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A PA GOP Legislator Just Announced a Bill to Impeach Five Supreme Court Justices. It’s Both Incredibly Stupid and Incredibly Dangerous.

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Every time it appears the ineptitude of the people running our government has hit rock bottom, the Pennsylvania Legislature manages to find a way to go that extra mile. 

Earlier today, the US Supreme Court denied the long-shot petition by PA Republican Legislative leaders to stop the enforcement of the landmark state court decision requiring the boundaries of Pennsylvania’s eighteen Congressional Districts to be redrawn in a way that isn’t quite as blatantly gerrymandered as they are now. The SCOTUS said, as most legal experts and basic common sense had predicted, that because the PA decision was based solely on the PA Constitution. This means federal courts like the SCOTUS would have no jurisdiction to intervene due to the lack of a federal question. 

Typically, with the US Supreme Court tells you what’s up, then that’s what’s up. There’s nobody else you can appeal to. It is, as the kids say, a done deal.

GinsburgUnless you’re the Republicans running the State Legislature, that is. GOP leaders had already defied the PA Supreme Court by refusing to turn over the necessary data for redrawing the Congressional map because apparently, they’ve never heard of the separation of powers. Instead of taking their court order and living to fight another day, at least some Republican legislators are deciding to go all in.

State Representative Cris Dush, who represents Jefferson and part of Indiana Counties and presumably flunked out of both Barber School and Clown College, circulated perhaps the most batshit crazy Co-Sponsorship Memo in the history of the House of Representatives in response to the Court’s ruling. His solution? Impeach the five Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justices who declared the old Congressional maps to be unconstitutional. (A Co-Sponsorship Memo is like a preview of a bill that is being drafted; it is circulated among all 203 members of the State House in the hopes of attracting co-sponsors.)

Here is the memo in its entirety:


Posted: February 5, 2018 02:09 PM
From: Representative Cris Dush
To: All House members
Subject: Impeachment of five PA Supreme Court Justices
On January 22, 2018, the Supreme Court of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania issued a per curiam Order (“Order”) in League of Women Voters of PA, et. al. v. The Commonwealth of PA, et. al., No. 159 MM 2017, holding that the Congressional Redistricting Act of 2011 (“Act”) “clearly, plainly and palpably violates the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania” and, on this sole basis, struck it down as unconstitutional. The Court further enjoined the future use of the Act in elections for Pennsylvania seats in the United States House of Representative commencing with the upcoming May 15, 2018 primary election.
The Court in its Order mandates that if the Pennsylvania General Assembly chooses “to submit a congressional districting plan that satisfies the requirements of the Pennsylvania Constitution, it shall submit such plan for consideration by the Governor on or before February 9, 2018.” The Court further held that “[i]f the Governor accepts the General Assembly’s congressional districting plan, it shall be submitted to this Court on or before February 15, 2018.”

This Order overrides the express legislative and executive authority, found in Article IV, Section 15 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, concerning the Governor’s veto authority and the General Assembly’s subsequent authority to override such veto. Article IV, Section 15 clearly lays out the path a bill must take to become law.

The five Justices who signed this order that blatantly and clearly contradicts the plain language of the Pennsylvania Constitution, engaged in misbehavior in office.

Wherefore, each is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office and disqualification to hold any office or trust or profit under this Commonwealth. I would ask you to please join me in co-sponsoring this legislation.


So you’re probably like, so what’s the big deal? It’s a big deal on several levels.

First, it’s incredibly hypocritical. Considering that Republicans love to bitch about “activist judges” and “legislating from the bench”, to turn around and try to legislatively remove not one, not two, not three, not four, but five duly-elected State Supreme Court Justices takes some real testicular fortitude. 

Second, these nutjobs are crazy enough to try and actually do it. I served with many of them in the State House, and there may not be a group of people more disconnected with reality than the Republican Caucus of the State House of Representatives. They have enjoyed being in power for so long that they consider themselves as a body not just above the law; they consider themselves to be the law. Their collective arrogance and disconnect with reality are so blatant, it’s not hard to see why so many of them are running for the U.S. Congress in 2018.

Third, it would cost taxpayers a small fortune in terms of money, time, and resources. This is no small undertaking. People still talk about how the 1994 Impeachment of Supreme Court Justice Rolf Larson brought the Legislature to a standstill and let’s remember that this is not a legislative body known for expediency or results. They had all of 2017 to pass a state budget, and they still never got it done. The taxpayer dollars that would be wasted in a mass impeachment effort would be staggering.

Fourth, even formally suggesting something so insane plants the seeds of a Constitutional crisis. Unlike regular legislation, the House of Representatives votes on Articles of Impeachment which are then sent to the State Senate, where the trial takes place. A two-thirds majority in the Senate (34 out of 50 sitting Senators) are needed to convict, and the Governor has no ability to veto.

Just for fun, anyone want to guess how many Republican State Senators we have right now? You guessed it- thirty-four on the button. What an amazing coincidence, right?

Finally, and this is no joke, the idea of impeaching a majority of the State Supreme Court because they called you out on your blatant gerrymandering efforts has a chilling effect on the fundamental need for an independent judiciary. Impeachment is an extraordinary measure that has only been used a handful of times in American history to remove public officials from office.

Quick Quiz- how many state officials have ever been impeached in the entire history of Pennsylvania? (Hint: I already gave you one.) Ready?

  1. 1811: Thomas Cooper (Lycoming County Judge)
  2. 1994: Rolf Larsen (Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice)

Aaaaaaaaaand that’s the entire list. Additionally, there seems to be no instance in the entire history of American jurisprudence where multiple members of a court, let alone a majority, was impeached. To even seriously suggest such a course of action shows a frightening lack of basic understanding about how the rule of law works. Like, this is “First Day of Government School” kind of stuff.

As for the particular charges to support impeachment, Article VI, Section 7 of the PA Constitution says civil officers (public officials) “shall be removed on conviction of misbehavior in office or of any infamous crime.” What does that mean exactly? Nobody knows for certain, but I think reasonable minds would agree that “issuing a ruling we didn’t like” probably doesn’t fit the criteria.

Finally, here’s a little quirk that the Honorable Cris Dush seems to have neglected while planning to carve up the state’s highest court like a rotisserie chicken. If by some miracle this would succeed, we would be without a Supreme Court for potentially two years. Do the math:


There is no mechanism by which to appoint replacement justices; they would have to be duly elected in the next municipal election. So in a best-case scenario, if the justices were impeached and convicted by the end of 2018, which would almost certainly be impossible to accomplish time-wise, candidates would circulate nominating petitions and run in the 2019 election cycle. We’d have to go through both the primary and general elections (which I’m sure wouldn’t be a total shitshow when everyone realized you could pretty much buy a Supreme Court majority all at once with shady political money) and then the winners wouldn’t be sworn in until January 2020. 

Think about that; a member of the legislative branch is actually suggesting that we render the Supreme Court unable to render a verdict for lack of a quorum for at least two years. In the crazy event that anyone might need a judicial ruling on something, are we supposed to flip a coin?

This is monumentally stupid, even for the Pennsylvania Legislature. Either Cris Dush has no clue how government works, or this is a fundraising stunt; either way, nobody should be cool with this regardless of political affiliation. Dush and anyone else who co-sponsors this legislation should be voted out of office because they clearly lack the respect for our system of government, as well as the basic common sense required to do the job.

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A passionate communicator, advocate, and opinion maker with executive-level experience in law, public policy, and government. (Don't let the boyish good looks fool you.)