What we get from this Republican legislature is so far from sensible, often with a subtext of threat, as to border on nutso. For example, the House just gave first-round approval to HB 1463, which bans enrollment at public Missouri colleges and universities for the entire .1 percent of illegal immigrants now attending them. Big whoop. As minority leader Paul LeVota pointed out:
“People don’t come to the state of Missouri so they can go to college, they come to work. This bill does nothing to solve these problems.”
Also in the sharkwatch on the Mississippi category of legislation is HJR 41, a bill for a constitutional amendment (another in the plethora of useless, dangerous proposed amendments) that would ban Missouri judges from imposing taxes without voter approval. As if they ever had. In some other states judges have done so, including in Kansas (omigod, right next door: the sky is falling, the sky is falling). And once, twenty years ago, a federal judge ordered the state to pay for teacher salary increases in Kansas City.
Undeterred by the lack of examples to prove the necessity of this amendment, Rep. Jane Cunningham (R-Chesterfield, running for the senate) said: “They [those treasonous judges, I presume] are on our doorstep. We have a clear and present danger right across the street.”
Her horror of judges would be laughable if it didn’t remind me so much of Pervez Musharraf kicking Pakistan’s chief justice off the supreme court. Naturally, I can’t claim that Cunningham has done anything as radical as that, but only because she can’t. She and her cohorts are still bound by due process.
Nevertheless, Pervez Cunningham and Rep. Pervez Lembke (R-District 85–running for the senate, pictured at left) are doing all they can to intimidate judges. Last January, Lembke proposed impeaching a judge in Osage Beach for ruling the “wrong” way in a child custody case. As a judge, Christine Hutson is bound by law to keep quiet about the case, but look who defended her:
Hutson’s defenders – including the Republican legislator from her town – say she is a respected judge who weighed mounds of evidence and followed the recommendation of the children’s court-appointed attorney.
“Any time you tear something apart, it can get ugly,” said Rep. Darrell Pollock, R-Lebanon. “Somebody’s a winner and somebody’s a loser. … I just question why we would be taking this two- or three-minute look at what this case was, and coming up with an idea that we could impeach this judge.”
Lembke may have abandoned the impeachment idea by now, for all I know. It doesn’t matter. The point’s been made. To anybody thinking of leaving private practice for the bench: think about it. If you’re not a Republican, do you want to take a cut in pay for the privilege of facing similar harassment? And if you’re already a judge, do you want to render a judgment that might get one of these pitbulls coming after you?
(On Wednesday, I’ll write about the centerpiece of this year’s attack on our judiciary, the Republican attempt to do away with the Missouri Non-Partisan Court Plan.)
But back to HJR 41. It looks to be headed for the ballot, and you can get an approximate sense of “justice” under Republicans by looking at how they conducted debate about the proposed amendment:
Legislators gave initial approval to the proposal Tuesday in a controversial move. After about 10 minutes of debate, Speaker Pro Tem Bryan Pratt, R-Blue Springs, called for closing remarks from Cunningham, even though several Democrats were standing and Rep. J.C. Kuessner, D-Eminence, says he was waving his hand, asking to speak.
For his part, Pratt said: “Nobody was seeking recognition. There wasn’t a single hand in the air.”
As usual, they notice no irony in telling judges what’s fair while exhibiting no clue about fairness themselves.