Chris Christie rebukes Supreme Court

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Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey gave the sharpest rebuke that any governor ever gave to his State’s Supreme Court. And he was right.

What did Chris Christie say?

Chris Christie appeared yesterday in a town-hall-style meeting in Toms River, New Jersey. Among other things, he discussed a New Jersey Supreme Court that has taken too much on itself.

No matter what we pass, the Supreme Court…believes that they are a superior branch of government, not a co-equal branch.

Chris Christie as United States Attorney

Chris Christie as United States Attorney. Photo: US Department of Justice

The governor was talking about the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Abbott v. Burke XXI. In that ruling, the Supreme Court said that Christie was not giving enough money to the State’s schools. But this isn’t a matter of students everywhere going without good textbooks. This is about special privileges to 31 arbitrarily chosen districts, called the “Abbott Districts” after Raymond Abbott, the original plaintiff.

What they did a couple of weeks ago, was that they passed an appropriations bill!…Well, I’ve read the Constitution. It is only the legislature that pass an appropriations bill, with the agreement of the governor!

Chris Christie singled out Justice Barry T. Albin for special criticism. Albin, at one point during oral argument, said:

Why don’t you raise the millionaires’ tax, and use the money from the millionaires’ tax to spend on school funding?

In reply, the angry Christie said,

If Justice Albin is going to do that, why don’t we all just go home?

He continued by saying that government in New Jersey had become a “dictatorship [of] the Supreme Court.”

Well, somebody had to say it!

And it might as well have been Chris Christie. When he took office last year, he warned the people that he would have to change the Supreme Court to make lasting reforms. And he was right. He’s right about what he said yesterday, too. But he could have predicted this outcome.

Any Constitution, of the United States or of any State, now means whatever the particular Supreme Court says it means, any time it says it. Chris Christie said that this sort of thing had been going on for twenty years. Actually, it’s been going on for at least thirty-five years. In Robinson v. Cahill (1976), the Supreme Court actually shut down all the schools in the State until the legislature enacted an income tax! And that is exactly why New Jersey has an income tax.

In his dissent in that case, Justice Worrel Mountain warned that the Court had broken new ground, by telling legislatures what to do. Now Chris Christie just said the same.

He won’t satisfy his opponents by saying that. Steve Lonegan, his opponent in the 2009 primary, has said often that if he were governor, he would defy the Supreme Court. In short he would say, as Andrew Jackson might have said.

Barry Albin has made his decision. Now let him enforce it!

Well, even Judge Andrew P. Napolitano, formerly of the Essex Vicinage of the New Jersey Superior Court, wouldn’t expect that of Chris Christie, or any other governor. (He has said so.)

So what should the people do about it?

Chris Christie made it clear: the Supreme Court of New Jersey is out of control. Supreme Courts in many other States are similarly out of control. Only one thing can bring them back under control: retention elections.

Right now, the State Constitution says that any judge or Justice must serve an initial term of seven years. Then the governor must reappoint him, and the Senate must reconfirm him. But once they do that, the judge or Justice stays in office until his seventieth birthday. And as Christie said, he remains “unelected, and unaccountable to the people.”

Clearly the seven-year “probation” is not enough. Justices and judges should have to stand for a simple stay-or-go vote every seven years. Nothing so crass as a political campaign need take place, for no one would “run” against any given judge. Instead, if the judge failed of retention, the governor would appoint another.

Why such a drastic step?

Because either we make our Supreme Court answerable to the people, or else each State, and likely the country, too, becomes a dictatorship of the Supreme Court, if it isn’t already. If Constitutions mean anything, then judges, and Justices of Supreme Courts, must abide by them. And if they don’t, then the people must bring them to heel. Otherwise any Constitution is “a mere thing of wax” for courts to do what they want with, as Thomas Jefferson said.

Featured image: the United States Supreme Court. Photo: CNAV.

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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.

15 Responses to Chris Christie rebukes Supreme Court

  1. Senator Harrison says:

    1.) The supreme court did its job whether you agree with its decision or not. The governor is constitutionally required to fund the schools.

    2.) Voting in justices is the worst solution. You think it’s partisan now, what do you think will happen when they get elected?

    • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

      Senator (is that your real title? What State and district are you a Senator in?):

      1. The Supreme Court most definitely did not do its job. It usurped the job of another branch of government.
      2. Retention elections aren’t about voting justices in. They are about voting justices out when necessary. Once they’re out, the governor treats the result like any other judicial vacancy: by making another appointment.

