Regressives run the Republican party into a cement wall at full speed) that they need a new party for themselves or come to understand that even moderation is no longer a viable stance is at present the question of the electoral cycle at hand.

Sky Blue
06-10-2015, 09:53 PM
The majority is NOT the ruler...

Yes, but it is odd to see you arguing founders intent, Ian. Maybe you'll make a good Republican when all is said and done.;)

Be that as it may, it does seem that as you've rushed into your powers separation discussion, you missed the second sentence in the second paragraph of the C&P set forth in the OP wherein the court "ordered the legislature the fix the problem."

Sounds like the court is the one that needs a primer on separation of powers doctrine. Looks like the governor is giving that to them.

Ian McColgin
06-11-2015, 03:00 PM
I did not miss the court's direction. Rather, Sky Blue, you have missed the checkered history of court-legislature and court-executive fights.

This was the court being a tad deferential to the legislature. The court could have imposed a court ordered fix but chose not to. Which was, given the history of court ordered fixes, probably wise. Not that the court is dumber than the legislature. Rather, it's better to have some level of political consensus on an inferior but still acceptable solution than to have the court order the best idea around over the will of the legislature. Only when the legislature proves utterly obdurate should the court actually define the fix.

Paul Pless
06-11-2015, 04:57 PM
At the federal level and in many states (Texas for example, hence the current governor's legal problem) a politician's threatening retaliation is exactly an inverted bribery and is treated as such. Especially with the judiciary, it's the most flagrant abuse of power to attempt to coerce a legal decision by any form of threat. Dictators do that sort of thing. Not presidents or governors.dictators do that sort of thing? You mean guys like FDR??

Ian McColgin
06-11-2015, 05:10 PM
FDR indeed threatened to increase the size of the Supreme Court, which he could only do by getting Congress to write the law. So, hardly dictatorial or unilateral. There was great anger, but the Supreme Court took stock of the legal reasoning (or lack there of) in their series of judicial vetos of very popular laws proposed by FDR and passed by a large majority of Congress and figured, anger or no, it could happen. Better to join the 20th Century. So "packing" the court was mooted but never actually proposed.

Still, FDR, like all our war presidents, exercised dictatorial powers. That's why this perpetual war we started with our unprovoked aggression in Iraq is so dangerous and, to the president, so seductive.