Joel Cardis


Joel Cardis
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Our courts are under attack. Nowhere has that attack been pursued more aggressively than in Pennsylvania. Several Pennsylvania officials have called for the impeachment of four Pennsylvania Supreme Court justices for imposing a new redistricting map, claiming this action was unconstitutional.

It was not. Many precedents, including one notably authored by conservative icon Antonin Scalia, demonstrate that courts do have the authority to draw a redistricting map. Growe v. Emison, 507 US 25 (1993); Butcher v. Bloom, 415 Pa. 438(1964); Scranton v. Drew, 379 US 40 (1964).

As the calls for impeachment come from public officials, their unjustified attacks are imbued with the elevated authority and honor accorded their offices. The injury to the Court therefore exceeds similar comments by a layman. Even Chief Justice Saylor, himself a Republican, has condemned the harm caused by the move to impeach his colleagues, "Threats of impeachment directed against Justices because of their decision in a particular case are an attack upon an independent judiciary, which is an essential component of our constitutional plan of government.”

In comments to the media that have been quoted nationally, Congressman Costello said, “They knew they had to rig it against me,” while labeling the new map “1000 percent partisan” and an attempt to “disguise” a Democratic Party-centric gerrymander, and “This isn’t democracy, this is political corruption.” Costello has also been quoted as saying, ““It’s known that the justices were funded by liberal forces. This is what they paid for, I guess,’ and “I hope that all the state senators and representatives who have been sent to Harrisburg by the voters of Chester County will vote for impeachment. If they don’t, (they are allowing the justices) to violate the constitution.”

While Representative Cox may not have made any comments to the media, he co-sponsored the actual resolutions seeking impeachment. Those resolutions have most certainly garnered national attention.

Perhaps because President Trump has improperly attacked the courts with impunity, others believe there can be no consequences. But the Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct condemn such conduct by lawyers. See, e.g., Rules of Professional Conduct, Preamble Par. 5; Rule 3.5, Rule 8.2(a), Rule 8.4(d). See also the Rules of Disciplinary Enforcement, Rule 203 (a), and the Code of Civility, Pennsylvania Code §99.1 and 99.3(1),(3),(5),(13),(18) and (19).

Congressman Costello and Representative Cox are lawyers and therefore should understand not only that their public office adds weight to their attacks, but also that there are consequences for such actions by lawyers. Moreover, their status as lawyers may have reassured their colleagues that the improper charges against the justices were legally sound, despite the precedent to the contrary. If so, they have also contributed to the corruption of the legislature as well as the undermining of the judiciary.

The serious and far-reaching manner by which these two men have abused their public positions gives the strong impression that they have no respect for the courts, the rule of law or the doctrine of separation of powers. The public offices held by these two lawyers should not shield them from the consequences of their actions. To the contrary, their positions demand that they be held to the highest standard, that the discipline be commensurate with the seriousness with which they have impugned and attempted to disrupt the court, and that any discipline rendered by the Board be made public. Otherwise the damage to our courts and our entire system of government will go wholly unremediated and the Rules of Professional Conduct will be perceived as meaningless.

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