Jefferson said judicial tyranny made the Constitution "a thing of wax."
If [as the Federalists say] “the judiciary is the last resort in relation to the other departments of the government,” … , then indeed is our Constitution a complete felo de so. … The Constitution, on this hypothesis, is a mere thing of wax in the hands of the judiciary, which they may twist and shape into any form they may please. It should be remembered, as an axiom of eternal truth in politics, that whatever power in any government is independent, is absolute also; in theory only, at first, while the spirit of the people is up, but in practice, as fast as that relaxes. Independence can be trusted nowhere but with the people in mass. They are inherently independent of all but moral law …
— Jefferson Letter to Judge Spencer Roane, Nov. 1819
_______________________How Do We Stop Power-Hungry Judges?
For decades judges in U.S. courts, high and low, have been behaving like legislators, making laws as they see fit. The Supreme Court, for example, recently ruled that Louisiana could not execute a man for raping his very young stepdaughter, thereby overturning similar laws in five other states. The Justices rationalized their ruling by saying that there is "a national consensus" against applying capital punishment to such a crime.
A national consensus? Are the courts now going into the polling business before rendering decisions? Isn't turning consensus into law or instituting a change in law a function of elected legislative bodies? This ruling, alas, is not unusual. Since the 1930s justices in this country's courts have increasingly usurped powers they previously hadn't had. Precedent has meant little, and so has the U.S. Constitution. Three years ago, for instance, the High Court nullified the Constitution's ban on using the power of eminent domain for private purposes. The justices gave the green light to politicians' seizing of private property to help out politically connected developers.
For decades state courts have forced politicians to spend increasing amounts of money on schools, despite there being no demonstrable link between outlays and outcomes. New Jersey, for example, has some of the worst schools in the country in beleaguered cities such as Camden, Elizabeth and Newark, even though per-pupil spending in those schools runs around $20,000, about twice the national average.
Not content with their usurped legislative powers, judges have decided to reward themselves on a very personal basis. A New York State Supreme Court justice has ruled that the New York State legislature must increase judges' salaries, claiming that the cost of living is going up. Ponder that for a moment: judges decreeing pay increases for themselves. Talk about the ultimate ATM!
Judicial arrogance hasn't stopped there, however. In Brooklyn, N.Y. judges decided to use a public park as a place to park their cars. There are parking facilities a few blocks away, but the judges felt that walking to fetch their cars might be a danger to their personal safety. The New York City Parks Department has plans to use that park as a pedestrian walkway and told the judges to park their vehicles elsewhere. Not surprisingly, these judicial autocrats have threatened to sue the Parks Department for infringing on their self-awarded perks.
This type of egregious overreaching by grasping judges has already poisoned American politics. That's why nomination fights over jurists for the federal bench have become increasingly vitriolic and bitter.
Our Founding Fathers would be aghast at such power grabbing, which makes a mockery of the separation of powers and the checks and balances that they took such pains to enshrine in the U.S. Constitution.