Recently, I defended Governor Dunleavy’s token gesture of docking the judiciary’s administrative budget $344,700; the amount that the courts demand the Legislature pay out for abortion and related expenses. However, it was apparently a burr under the saddle for the Left. They have gratefully kept this issue in front of the polity.
It is difficult to jog the false notions that most citizens — and lawmakers — have about the allegedly co-equal branches of government. Most folks rightly would consider any constitution boring reading. A lawmaker, however, is sworn to uphold it. Note that it is not to uphold the courts or their opinions, it is to uphold the constitution. Those can be two different things. And while governors and lawmakers might possess faulty judgment, so might the courts. They have every right to intervene.
For any skeptical readers, I am afraid they will simply have to read the boring Alaska Constitution.
However, the collective legislative opinion is even more important than the courts’, and this would also include a governor’s, who has the power of enforcement. All take the same oath. When opinions conflict, the outcome will not be agreeable to all, but it would be constitutional — but only if we follow the rules. As Alexander Hamilton said, the courts possess neither will nor force, but merely judgment.
Let’s play chess. Don’t like a court’s opinion? Gov. Dunleavy has every right to refuse to enforce it, as Gov. Tony Knowles did. Check. Don’t like a governor’s opinions? Vote him out of office, recall him, impeach him. Check. Don’t like a Legislature’s collective action? Vote its members out as well, in two or four years. Checkmate.
But the people can do none of this with unelected Supreme Court justices. The courts are now demonstrating that if they don’t like the way the chess game is proceeding, they use the childish trump card of sweeping their arm across the chessboard and declaring victory.
Argument from a partisan voice such as mine is not nearly as effective as the events that now unfold before all of us: a breathtaking power grab, confirming why courts are meant to be, and are constituted as, the weakest of the three branches. Consider the following:
1. The courts have lobbied the Legislature as a special-interest group to restore their funding.
2. If they have not directly induced the ACLU to sue the Dunleavy administration, we are not so stupid about the winks and nods that are unquestionably occurring.
3. It will then go to the courts, who will make the ruling in their own interest.
4. The mainstream media will parrot the party line that the courts are neutral referees, but few people will be fooled any more.
5. The courts will expect it to be obeyed, just like their other judicial fiats.
The most doltish citizen should now be able to see that seeking remedy through the courts — when the courts themselves are an interested party — should either be cheerfully ignored or, if somehow a governor’s veto is deemed to be unconstitutional, become an impeachable offense.
Those who favor abortion rights, yet still want to keep a balance of power, might consider putting aside their social and ideological baggage long enough to understand that it is the courts, not the governor, who are the constitutional enemies in this case.
Liberals ought to imagine a hypothetical case of a future court ordering funding or taxation for private schools; or how about court-ordered new constitutional “rights” that recognize anyone under the age of 18 as voting citizens?
As yet, no court can order a governor’s veto to be ignored, but that is exactly what they are trying to do. If this seems far-fetched, wait 10 minutes.
But the Legislature can certainly impeach the courts. Perhaps it is time.
Bob Bir?was a two-time candidate for the U.S. Senate in 1990 and 2008, was endorsed by Ron Paul, and is currently a radio talk show host for KSRM in Kenai.
The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email email@example.com.