Newt Gingrich apparently thinks the Founding Fathers made a terrible mistake when they established an independent court system. Under his proposals, judges would please the President, Congress and the public – or suffer the consequences.
Presidents could ignore court decisions they dislike. Congress could haul judges before it to explain their decisions and jail non-compliant judges, and unpopular judges could be fired and their courts abolished.
Even some very conservative judicial critics have expressed outrage at Gingrich’s proposals. One of George W. Bush’s Attornies General (Michael Mukasey) called them “outrageous and dangerous;” Another (Alberto Gonzalez) condemned “bringing judges before Congress, like a schoolchild being brought before the principal.” Columnist George Will wrote that Gingrich would replace legal reasoning with “raw political power.”
The Gingrich plan is not totally untested. Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister, argued that German judges relied too much on legal reasoning, too little on public opinion and Hitler’s wishes. For this offense, judges should be fired and their courts abolished.
Like Gingrich, Goebbels said these “reforms” would protect “the people” against oppressive courts. They became law, the last remnants of freedom vanished, and we learned an invaluable lesson. Or did we?