Pennsylvania Republican wants to impeach 5 state Supreme Court justices over gerrymandering fight

He says five of the state Supreme Court justices "misbehaved in office" by ruling that the state's gerrymandered map was unconstitutional.

Visitors line up in front of the Supreme Court while the Justices hear arguments on gerrymandering, October, 2017 in Washington, DC.
CREDIT: Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images
Visitors line up in front of the Supreme Court while the Justices hear arguments on gerrymandering, October, 2017 in Washington, DC. CREDIT: Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images

A Republican lawmaker in Pennsylvania is trying to impeach five state Supreme Court justices who voted that the state’s gerrymandered congressional map was unconstitutional.

Rep. Cris Dush has introduced resolutions to impeach Justices Kevin Dougherty, Christine Donohue, Debra McClosky Todd, and David Wecht, accusing them of misbehavior in office. A fifth resolution to impeach Justice Max Baer is pending as well.

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Dush argues that the justices overstepped their bounds when they determined that Pennsylvania’s congressional map, which was originally drawn in 2011, violated the state’s constitution. The map was one of the most egregious examples of gerrymandering — a strategy of drawing districts in outlandish ways in an effort to elect more members of one party — in the country’s history, as Marc Stier, the director of Pennsylvania’s Budget and Policy Center, put it in an interview with ThinkProgress last week.

In the past, Republicans have consistently won 13 out of 18 House seats, despite getting only about 50 percent of statewide votes. After the court’s ruling, the map was redrawn by a nonpartisan expert, creating four swing districts, eight that favor Republicans, and six that favor Democrats.

Republican legislators in the state have fought to block the new map since January, arguing that the legislature should have been the one to redraw the map. The matter was settled for good Monday, however, when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a request from GOP legislators in the state, who wanted the high court to block the new map.

Now, Dush wants the state Supreme Court justices who made the original ruling gone.

“The five Justices who signed this order that blatantly and clearly contradicts the plain language of the Pennsylvania Constitution engaged in misbehavior in office,” Dush wrote to fellow House members, according to a report from The Hill.

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In an interview with The Hill, Dush said, “This is basically 7th grade civics class all over again, the separation of powers and the authority of the legislature… The courts basically are there to interpret when there’s conflict in the law, and they don’t have any sovereignty.”

Pennsylvania’s state House has the power to impeach justices, and Republicans have a majority in the House, holding 120 of 203 seats. Removing a justice would also require two-thirds of the state Senate to vote in favor, and Republicans hold 34– almost exactly two-thirds — of 50 state Senate seats.