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Congress periodically engages in waves of "court-stripping," often to punish the courts for particular rulings on hot-button social issues.

Impeachment & Other Threats

Tom DeLay“The judges need to be intimidated. … We're going to go after them in a big way.”

—Thomas DeLay, then-House Republican leader


 Fighting Back Against 'Judge-Bashing'



“Judge-bashing”—villainizing judges and threatening them with impeachment, budget cuts and even death—is one of the most disturbing trends of the past decade. Such attacks fly squarely against the intent of our nation’s Founders.


Examples in recent years:

  • In 2011, former presidential candidate Ralph Nader targeted five Supreme Court justices with sharp criticism and urged impeachment action.

  • In 2010, Democratic Rep. Peter Fazio of Oregon said he was investigating articles of impeachment against Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., and Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa urged the ouster of "lawless judges" following a court order striking down the military's "dont' ask, don't tell" ban on gay military personnel.

  • In 2009, radio show host Hal Turner wrote in his blog that three federal judges should be “killed,” for upholding a Chicago ban on handgun sales. In 2010, he was convicted and sentenced to 33 months in prison.
  • Beginning in 2009, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has repeatedly called for abolition of the entire Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. He took issue with the court's ruling over a cross in the Mojave National Preserve.
  • In 2005, conservative leader Phyllis Schlafly threatened a Supreme Court justice, saying that Anthony M. Kennedy’s opinion against the death penalty for juveniles was “a good ground of impeachment.”

  • Jay Bybee, a Republican-appointed federal appellate judge, has faced calls for impeachment over legal opinions he wrote in the George W. Bush administration.


Justice at Stake Executive Director Bert Brandenburg cautioned in 2010, in a statement quoted by The Washington Post:

“Almost every American, liberal and conservative, has been angered by particular legal rulings, but that’s because we ask courts to settle tough legal disputes. It is reckless to threaten judges with ouster simply because we don’t like a particular decision.”

Resources on Impeachment & Other Threats

State Impeachment Threats


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