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The Rise of the Religious Right in the Republican Party

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Intimidating Judges

By trying to make federal judges yield to political pressure from Washington, the Bush administration is engaging in a radical attack on our constitutional system. Even Chief Justice William Rehnquist, whose conservative credentials are unassailable, has warned that coil on judges' sentencing practices "could amount to an unwarranted and ill-considered effort to intimidate individual judges."

The Feeney Amendment, known for its sponsor, Representative Tom Feeney, Republican of Florida, ordered a commission to maintain judge-by-judge records of sentencing departures and to send the files to the attorney general, who in turn is obliged to provide the information to the Judiciary Committees of both houses.

Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist criticized Congress in unusually pointed terms on Wednesday for a recent law that places federal judges under special scrutiny for sentences that fall short of those called for by the federal sentencing guidelines.

At its most recent meeting, in September, the Judicial Conference of the United States, a group of 27 judges who make policy for the federal courts, voted unanimously to ask Congress to repeal the amendment. Congress has not acted on the request from the conference, which the chief justice heads, and the prospect that it will do so appears slight.

America Stands on the Edge of A Grave Constitutional Crisis Linked to Pat Robertson, highlights the Protect Act, a product of the Feeney Amendment and ties the roots of this legislation to Pat Robertson. (The Yurica Report, January 6, 2004)

In an extraordinary moment of history, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist pointedly criticized Congress for passing legislation that encroaches upon the federal judges' sentencing prerogatives. The legislation, called the PROTECT Act by Mr. Rehnquist, was passed in the spring of 2003, but received little public notice since it was tacked onto the Amber Alert bill as an amendment. But the legislation has serious implications for the checks and balance system of the United States government. What is at stake is whether America will continue to have an independent judiciary or whether the federal judicial system will be subject to the will of congress through the use of intimidation. The battle lines have been drawn, but what is probably unknown by most of us is that congress is following a blueprint that originated in an unlikely place: it was a gift born on American television.



Last updated: 14-Jul-2004