State bills would give lawmakers the power to overrule court decisions on constitutional issues

  • Print.

State lawmakers who disagree with court decisions are introducing legislation to increase their power over courts and even to refuse to enforce federal court decisions.

The bills, introduced in a handful of states, are intended to push back against courts that are deemed too activist, the Washington Post reports.

“In the past few years,” the newspaper reports, “the political sentiment that courts need an extra check has come roaring back and found a home in an increasingly politically charged society.”

The Gavel to Gavel blog has information on several of the bills:

• An Arizona bill provides that lawmakers can halt any “commandeering” actions by the federal government, including actions by federal courts.

• An Idaho bill gives lawmakers the power to invalidate federal and U.S. Supreme Court decisions for conflicting with original intent, and bars state courts from enforcing the decisions after the legislature acts.

• In Washington state, the “Balance of Powers Restoration Act” would allow the legislature to ignore state appeals court decisions striking down laws, though the court decisions would be binding on the parties. A popular referendum would follow that could override the legislature.

• A Florida bill would allow legislators to override by a two-thirds vote “activist” court decisions that strike down laws.

Other bills give lawmakers more power over the makeup of the courts. An Oklahoma bill setting a retirement age “would effectively wipe out most judges currently serving on the state’s appeals court,” according to the Washington Post. A bill in Hawaii would would authorize the Senate to vote on whether to reconfirm judges.

Alicia Bannon of the Brennan Center for Justice criticized the judicial override bills in an interview with the Washington Post. “This notion that a legislature can just override a court ruling is quite radical,” she said. “What this does is really shift power toward political institutions in a way I think should make people worried about the ability of courts to enforce the Constitution and protect people’s rights.”

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.