Lawless courts have become the bane of our lives. Rather than a society based on the rule of law we have become a society based on rule by judges. Oklahoma may be on the cusp of addressing that problem.
A member of the Oklahoma House drafted a resolution Wednesday seeking the impeachment of state Supreme Court justices who granted a delay of execution to two death row inmates.
Republican state Rep. Mike Christian told The Associated Press that the five justices engaged in a “willful neglect of duty” when they granted stays of execution Monday to Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner, both of whom were scheduled to be executed this month.
The issue started out simply enough. Two men, condemned to death, were challenging their executions based on the drug combination used to execute them. One of them had shotgunned a teenage girl and buried her alive, the other had raped and murdered a young child, and they were concerned that the drugs used during the lethal injection process would cause them discomfort. As an aside, because of the political pressure placed on pharmaceutical companies, states using lethal injection are finding it difficult to obtain supplies of the necessary drugs. This has led states to start keeping the names of suppliers confidential and attorneys to start attacking the death penalty based on the drugs being ineffective or insufficiently pain-free.
Oklahoma has two “supreme” courts. The Supreme Court of Oklahoma, which hears civil cases, and the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals.
The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals green lighted the executions. The attorneys for the condemned men filed a civil appeal with the Oklahoma Supreme Court objecting to the drugs. The Supreme Court granted an indefinite appeal.
The Oklahoma supreme court has dissolved its stay of the executions of two men who challenged the state’s secrecy about its source of lethal injection drugs. The court reversed the decision of a district court judge who said the law that keeps the source secret is unconstitutional.
The turnaround heads off a potential constitutional crisis sparked by the state’s Republican governor, Mary Fallin, who had tried to override the stay by issuing an executive order to go ahead with the sentences.
A day after the Oklahoma supreme court originally issued a stay of execution for the two convicted killers, the governor issued her own order on Tuesday that the state would carry out the sentences next week, but legal experts said she had no power to do so.
The court’s reversal on Wednesday came hours after a resolution by an Oklahoma House member to try to impeach some of its justices.
In removing the stay, the court said the inmates had failed to demonstrate “actual injury” and that “the right of access to the courts does not include the right to discover a cause of action” to litigate.
Fallin had said the state supreme court acted “outside the constitutional authority” of its mandate in staying Clayton Lockett’s execution. She granted a stay of seven days for Lockett, rescheduling his execution for 29 April, the same day condemned inmate Charles Warner is scheduled to be executed. But legal experts said the supreme court’s stays had to be followed and the governor lacked the power to reset the date.
Not satisfied with the about face, Representative Mike Christian has filed articles of impeachment.
A Needed Action At State And Federal Level
This move is long overdue at state and federal level. For too long judges, who are, for the most part, insulated from any semblance of accountability have run roughshod over the two political branches of government. The entire Ninth US Circuit should have been impeached long ago for incompetence, assfoolery, and pour encouragement les autres.
A prime example of the need for impeachment happened in the federal courts in 2006. Under the Constitution, the Congress has the ability to strip the federal courts of jurisdiction over certain cases (Article III, Section 2). It exercised this authority when it passed the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005. When the first federal judge accepted a case under this Congress should have immediately begun impeachment proceedings. It didn’t. As a result, yet more power flowed to the judiciary.
The odds of this motion for impeachment moving forward, seem to me, not a follower of Oklahoma politics, to be slim. But kudos to Mr. Christian for having the courage to do what needs to be done to ensure the citizens of Oklahoma are governed by law not by whim.