Butler County Times Gazette
  • Kent Bush: Stop using courts as political tools

  • The judicial branch has become equal parts activist regulatory agency and political tool
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  • The framers of the United States Constitution created a government with three branches as a means of regulating the power available to each.
    Somehow, the past two and a quarter centuries, the judicial branch has become equal parts activist regulatory agency and political tool.
    Judges and courts are taking up cases that have no constitutional questions just to be able to make their own policy on social issues.
    That is a problem for legislators. But the biggest problem is how politicians are using the court system to try to influence policy and electoral decisions.
    Everyone has an opinion on whether or not President Barack Obama should be impeached for whatever reasons fringe Republicans are touting this week. Obviously, saying the President deserves to be impeached for not enforcing the law but refusing to enforce the constitution and impeach him due to political expedience may be the height of hypocrisy.
    Feeding the talk radio fire is just one of the many tasks of a 21st Century Republican.
    But the Democrats are anything but above reproach in this area. Four of the top Republican candidates for President in 2016 are either under investigation or indictment.
    Former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell is being tried for corruption. Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin is accused of being involved with illegal campaign fundraising even though he faces no charges and isn’t directly involved in illegal activity. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is still being investigated under the “what did he know and when did he know it” political mantra due to his role in a bridge closure allegedly to punish a political enemy in his state. All of those charges have some merit in that some violation of the law can be alleged without sounded completely crazy.
    That isn’t true in the case of Texas Governor Rick Perry.
    Perry has been arrested following his indictment on charges of abuse of power and coercing a public servant.
    Perry was so upset about the indictment and eventual arrest that he and his lawyers stopped to get some ice cream on the way home.
    So what crime is Perry charged with? He tried to uphold the integrity of the Lone Star State’s Public Integrity Unit. Apparently, they use that term loosely in Texas.
    Actually, the Public Integrity Unit prosecutes insurance fraud, motor fuels tax fraud and government corruption.
    In 2013, Travis County DA Rosemary Lehmberg was arrested for DWI and eventually pleaded guilty. Perry called on her to step down – a reasonable request for someone tasked with ruling and advising on matters of integrity in government. One would expect a clause in the documents that formed the group would require a director to step down in similar circumstances to protect the integrity of the unit tasked with protecting the integrity of the state in such matters. After all, this is the same group that returned indictments against Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and Representative Tom DeLay. Now indirectly, the group has led to the indictment and arrest of a Governor.
    Page 2 of 2 - Instead of doing the right thing, Lehmberg refused to step down because she was concerned that Perry would replace her with a Republican. When she refused to step down, Perry threatened to veto funding for the unit and he followed through with that threat when she wouldn’t budge.
    "The Governor abused his power, tried to coerce an elected official out of office because he didn't like her politics," said Will Hailer, Executive Director, Texas Democratic Party.
    Actually, Hailer couldn’t be more wrong. Perry was right to demand better of members of the integrity unit. If Lehmberg and other Democrats didn’t want Perry to have the ability to replace her with a Republican, she could have avoided arrest during her tenure.
    That isn’t too much to ask.
    Because Perry used his authority to veto the funding to try to maintain a moral high ground, he is facing legal action. That is an abuse of the court system for political purposes.
    It was a petty claim with political purposes. It damages Perry’s standing in Texas and is probably the third strike against his hopes as a serious contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.
    Perry didn’t break the law. He wasn’t doing anything for personal or political gain. Lehmberg breaks the law and embarrasses the state and Perry gets criticized for asking her to maintain the standards she allegedly enforces.
    It is ridiculous that these frivolous charges and investigations have become part of the public policy making process. That is not how the judicial branch was designed to operate.
    Save the court’s time for real criminals and actual disputes.
    Kent  Bush is the publisher of the Butler County Times Gazette and can be reached at: kbush@butlercountytimesgazette.com

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