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GOP candidates look to revamp judicial branch

BY HAYLEY BRUCE | NOVEMBER 28, 2011 7:20 AM

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DESMOINES — A handful of Republican caucus candidates are taking shots at the judiciary, with one even calling for the elimination of an entire circuit of the federal appeals court.

Suggestions to revamp the U.S. judicial branch comes after another Iowa caucus candidate, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, first suggested term limits for Supreme Court justices during a stop in Bettendorf earlier this month, and several other candidates offered support.

"Too many federal judges rule with impunity on the bench, and those who legislate from the bench shouldn't be entitled to a lifetime appointment like the judiciary," Perry told the Bettendorf crowd, adding he would also suggest a part-time Congress. 

The idea of revamping the judiciary came up several times during a candidate forum hosted by the Family Leader in Des Moines earlier this month, as candidates suggested Supreme Court justices had too much power over federal legislation, offering the Roe v. Wade case — in which the Supreme Court solidified women's right to abortion — as an example.

Moderator and Fox News contributor Frank Luntz even opened the question of limiting terms for Supreme Court justices to the audience, asking for applause if they agreed before asking each candidate what changes he or she would make to the judiciary.

Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., said she thinks Congress should have jurisdiction over what cases the courts rule on.

"Congress has been remiss to not limit subject-matter jurisdiction," she said. "… Congress has the right to limit what cases the courts can take up, and I think that's something the Congress should do on some of these issues where the courts decide."

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said he would go as far as ousting Chief U.S. District Judge Fred Biery based on his San Antonio ruling that bars discussion of God, prayer, and moments of silence at public graduation ceremonies.

"Not only can students not pray at their graduation, but they couldn't use the word benediction, they could not say the word prayer, could not say the word God, could not stand for a moment of silence, and if they broke any of these, they'd put their superintendent in jail," he said. "I regard that as such a ruthlessly anti-American statement that he should not be on the court, and I would move to literally abolish his court so he would go back to private practice."

Former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., suggested the most sweeping changes, including the elimination of the 9th Circuit.

"I would go a step further, and I would abolish the entire 9th Circuit," he said. "And the idea that the third branch of government, Article Three of the Constitution, which we know is the least important because it's third — not first or second — that they would be seen as the superior branch of government that could be literally unchecked is something that our Founding Fathers absolutely would be appalled by."


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