If I were to extort a judge — threaten career destruction — if she or he ruled against my interest, I’d likely have some explaining to do to federal prosecutors. At minimum, that judge could rightfully find me in contempt and toss me in jail.
So why is that some GOP leaders get away with what amounts to poltical extortion?
This is the case of the state Supreme Court, which ruled Tuesday to put an anti-gerrymandering issue on the Nov. 6 ballot. The initiative, pushed for months by the group Voters Not Politicians, was narrowly approved by a 4-3 margin. It would create a bipartisan commission to draw Michigan congressional districts. In the past, it has been left to the state legislature, which usually draw lines that favor the majority party in Lansing.
Some GOP leaders made it known that if Justice Beth Clement, an appointee of Gov. Rick Snyder who is up for re-election this fall, voted to put the measure on the ballot, the GOP delegates might retaliate and not back her, and instead back someone else as a candidate at the state convention at the end of August. Many in the party want the GOP-dominated legislature to continue to draw the political boundaries, and let that be known.
To her credit, Clement did what she thought was the right thing and voted with the majority.
Nolan Finley of The Detroit News writes:
The newest justice was the target of intense and hugely inappropriate lobbying to side with the three dissenting justices, Stephen Markman, Brian Zahra and Kurt Wilder, in finding a legal technicality to keep the measure away from voters. The challenge was brought by the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.
Clement was threatened with the loss of campaign support from the GOP’s business donors. Her Republican-leaning fundraising firm dumped her. Fellow Republican Justice Kurt Wilder, who is also up for election in November, stopped campaigning with her.
From a moral standpoint, this is criminal. From a legal standpoint, it ought to be.
How disgraceful that her party could try and coerce a Supreme Court justice to rule a certain way, regardless of how she interpreted the law. How ironic that the GOP has always made respect for the rule of law a cornerstone of its philosophy. In recent months, we’ve seen national Republicans savagely attack federal law enforcement; now apparently the courts — even high courts — are no longer immune to this new strain of politics.
As for Clement, she did a rare thing in politics by voting her conscience and the rule of law, regardless of the political consequences.
Even if the GOP takes revenge and decides to back another nominee at the Aug. 25 convention, Clement could still run, but without the support of the GOP.
If the GOP goes the vindictive route, that will make this all the more egregious. And it will be all the more reason for voters to favor Clement.