Former House Speaker and Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, has said that as president he would have U.S. judges who give decisions not in line with the policies of his administration arrested.
Gingrich said he would take action against "steady encroachment of secularism through the courts to redefine America as a nonreligious country."
Reuters reports that Gingrich said on CBS's "Face the Nation" that he would ignore Supreme Court decisions in conflict with his power as commander in chief.
Gingrich, on CBS' Face the Nation, said he would consider using United States Marshals and Capitol Police to arrest judges and force them to appear before Congress to explain controversial decisions. According to Gingrich, the founders of the U.S. created three equal branches of government, therefore, if Congress and the President disagree on a court ruling it should be considered invalid.
The Telegraph reports that Gingrich's pronouncement will win him support among conservatives who are very concerned about liberal judges who have been taking decisions they do not approve of. Iowa conservatives, The Telegraph reports, were angry at the state Supreme Court's decision to legalize gay marriage and mobilized support to have the judges who voted in favor of gay marriage removed.
The Telegraph notes that Gingrich's statement of his position on "activist" judges won him a loud applause at Thursday's Republican debate in Sioux City, Iowa. He repeated his position on CBS News on Sunday. Gingrich said: “There is steady encroachment of secularism through the courts to redefine America as a nonreligious country and the encroachment of the courts on the president’s commander in chief powers, which is enormously dangerous."
According to Gingrich, judges are not following the U.S. Constitution and were subverting elected officials.
Gingrich's statement that he would use U.S. Marshals to arrest judges was in response to CBS's Bob Schieffer's suggested scenario in the case of Judge Fred Biery who was criticized for a ruling that opposed religious speech during a high school graduation ceremony. Judge Biery's ruling was later overturned by a federal appeals court and Gingrich used it to illustrate how some American judges were disregarding "traditional American values."
While Gingrich's pronouncement will please social conservative voters, some analysts say it could backfire on him because voters are already weary of constant conflict between the White House and Congress.
Reuters reports Gingrich may have made the statement to shore up slipping poll numbers following a barrage of criticisms that he is an "influence peddler" who had received $1.6 million in "influence" fees from Freddie Mac. Reuters reports Gingrich has dropped to 28 percent from 37 percent in Gallup's national tracking poll since early December, and in Iowa, a state many analysts say is critical for him, polls show he has slipped from 32 percent to 24 percent, though he is still leading.
The Telegraph reports that two former attorneys general from President George W. Bush's administration have criticized Gingrich for his views expressed in a 28-page document titled “Bringing the Courts Back Under the Constitution".
One of the attorneys general Michael Mukasey, said to Fox News that Gingrich's proposals were “dangerous, ridiculous, totally irresponsible, outrageous, off-the-wall, and would reduce the entire judicial system to a spectacle".
His predecessor Alberto Gonzales, said: “I would tread very, very carefully down the road with this notion that ’okay, this judge has rendered a decision that we think is very unpopular and we’re not happy with it so we’re going to try to impeach this judge. I think that’s not healthy. I think the way you deal with decisions made by judges that you are not happy with is you win presidential elections.”
Huffington Post also criticized Gingrich, referring to rallies sponsored by James Dobson's Focus on the Family during the Bush administration to drum up support for conservative judges Bush was nominating for consideration by the Senate. Huffignton Post said:
"At those rallies, speakers routinely called for courts to be abolished and judges removed not for malfeasance but for political reasons....Today, these same conservatives are fuming that the U.S. Department of Justice is promising to use the Civil Rights Act to enforce voting rights and other measures to protect immigrants."Huffington Post quotes a 2005 editorial of the The Christian Century:"After listening to James Dobson and his evangelical Christian colleagues talk about controlling the federal judiciary through the Republican majority in Congress, to the extent of punishing judges and defunding courts, one can't help recalling the events in 1930s Germany. The National Socialists removed judges who didn't go along with the party program. Law became what they party said it would."