David Barton is outraged that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg nodded off during the State of the Union address last month, which Ginsburg attributed to the “very fine California wine” that Justice Anthony Kennedy had shared at dinner that evening.
Barton writes in a WorldNetDaily column today that while he isn’t personally “calling for the removal of Ginsburg for her recent faux pas,” Justice Ginsburg’s nap represented bad behavior and disrespect to the U.S. Constitution, both offenses warranting impeachment and removal from office.
You may recall pictures of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg sitting on the front row in the House Chamber sleeping during President Obama’s State of the Union Address. News recently broke explaining why: “I wasn’t 100 percent sober.”
A State of the Union message is a constitutionally mandated duty (Article II, Section 3), and for those who respect the Constitution, this address is serious stuff. But apparently not to Justice Ginsburg – which probably is not surprising given that her rulings routinely reflect a general dismissal of the Constitution and that she publicly advises leaders in other nations to seek something better than the U. S. Constitution for their country.
Regardless, it is certain that public intoxication by a Supreme Court justice does not inspire faith in the Judiciary. Luther Martin (one of the 55 delegates who framed the U. S. Constitution) warned: “It is necessary that the supreme judiciary should have the confidence of the people,” and to ensure this, the founders made certain that the federal bench could be ridded of those who embarrassed or misused it.
Citizens today might be dubious of such a statement, for we have long been told (and wrongly so) that federal judges have lifetime appointments. They do not – and it was the Founding Fathers themselves who specifically stipulated that federal judges could serve only for the duration of “good behavior” (Article III, Section 1). So as long as a judge acted right, he could stay on the bench, but if he acted otherwise, he could be removed. Nowhere in the Constitution is there any mention of, much less guarantee for, lifetime appointments for judges.
The first federal judge to be removed from the bench came at the behest of President Thomas Jefferson. That judge, John Pickering, was no obscure lightweight. Originally placed on the federal bench by President George Washington, Pickering had been a framer of the New Hampshire Constitution, served as the state’s governor, was selected as a delegate to frame the U.S. Constitution (but declined) and was subsequently a ratifier of the federal Constitution. So why was he removed? Among the reasons given was public intoxication (as well as a public disrespect for God). The Founding Fathers considered this to be bad behavior for a judge.
Don’t think I am calling for the removal of Ginsburg for her recent faux pas. Rather, I am pointing out that the current notion that federal judges are unaccountable because they have lifetime appointments is one of the greatest lies of our lifetime.
If America ever again expects the federal courts to be just one of three so-called “co-equal” branches rather than the supreme branch they have become, then we must recover the notion that our federal judges are not unaccountable demigods.