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GOP Threats Against Judges Laughable, Judicial Observers Say


June 1993

House Republican leader Robert Michel (R-Ill.) and seven other GOP members threatened senior U.S. District Judges Whitman Knapp and Jack Weinstein with impeachment for not handling drug cases in protest of futile drug laws. But judicial observers said they were ill-informed and powerless to fulfill their threats. (Saundra Torry, "Some Federal Judges Just Say No To Drug Cases," Washington [Post] Business, 5/17/93, p. 7).

In a feature about the mounting number of federal judges protesting drug laws through various actions, the Washington Post noted that the impeachment threat "engendered little more than giggles." An unidentified senior judge in Washington, D.C. commented that "some of the congressmen have slipped a cog." GOP leader Michel was joined by Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), Richard Armey (R-Tex.), William Paxon (R-N.Y.), Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), Bill McCollum (R-Fla.), and Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) in an April 26 letter threatening Weinstein and Knapp with impeachment.

Judge Knapp responded to the impeachment threat by pointing out to Michel and his cronies that under U.S. Code Title 28, Section 294(b) a senior judge may "perform such judicial duties as he is willing and able to undertake." The law permits judges who are at least 65 to take senior status and continue to collect full salaries and pay raises by doing about 25 percent of an active judge's work.