In a three-branched republic like ours, what do you do with an out-of-control branch of government? One tool at your disposal is impeachment.
So, what is impeachment?
According to Oxford, “impeachment” is probably a corruption of the Latin “impedicare” – to ensnare, fetter, or entangle by foot. That jives with what America has just seen play out with former President Trump’s two impeachment trials, and what the English Parliament used to topple the Stuart Monarchy in the 1600s. No one regards the impeachment process as a means of addressing criminal activity; rather, it is, and has always been, a political weapon.
Perhaps surprisingly, that is exactly the opinion of the Framers of Alaska’s Constitution.
George McLaughlin: “most impeachment proceedings, historically, have not been judicial proceedings, they have been political.”
Steve McCutcheon: “we have two devices which should protect the public: one is impeachment by legislature, and another is by joint address.”
Seaborn Buckalew: “Impeachment is not like a criminal trial; there is no imprisonment or anything, it just provides a method of getting rid of a corrupt official.”
John Hellenthal: “You could impeach the man if he just flagrantly disregarded your constitution.”
Ah, flagrant disregard of Alaska’s Constitution. That’s never happened before, and certainly not in recent memory. Right?
Article 5, Section 3: “Methods of voting, including absentee voting, shall be prescribed by law.” Well, the witness requirement for absentee voting was wiped out by Judge Dani Crosby last October, because of the “right to vote” under Article 5, Section 1 of the Alaska Constitution. But you will look, in vain, for the words “right to vote,” in Article 5, Section 1, or any other section of the Alaska Constitution. Try it. Use the “find” function in your internet browser. It ain’t there. What is in Article 5, Section 1 is a list of requirements to vote – citizenship, age, residency.
Look, folks. Who votes – and, as Stalin said, who counts the votes – is at the heart of representative government. Our state legislature wrote laws prescribing how that should happen. When an unelected member of the judicial branch decides that an unwritten right trumps the written prescriptions of law, is that a flagrant disregard of our written constitution? You can read the writing on the wall.
Again, it’s not like the judiciary has never done this before. Since 1997, the Alaska Supreme Court has an unbroken string of conquests over the will of the legislature regarding abortion. Yes, abortion. Like Lincoln said in his Second Inaugural about slavery: “All knew that this interest was, somehow, the cause of the war.”
Regarding abortion policy, three former Chief Justices of the Alaska Supreme Court have said in dissenting opinions that the high court is “unnecessarily dismissive of the legislature’s role in expressing the will of the people,” and that the high court “should respect the people’s and the legislature’s policy decisions.”
Whether voting or abortion, the life of Alaska is at issue when the judiciary is permitted to use unwritten rights to trump written laws, or a written constitution. And, in my opinion, that’s impeachable.