Bold: Gingrich Says He’d Defy Supreme Court Rulings He Opposed


gingrich1Newt Gingrich says as president he would ignore Supreme Court decisions that conflicted with his powers as commander in chief, and he would press for impeaching judges or even abolishing certain courts if he disagreed with their rulings.

“I’m fed up with elitist judges” who seek to impose their “radically un-American” views, Gingrich said Saturday in a conference call with reporters.

In recent weeks, the Republican presidential contender has been telling conservative audiences he is determined to expose the myth of “judicial supremacy” and restrain judges to a more limited role in American government. “The courts have become grotesquely dictatorial and far too powerful,” he said in Thursday’s Iowa debate.

As a historian, Gingrich said he knows President Thomas Jefferson abolished some judgeships, and President Abraham Lincoln made clear he did not accept the Dred Scott decision denying that former slaves could be citizens.

Relying on those precedents, Gingrich said that if he were in the White House, he would not feel compelled to always follow the Supreme Court’s decisions on constitutional questions. As an example, he cited the court’s 5-4 decision in 2008 that prisoners held by the U.S. at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, had a right to challenge their detention before a judge.

“That was clearly an overreach by the court,” Gingrich said Saturday. The president as commander in chief has the power to control prisoners during wartime, making the court’s decision “null and void,” he said.

But the former House speaker demurred when asked whether President Obama could ignore a high court ruling next year if it declared unconstitutional the new healthcare law and its mandate that all Americans have health insurance by 2014. Gingrich said presidents can ignore court rulings only in “extraordinary” situations.

On his website, Gingrich spelled out his views on courts.

“While abolishing judgeships and lower federal courts is a blunt tool and one whose use is warranted only in the most extreme of circumstances … it is one of many possibilities to check and balance the judiciary,” he wrote. “Other constitutional options, including impeachment, are better suited” to check wayward judges.

“In very rare circumstances, the executive branch might choose to ignore a court decision,” he wrote.

Gingrich also said that as president he might ignore a Supreme Court ruling if it held gays and lesbians had the right to marry.

“The Constitution of the United States has absolutely nothing to say about a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. Were the federal courts to recognize such a right, it would be completely without constitutional basis,” he wrote.

While his critique of the courts has been popular on the right, even some conservatives object to Gingrich’s proposals on abolishing courts or impeaching judges over their decisions.

Conservative legal analyst Edward Whelan called Gingrich’s proposal for abolishing judgeships “constitutionally unsound and politically foolish.”

The Constitution says judges, once appointed, “shall hold their offices during good behavior.” And while their decisions can be overruled by higher courts, judges have not been threatened with impeachment over their rulings.

{The Los Angeles Times/ Newscenter}


  1. While the press (esp. the LA Times) falls allover itself to sensationalize every word Gingrich says, this argument happens to bear more intelligent scrutiny. Gingrich believes the constitution did not mean for the supreme court to have more power than the other 2 branches.

  2. That the Supreme Court is the final expositor of the Constitution, as stated in Cooper v. Aaron, is highly doubtful. That the Supreme Court is an expositor of the Constitution, as explained in Marbury v. Madison, is indisputable.

    In addition, Gingrich cannot entirely look to Pres. Lincoln for support. Lincoln believed that the ruling in the singular case of Dred Scott v. F.A. Sandford had to be followed, but that the constitutional interpretation laid out in the decision did not. So, according to the Lincolnian interpretation, a same-sex couple suing for a marriage couple who were victorious in court would have to be granted one, but that such a decision would not mandate granting marriage licenses to all same-sex couples.

  3. Small problem here. Nobody seems to be reading the Constitution. The whole point of division of powers was that no one branch could overrule the others. If Mr. Gingrich would indeed ignore the Supreme Court, he would be breaking the law and subject to impeachment and removal from office. Likewise, the President can veto laws, but Congress can override him with a strong enough vote. the Supreme Court can declare a law unconstitutional, but the Justices are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.

    The idea of three powers was a stroke of genius. This country has the longest-running sitting government in the world. No, friend, the English Parliament has had several revisions in the last couple of hundred years. Only the US has preserved the same government, with changes made according to processes foreseen by the writers of the Constitution. Yes, the gentleman is a college professor – and I pity his students.

  4. The power of the Supreme Court was settled by Marbury vs. Madison over 200 years ago and reaffirmed when FDR’s court-packing plan failed after a public storm. There are constitutional ways for the other branches to overturn a Supreme Court decision such as amending the law orthe Constitution (as was done after the Court abolished the income tax). Gingrich’s declarartion is extremely dangerous – he, in fact, wants to be a dictator.

  5. No, friend, the English Parliament has had several revisions in the last couple of hundred years.

    Perhaps Oldtimer, as he professes to be so knowledgeable about the British Parliament, would kindly condescend to give us five – no, three – examples of the “several revisions” he has hinted at?

    In any case, Oldtimer is talking out of his yarmulkeh; the longest-running sitting parliament in the world is the Alþingi aka the Althing, the parliamwnt of Iceland, which is the oldest parliamentary institution in the world still extant.


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