March 26, 2018

Statement of Hilarie Bass, ABA president Re: Pennsylvania judges and separation of powers

WASHINGTON, March 26, 2018 — On May 1, the American Bar Association will celebrate Law Day by focusing national attention on the importance of the separation of powers in ensuring judicial independence. The theme “Separation of Powers: A Framework for Freedom,” will highlight the critical role of the nation’s system of checks and balances in the fair function of our government.

The reminder is timely. In recent days, Pennsylvania Republican lawmakers have proposed impeaching four Democratic state Supreme Court justices because they ruled that the state’s congressional map was unconstitutionally gerrymandered and must be immediately replaced. The ABA denounces this move as an attack on judicial independence.

The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected two appeals from the lawmakers. In a statement, Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Thomas Saylor, a Republican who dissented from the original ruling, criticized the lawmakers’ threats of impeachment against the justices because of their decision in a particular case as “an attack upon an independent judiciary.”

Legislators are free to disagree with judicial rulings, but punishing judges in a partisan manner for making valid rulings is not acceptable.

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