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Proposed bill would allow for too much meddling

Staff Report • Jan 27, 2012 at 8:26 AM

Some Tennessee legislators are venturing into potentially treacherous legal territory. The Associated Press reported recently several Republican lawmakers are pushing for passage of measures that range from how judges are selected to how they are disciplined. One particularly troubling proposal seeks to limit the power of the courts to overturn unconstitutional laws.

These proposals are, at the very least, an overreach on the part of the legislative branch. What’s worse is that several of these measures are simply an attempt by the legislative branch to exert its will on the state judiciary.

The most troubling is a bill sponsored by state Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, to reign in what she has called an “out-of-control” judiciary. The latter effort is a dangerous assault on the state’s Constitution and on the separation of powers it grants to the three branches of government.

“The courts have taken on a whole new supremacy, where they’re making the policy instead of the legislative bodies making the policy,” Beavers told the AP.

It’s the same argument lawmakers always make when the courts overturn sloppy or constitutionally suspect laws written by politicians who are more interested in pandering to their narrow bases than engaging in thoughtful public policy.

Thankfully, there are both Republican and Democratic lawmakers who see the hazard presented by Beaver’s bill. They know it’s unwise for one branch of government to meddle in the duties of another.

“We in government shouldn’t be part of a power grab,” Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, told the AP. “Any time you try to grab another branch’s powers, the court is likely going to invalidate that.”

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