Chicago federal judge comments about Constitution spark impeachment calls

ByChuck Goudie and Barbara Markoff, Christine Tressel WLS logo
Thursday, June 30, 2016
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A prominent Chicago judge is being criticized for comments in which he seemed to repudiate the U.S. Constitution.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A prominent Chicago judge is being criticized for comments in which he seemed to repudiate the U.S. Constitution. The statements from 7th Circuit Appellate Judge Richard Posner appeared in the online magazine, Slate.

Judge Posner said he sees "no value" in judges studying the U.S. Constitution, suggesting it's outdated. Judge Posner's words of scorn for the Constitution that he swore to support and defend when he was appointed by President Reagan in 1981.

As the nation heads into its Independence Day holiday, Posner's comments are being framed as anti-American by some commentators and have lit the fires of impeachment on social media.

"If you actually read the Bill of Rights and 14th Amendment, some of the provisions are precise, they are the ones that are the real embarrassment," Judge Posner said.

The veteran Chicago judge has fileted the Constitution in interviews and speeches and as a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School. But the recent article in Slate Magazine seems to have touched new nerves.

Judge Posner stating that he sees "absolutely no value to a judge of spending decades, years, months, weeks, day, hours, minutes, or seconds studying the Constitution, the history of its enactment, its amendments, and its implementation."

Posner writes, "Eighteenth-century guys, however smart, could not foresee the culture, technology, etc. of the 21st century. Which means that the original Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the post-Civil War amendments, do not speak to today."

"It's a very interesting position on a very old debate. It's a very thoughtful approach to a very complicated question, which is, how do you deal with modern situations and modern problems using a 200 plus year old document?" ABC7'S legal analyst Gil Soffer, said.

When reached by the I-Team, Judge Posner declined to be interviewed for the report.

Court watchers on several legal and constitutional websites have asked if Posner has committed an impeachable offense. Should he be impeached for publicly repudiating the Constitution? They also stated that a Congress that took the oath seriously would impeach Posner.

"I think some of the responses to this judge's opinion or what he's written about this are hysterical, they're way over the top. No, this is not an impeachable position to take," Soffer said.

Fifteen federal judges in American history have been impeached and eight were convicted, but for misconduct such as being drunk on the bench, bribery and sexual assault in a 2009 impeachment.

On Thursday, the dean of the Chicago Kent College of Law also weighed in on the impeachment prospects. Dean Harold Krent said such impeachment talk is silly, but he said perhaps Judge Posner shouldn't have been so disrespectful to the court in his comments.

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