      I’ll tell you what, Senator (assuming you are a Senator): no branch is Constitutionally authorized to do the job of either of the other two branches. That is what this Supreme Court has done.

      Now about that article you’re talking about: the Constitution says “for students between the ages of five and eighteen.” But some of that Abbott money goes to pre-schools.

      Now I did not address this, but maybe we ought to amend the constitution and strike that article completely, if it is going to lend itself to this kind of abuse.

      There! Let the Senate, in its deliberations, deliberate that!

  2. Ego says:

    Special privileges for 31 arbitrarily chosen districts?

    Don’t you mean extra funding for 31 districts that were found to have _unconstitutionally substandard levels of education_? (citation: )

    Sorry, but I can’t get up in arms about something that aims to ensure that all children have a chance at a proper education. I’m ashamed at the idea that anyone, let alone a governor, is unwilling to pull a dollar or two more out of their pocket to make sure kids in their own darned state get an education sufficient for them to make something of themselves in this world.

    PS: Senator Harrison A. Williams died about ten years ago. He was a proponent of education reforms. Obviously ‘Senator Harrison’ is a pseudonym for the poster above who shares those same sentiments. Real senators don’t spend a lot of time posting comments on any web site, let alone an unpopular one.

    • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

      Well, shame on him for impersonating a United States Senator, living or dead.

      “Unconstitutionally substandard levels of education”—according to the Supreme Court. As I said, the Constitution now means whatever the Supreme Court says it means, any time it says it. That you happen to agree with the Supreme Court only means that you would love it if the Constitution meant whatever you say, any time you say it. I don’t have to defer to that kind of arrogant opinion. And I don’t.

      And if this site is so unpopular, then what are you doing on it?

  3. Ego says:

    Enjoying the view.

    Since the _law_ states that the constitution is interpreted by the supreme court, you obviously have no respect for the law. And I don’t have to defer to that kind of arrogant opinion. And I don’t.

    Oh, and since I wouldn’t want to be confused with an evil impersonator, let me state outright that I am NOT actually part of Freud’s model of the human psyche.

    • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

      So the law says that the constitution is interpreted by the Supreme Court? Oh, ho! So now the law says that the Constitution means whatever the Supreme Court says it means, any time it says it? When did they pass that law? I must’ve missed it. And like Chris Christie, I read the Constitution and it doesn’t say that anywhere.

      So I have no respect for the law? Buddy, you’ve got that backwards. But I’ll tell you this: I have no respect for a Supreme Court that oversteps its bounds, and turns the Constitution into Thomas Jefferson’s “thing of wax.” I don’t think that I could pay any such respect to a Supreme Court that acted that way, without throwing away my self-respect as a free citizen.

  4. Ego says:

    How in the world can you claim to know the constitution but not be aware of sections 1 and 2 of Article III?

    “Section 1.

    The judicial power of the United States, shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The judges, both of the supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behaviour, and shall, at stated times, receive for their services, a compensation, which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office.

    Section 2.

    The judicial power shall extend to all cases, in law and equity, arising under this Constitution, the laws of the United States, and treaties made, or which shall be made, under their authority;–to all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls;–to all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction;–to controversies to which the United States shall be a party;–to controversies between two or more states;–between a state and citizens of another state;–between citizens of different states;–between citizens of the same state claiming lands under grants of different states, and between a state, or the citizens thereof, and foreign states, citizens or subjects.”

    The constitution is law. Judges are vested with interpreting all laws. State Supreme Courts are the highest law in a state, and the federal Supreme Court is the highest law, period.

    This isn’t hard to understand. Perhaps you do not know what the word ‘judicial’ means?

    You don’t think 31 incredibly underfunded districts need proper funding for education. I think you have a lot to worry about in general when it comes to reasons to respect yourself.

  5. Donald R Laster Jr says:

    The issue is the Supreme Court of the State of NJ creating law not reading what the laws actually state. When any judge starts making law – as was done in the Abbott decision – the judge should be impeach for malfeasance in office. you should also read the NJ State Constitution as well. It is located here

    The primary funding of schools is the responsibility of the local communities. And the “underfunded districts” are not doing any better to my knowledge even with the extra money. The problem is not the money but the bureaucracy, socialism, and “all children are the same” mentality that prevents children from being taught and learning.

    A child with an IQ of 50 or an autistic child does not belong in a classroom with normal IQ children. In the same way a child with behavior problems does not belong in the same class as children without behavior problems.

