Gingrich has also repeatedly criticized federal judges who, adhering to well established Supreme Court precedent, enjoin public schools from sponsoring religious activity:
“Are we forced for a lifetime to keep someone on the bench who is so radically anti-American that they are a threat to the fabric of the country?” Gingrich asked.
“What kind of judge says you’ll go to jail if the word ‘invocation’ is used? If this isn’t a speech dictatorship, I’d like you to show me what one looks like.”The Constitution permits the removal of federal judges through the impeachment process. Otherwise, they have lifetime tenure. Gingrich's comments, therefore, reveal his distaste for the Constitution, which the president is obligated to uphold.
Gingrich has also said that he would like to force judges to come before Congress to explain their rulings. Unlike other governmental actors, judges, already explain their rulings in opinions. Gingrich's proposal is unnecessary. It also would allow for abusive violations of the separation of powers. Gingrich mistakenly believes that judges should be accountable to Congress, rather than the Constitution.
To support his dangerous ideas, Gingrich cites to Thomas Jefferson, who, in 1802 led his party's decision to abolish numerous new judgeships that the lame-duck Federalist-dominated Congress created following Jefferson's victory over John Adams. But Jefferson's actions are hardly model behavior.
Encouraged by Jefferson, the new Democratic-Republican Congress suspended the operation of the Supreme Court to prevent it from deciding the constitutionality of the repeal of the new judgeships. Jefferson later asked Congress to impeach Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase, who criticized Congress for repealing the judgeships. Although this history is an embarrassing low-point in the treatment of the Court by the president and Congress, Gingrich invokes it as support for his own partisan agenda (Note: This history provides the background for the landmark decision in Marbury v. Madison).
GOP Candidates' Dangerous Ideas for the Court
Mitt Romney, Ron Paul and other Republicans have criticized Gingrich's ideas regarding the courts. Gingrich, however, is not the only Republican candidate who has dangerous views concerning the federal courts.
Rick Perry, for example, wants to abolish lifetime tenure for judges. This plan would undoubtedly make them more vulnerable to partisan control. Perry also wants to give Congress the power to overrule Court decisions by a 2/3 vote. Although Congress can already reverse the Court's interpretation of statutes by simply passing new legislation, reversing the Court on Constitutional matters requires a constitutional amendment, not a vote of Congress.
Although Ron Paul has criticized Gingrich, Paul has also advanced some dangerous proposals for the Court. Paul, for example, has introduced a bill called the "We the People Act." If passed, this bill would prohibit federal courts, including the Supreme Court, from deciding whether state or local laws violate the "the right of privacy, including issues of sexual practices, orientation, or reproduction. . .or. . .the right to marry without regard to sex or sexual orientation where based upon equal protection of the laws." Paul's proposal would divest the federal courts of the power to protect extremely important liberties against state infringement.
Paul's proposal would also prohibit any court ruling that "otherwise interferes with the legislative functions or administrative discretion of the states." This broad prohibition would effectively negate judicial enforcement of the Constitution and federal statutes, to the extent that state law conflicts with these provisions.
Although Gingrich's ideas are dangerous, it seems that his openness in expressing them has frightened voters. Although Gingrich soared to popularity among GOP voters after Herman Cain left the race, it appears that voters are now taking a second look, and he is falling in the polls. In other words, even conservative voters are rejecting his extreme views.