February 20 roundup

  • Get me Civics, and make it an emergency: West Virginia legislature “moves to withhold judicial retirement benefits until state supreme court overturns a ruling” [Gavel to Gavel]
  • Do threats to publish intimate pictures of Jeff Bezos fall under provisions of criminal blackmail law? [Eugene Volokh]
  • Manuel Reyes, head of the Puerto Rico Food Marketing, Industry and Distribution Chamber, argues that policy shifts have heightened the costs of the Jones Act [Cato Daily Podcast with Caleb Brown, earlier]
  • Battle of the Ilyas: Ilya Shapiro vs. Ilya Somin on sanctuary city and state litigation [Federalist Society podcast]
  • “Most comprehensive study to date on the effects of voter ID argues that these laws have no effects on overall turnout or on the turnout of any group defined by race, gender, age, or party affiliation,” or on real or perceived fraud; results “cannot be attributed to mobilization against the laws” either [Enrico Cantoni and Vincent Pons, National Bureau of Economic Research] [via]
  • Worst Pigouvian tax idea of the year? Oklahoma lawmaker proposes taxing Uber surge pricing to combat DUI [Ryan Bourne]


  • Re WV: While the exercise of raw power by the legislature is jarring, it seems a bit of turnabout is fair play. For years, we have seen lawlessness in the various judiciaries around the country. The death penalty is a perfect example, as courts have devised ever more creative ways of thwarting the people’s will. Or how about all the New York landowners who have had title clouded based on an alleged centuries-old violation of the non intercourse act or so many other various and sundry decisions that are the exercise of will not judgment. When things like this happen, it isn’t hard to predict that other political actors will use tools at their disposal as well.

    I’ve made this point before–but why should I respect (other than the fact that they have power) courts that, for instance, tolerate the abuses that happened in the Sierra fire case? Why shouldn’t I question the legitimacy of anything written by Judge Wardlaw with her four per curiam reversals? The pat answer is that society needs to have a judiciary that is respected because it is beneficial to society—but doesn’t that mean that courts need to at least try to stay within their lanes? It seems to me that judges shouldn’t be demanding public respect given the abominable injustices courts foist on people.

    Why should Carter Page, for example, respect the judiciary?

  • Yeah on the WV Supreme Court I’m not so sure there is a Civics Emergency……courts of all levels have gotten used to being “the last word” on any issue. I have no idea of the specifics or constitutionality of the ruling, having not read it, but if “you can’t impeach us” is the position of the WV Supreme Court, then I don’t expect a legislature to say okay and throw up its hands and just walk away. Each branch will use its power. I think it’s time to return more power to the people (legislative vs. either executive or judicial) on the whole in government, so the legislative attempts don’t rub me the wrong way.

    • As I understand it, the WVSC’s decision wasn’t a bare “we can’t be impeached”

      It was more: “we can’t be impeached en mass in a rush by a lame duck legislature so the current governor can appoint our replacements”

      The situation in WV was that the then current governor had lost a bid for re-election and the governor elect was of the opposite party to the then current governor and then current legislative majority.

      Even then, I’m not convinced the WVSC’s decision has any merit, as it was issued sua sponte with out any kind of adversarial proceeding or even a case filed in the lower state courts.

      This kind of reminds me of a mess that happened in Wisconsin back when Tommy Thompson was still Governor. On a dispute between the sitting WI state supreme court and the Governor, the entire state Supreme Court sued the Governor in state court (WTF?). Of course, the suit was entirely a matter of state law and the state constitution, so they couldn’t go to the Federal courts.

      The Governor lost in the trial court, and appealed.
      The Governor lost in the state appellate courts, and appealed again.

      So now what? The case was now before the State Supreme Court, but the state Supreme Court Justices were the plaintiffs. They finally sat a panel of retired Justices to hear the case. The governor still lost.

  • Isn’t it a conflict of interest that the WV Supreme Court is ruling on something that directly affects them—so why shouldn’t the state Legislature appeal to a federal court, or vote to disband the WV Supreme Court and create a new high court? Or are there other options available to to a state legislature?

  • As I understand it the WV Supreme Court’s decision was based on the state constitution and state law. So the US supreme court wouldn’t have jurisdiction to hear the appeal.

    As I understand the issue, a Republican majority state legislature tried to rush through the impeachments in a lame duck session because the then current governor was a Republican, but the governor elect was a Democrat and they wanted the then Republican governor to appoint the justices successors.