Do your roads need repair or your schools more money? Perhaps your governor or state legislature needs some assistance in maintaining a good prison system or a department of mental health. If so, please contact your nearest federal court judge today!
Such an advertisement is not far from reality in many federal district courts of our nation. Federal district court judges appointed for life seem instantly endowed with superior wisdom, knowledge and understanding not found in the elected representatives and chief executives of state government. Their “we can fix it” attitude has been devastating to various state governments for years and will continue unless we declare that enough is enough.
For example, Johnny Reynolds filed a lawsuit in 1985 against the Alabama Department of Transportation alleging that the agency’s hiring and promotion practices were racially discriminatory. Mr. Reynolds was fully compensated for the wrong done to him and he died in 2004, but the case against the state of Alabama continued until just last month. Over 20 years of litigation cost the state of Alabama more than $200 million because Federal District Judge Myron Thompson saw no problem in imposing upon the state millions in experts’ fees, attorneys’ fees, contempt fines and payments to predominantly black colleges. The state forked over enough money to pave the entire 1,000 miles of interstate highways in Alabama, with enough left over to pave some of them twice. The final settlement requires even more money to be paid in the future.
In Kansas City, Mo., a case demanding the desegregation of the city’s school system came before Federal District Judge Russell G. Clark. Clark concluded that the best way to desegregate the school was to attract more whites by building 15 new “magnet” schools with such amenities as a robotics lab and a heated Olympic-sized swimming pool. To pay for what the U.S. Supreme Court eventually characterized as “the most ambitious and expensive remedial program in the history of school desegregation,” Judge Clark ordered property taxes in the city to be doubled and for the state to pay over $100 million annually into the school system. The state of Missouri suffered for 26 years before the case ended in 2003, with a final cost to the state of over $1.6 billion.
Judge Clark defended his outlandish usurpation of power by explaining, “I had to balance two constitutional issues. One was no taxation without representation and the other was the kids’ right to an equal opportunity. I decided in favor of the school children.” But the Constitution does not give judges the authority to raise taxes or build schools for children. That is the prerogative of state legislatures and local communities. The Supreme Court concluded in Missouri v. Jenkins that Judge Clark had acted outside his constitutional authority, but not before it cost the state an exorbitant amount of money.
If you think federal judicial imperialism couldn’t get any worse, consider Ruiz v. Estelle, a 1972 case in Texas that lasted nearly 30 years. Federal District Judge William Wayne Justice turned the complaints of several prisoners into a “class action” lawsuit against the Texas Department of Corrections for its alleged violations of the inmates’ civil rights. Judge Justice assumed personal oversight of the prison system and ordered the state to meet mandated standards for which the state was required to pass bonds of $500 million in 1987 and $600 million in 1990. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals eventually ended the case in 2001, expressing “dismay at the delay by the federal district court in disposing of the present [case].” Notwithstanding his disdainful reputation as “the real governor” of the Lone Star state, Judge Justice made no apologies, declaring in a speech that he had “no hesitation in accepting that what I did can properly be called judicial activism. I surely was not passive.”
These are just three examples of many in which the principles of our Constitution have been ignored by federal judges who legislate from the bench and attempt to “fix” society to fit their own views. They sacrifice the principles of our Constitution on the altar of judicial arrogance, assuming that they know better how to run a state than those who are elected by the people to do so. The result in each case was enormous costs, endless litigation and unfulfilled expectations. These judges have failed to heed Alexander Hamilton’s warning that “the states, must, by every rational man, be considered as essential component parts of the union; and therefore the idea of sacrificing the former to the latter is totally inadmissible.”
When we have a plumbing problem, we call a plumber, and when an electrical circuit continues to blow a fuse, we call an electrician. Let’s allow those capable of handling state government do their job. After all, isn’t that why they were elected? Federal judges exist to apply the Constitution to a specific case, not to make law for our governance. If a plumber or an electrician failed to do their jobs and instead presumed to tell you how to spend your money, they would be fired immediately. If Congress fired just one activist federal judge, 50 state governments would breathe a whole lot easier.
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