Ben Carson Suggests That Congress Should Remove Pro-Equality Judges, Which Is Unconstitutional
Federal judges had better make sure that their future rulings don’t conflict with the policy preferences of a President Ben Carson. Otherwise, despite a lifetime appointment, they might quickly find themselves out of a job.
During an interview last week with conservative Iowa radio host Steve Deace, Carson, who is considering running for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016, discussed the wave of recent rulings by federal courts striking down same-sex marriage bans. He argued that statewide ballot initiative results should be the final word, saying it was “unconstitutional” that judges have ruled in favor of equality despite these votes.
Carson continued that, when federal judges make rulings like this, “our Congress actually has the right to reprimand or remove them.”
Setting aside Carson’s premise that the Constitution’s promise of equality should be put up to a vote, he is misguided about what the Constitution provides with respect to judges. Despite his assertion, Congress cannot simply remove a judge for ruling in a way the majority disagrees with. Judges may only be removed for impeachable offenses, which the Constitution defines as “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” Under other circumstances, the Constitution declares that “judges, both of the supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behavior.
Admittedly, there are precedents for reducing a sitting judge’s jurisdiction. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, for example, was split into two courts in 1981. That was not done to punish the judges on that court, however, but rather because the old Fifth Circuit was viewed as too large an unwieldy. It would be something entirely different to strip a judge — and that judge’s court — of all of their authority.
Carson is not the only Republican to propose this type of governing through intimidation. Multiple times during his presidential bid, former Speaker Newt Gingrich suggested eliminating entire courts in order to punish judges he disagreed with.
Of course, it’s not terribly surprising that Carson would propose removing pro-equality judges, given his fervent opposition to LGBT rights. In 2013, he gained notoriety for comparing marriage equality to pedophilia and bestiality. He reiterated this view before eventually backing down and apologizing.