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Guest Post: Win for States’ Rights – Federal Judge Winmill Blinks

May 20th, 2008 by Halli

From Bryan Fischer, Idaho Values Alliance

Federal Judge Lynn Winmill has a well-deserved reputation as an activist judge. Not too long ago, he trampled on the Boise Rescue Mission’s First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion by telling staff how to run their ministry even though the Mission does not receive so much as a nickel in taxpayer monies. Further, Winmill has struck down pro-life legislation seemingly out of force of habit. Yesterday, however, this federal judge blinked in a showdown with the Idaho Supreme Court.

Winmill rejected a lawsuit brought by some Idaho public schools against the Idaho Supreme Court, who wanted Winmill to order the Idaho Court to dictate a remedy in a school funding dispute. Winmill wrote what is for him an amazingly restrained opinion, saying, “Federal courts have no authority to direct state courts or their judicial officers in the performance of their duties.”

The back-story here, I believe, is that the Idaho Supreme Court fully intended to ignore any ruling that Winmill handed down that would have directed it to do anything. Additionally, only two of the five justices who made the original ruling are still on the Court, so the reality is that the Court doesn’t have the quorum of three necessary to follow his dictates even if they were inclined to do so.

Further, the Idaho Supreme Court had dismissed the suit, meaning that from a legal standpoint there is no existing case for Winmill to rule on, which gave the Idaho Court another reason to simply ignore an order from him.

It looks as though Winmill was prescient enough to recognize that he wasn’t going to be able to order the Idaho Supremes around, and backed out of the case in a face-saving move. The reality is that, if the Idaho Supreme Court ignored his ruling, there’s not a thing he could have done about it. The separation of powers doctrine denies any enforcement power to the judiciary, so he had no one he could compel to enforce his ruling.

Kudos to the Idaho Supreme Court for refusing to be coerced or intimidated by the prospect of a federal judge unconstitutionally throwing his weight around. The reality is that, if federal judges intrude where they have no constitutional authority to be, there is nothing except the frayed good will of the states that prompts them to comply with such unauthorized rulings.

The Idaho Supreme Court has struck a blow for the 10th Amendment, state sovereignty and liberty all in one fell swoop, and perhaps shown the rest of the states in the Union the way forward to reclaim rights that are properly theirs under the federal Constitution. If more branches of Idaho state government start showing the moxie of the Idaho Supreme Court, happier and freer days may be ahead for all Idahoans.

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Posted in Constitutional Issues, Education, Family Matters, Guest Posts, Idaho Legislature, Taxes | No Comments »

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