Now that the federal courts have shut down Republican efforts to maintain the gerrymandered Congressional districts drawn along partisan lines that allowed them to unfairly dominate elections since 2011, angry state legislators are looking to punish those they blame for their troubles.
Lawmakers in the state House of Representatives who fought bitterly and lost a battle with the state Supreme Court – which redrew the map of legislative districts to make them fairer – are now moving to impeach five of the state’s top judges.
While the majority of Supreme Court judges are Democrats, as is the governor, the Republicans hold an overwhelming majority in both houses of the state legislature – thanks to their gerrymandering of the districts – which positions them to punish the judges.
The state House of Representatives has the sole authority to impeach, which would take a two-thirds vote.
The Republicans control 120 of 203 seats which means they have enough votes strictly along party lines to carry out the impeachments.
Republican Rep. Cris Dush introduced resolutions today that accuse Justices Kevin Dougherty, Christine Donohue, Debra McClosky-Todd and David Wecht of misbehavior in office, according to The Hill.
Another resolution is pending to impeach Supreme Court Justice Max Baer while some legal technicalities are worked out
In its history, only one Supreme Court judge has ever been impeached, and that happened in 1994 when the judge was found guilty on a charge of conspiracy – so impeachment is rare.
In a memo to his fellow House members, Dush wrote that by overriding the Republicans district lines the judges had exceeded their authority under the state constitution which charges the legislature with mapping district lines after the decennial census.
“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.
Dash said in an interview today that he had drafted the resolutions weeks ago but had waited until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled so he could add their language.
Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court refused the Republican request to hear a challenge to the action by the state Supreme Court.
While the Republicans focus on punishment, the district maps created by the court will be in use for the upcoming May primary and November midterm elections for seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
With the new fairer maps, Democrats are expected to pick up at least two seats, which could help them retake the majority position in the House, which would change the whole way the Congress – currently controlled by Republicans – does business.
Yesterday, after a federal appeals court and the Supreme Court ruled against the Republicans, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf praised the new maps as “fair.”
“The people of Pennsylvania are tired of gerrymandering and the new map corrects past mistakes that created unfair Congressional Districts and attempted to diminish the impact of citizens’ votes,” Wolf said Monday.
Republicans have been consistently partisan and unwilling to compromise with their opponents through this whole process, from the drawing of the district lines to recent battles over the fight with the Supreme Court, so it is no surprise they are still vindictive.
In a state where Republicans and Democratic voters are roughly split, the Republicans have had a great advantage since they redrew the lines seven years ago.
Now with more equitable district maps, it will be up to the voters to ultimately it clear that they want fair elections, not fixed partisan votes. However, the way the law works, it may be too late for the state Supreme Court judges by then to save their jobs, although more legal battles are the one certainty in all of this.