    • Rob Herbert says:

      The constitution link you provide says “The Legislature shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of free public schools for the instruction of all the children in the State between the ages of five and eighteen years.” – it mentions nothing about excluding people YOU don’t think are appropriate. What other segregation are you in favour of, Donald?

      • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

        We’re not talking about segregation. We’re talking about what the Constitution does, and does not, oblige. You assume, evidently, that the Constitution of New Jersey says, “Redistribute wealth all around!” Well, it doesn’t say that. Or didn’t, last time I checked.

        Pre-schoolers are out of the “five to eighteen” age range. Or didn’t you figure that out?

        • Rob Herbert says:

          I was referring to the previous poster’s last paragraph:

          “A child with an IQ of 50 or an autistic child does not belong in a classroom with normal IQ children. In the same way a child with behavior problems does not belong in the same class as children without behavior problems.”

          In other words, a call for segregation. How can you call it anything else?

  6. bobloblaw says:

    Robinson v. Cahill did not require or create the state income tax. That was a legislative response to the actual Supreme Court decision. Local property taxes used to be the predominate source of channeling funding to school districts. First, the Supreme Court held that this funding system did not guarantee a constitutionally required thorough and efficient education for each New Jersey student. Over the next couple of years, the state legislature drafted a couple pretty lame measures, none of which even really addressed the funding aspect to the extent that it needed to. But the Supreme Court granted a couple of extensions, out of deference to the lawmakers — even letting the lawmakers devise their own plan(s) so long as whatever plan they devised guaranteed funding to underserved districts that weren’t at educational parity with wealthy districts because of the property tax system.
    When the public school districts were “shut down,” it wasn’t done so directly by the Supreme Court. All the Supreme Court said was that, after quite a few years of extensions and legislative failures, the funding system kept remaining inadequate and unconstitutional, no public official was allowed to disseminate funding to schools under this model. Of course, the point is taken that when no funds are expended to schools they effectively shut down, but the Supreme Court basically just said “Ok, enough state legislature, you’ve been on notice for several years that this funding system is clearly unconstitutional, yet you keep on using it… now you HAVE to stop using it.”
    In response to this, the state legislature decided (on its own) that a state income tax was a pretty good way of implementing constitutional guidelines for providing public education. The Supreme Court never said “until you levy an income tax, no more school!!!”

    2 years ago, the Supreme Court (in the previous Abbott v. Burke case) upheld a law that agreed on a funding plan. Christie decided that the state wasn’t going to live up to that law. So….
    1) Was the Supreme Court wrong 2 years ago in upholding a law? Or, is it only wrong when it rules against a law?
    2) Who is out of line… a Governor that isn’t listening to previous Court decisions AND not listening to a previous law? Or, a Court that is being consistent with legislatively-passed laws and its own prior decisions?

    Also, the Abbott districts are not arbitrarily chosen. There are clear metrics that classify the lowest performing districts as such, and the NJ legislature and Dept of Education has authority (which it has exercised) to determine additional ones.

    And, “special privileges” afforded to these “arbitrarily” chosen schools? Walk into any one of the schools in these districts and I challenge you to walk out believing that these students are more privileged or have greater advantages than do “normal” students.

    Finally, “any Constitution, of the United States or of any State, now means whatever the particular Supreme Court says it means, any time it says it.” “NOW” means whatever the Court says it does? Is this a new thing? I thought the Court was constitutionally obligated to say what the Constitution means? What else should the Court do? You never really answer that question, but strongly imply that the Court should accept a republican argument whenever it is proffered.

    • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

      Maybe you can tell my why Hoboken is an Abbott! I’ll tell you why: because the liberal clique lives there.

      And in fact, the courts were supposed to interpret the law in light of the Constitution. But instead they have read into the Constitution what they want to see in there. Appellate judges aren’t supposed to do that, for only trial judges have any equity powers.

      And, of course, one man’s equity is another man’s inequity. Your principles of equity seem to amount to this:

      From each, according to his ability, to each, according to his need.

      That about sum it up?

  7. Aaron Petrick says:

    Jesus…. Terry how do you sleep at night? Seriosuly? If I was as paranoid as you I’d take further steps than sleeping with a pistol under my bed.

  8. Aaron Petrick says:

    By the way… Jesus.. if he was real, was about as liberal as you can get. Which is curious because so many Christians are so fundamentally right wing… like you!

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