Re "Rehnquist Sees Threat to Judiciary" (Jan. 1): Kudos to Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, who has reminded us on this first day of a new year that the founding fathers wisely built checks and balances into our system of government. It is inappropriate -- no, dangerous -- for democracy when politicians threaten reprisals against justices who rule in ways they simply don't like. The U.S. government is based on principles. It is not a free-for-all.
Rehnquist claims that a judge's judicial acts "may not serve as a basis for impeachment. Any other rule would destroy judicial independence." He added, "Judges are expected to administer the law fairly, without regard to public reaction."
You are correct, your honor. That was the intent of the framers of the Constitution; they decided on life terms for justices to make them free from any political or public pressure. However, that provision was made under the assumption that the justices would administer the law fairly, basing their decisions on the text of the Constitution, including any amendments.
The Supreme Court has, instead, assumed extra-constitutional powers and has begun writing opinions that have no basis in the Constitution and often make no reference to the Constitution. You and your colleagues now write opinions based on nothing more than what you think the law should be. You have become, de facto, another legislature.
The framers wisely saw that the people who make the laws must be accountable to the people. Justice Rehnquist, because you and your associate justices have chosen not to ground your decisions in the Constitution, and instead to legislate freely from the bench, you cannot hold office for life. Every legislative body must be accountable to the people.
George L. Clark Sr.
Rehnquist's warnings against ideological interference with judicial independence, like the apologies of Republican political consultant Lee Atwater almost 15 years ago, have no meaning. Atwater helped to destroy civility in politics with his gleeful use of smear tactics. When he was dying, he apologized for his maliciousness.
When Rehnquist warns about the dangers of extremism in the judiciary, does he mean partisan excesses similar to his own? As with Atwater, no one will listen seriously to Rehnquist's change of heart.
Carl C. Slate
The article on Rehnquist, Rep. Tom DeLay and "judicial activists" would have been an opportunity for commentary on the Constitution's commandments relating to religion and government. The founding fathers commanded "no religious test" shall ever be required, and the first Congress commanded that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.
As James Madison wrote long ago, "Strongly guarded as is the separation between Religion and Government in the Constitution of the United States, the danger of encroachment by Ecclesiastical Bodies may be illustrated by precedents already furnished in their short history." The Madison quote is never referenced by DeLay or Rehnquist.
Although I agree that Rehnquist is and has been a sound and worthy judge, I feel he misses the point. DeLay and other conservatives, myself included, have only called for impeachment of judges based on the fact that they have gone beyond the simple guidance of the Constitution and strayed into making law by judicial edict without the people having proper venue of electing them to make law. Once they crossed into the legislating arena without our having a vote on them, it amounted to tyranny by the judiciary. Therefore we can look only to legal remedies of impeachment or removing of legal jurisdiction by the Congress.