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Posted on Wed, Mar. 10, 2004

Kentucky lawmaker seeks high court curb



A Kentucky Republican says the Supreme Court has too much power, and he's trying to change that.

Rep. Ron Lewis introduced legislation yesterday that would allow lawmakers to override Supreme Court decisions.

Lewis' bill would let lawmakers reverse Supreme Court rulings if the court rules that laws passed by Congress are unconstitutional. The legislation says two-thirds of the House and Senate would have to agree to the override.

Lewis likened his proposal to the existing right of Congress to override a presidential veto with a two-thirds majority.

Lewis of Cecilia, says he is worried about lower court decisions heading toward the Supreme Court.

He cited an appellate court ruling that the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional when recited in public schools because of the reference to God. Congressional lawmakers criticized that decision and passed a law affirming references to God in the pledge. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear that case this month.

"America's judicial branch has become increasingly overreaching and disconnected from the values of everyday Americans," Lewis said.

He added that the nine justices on the Supreme Court, who "were not elected and are serving life terms" should not have the final word on what "the American people must do and not do."

But legal scholars say Lewis' bill is itself unconstitutional.

"The Supreme Court would immediately say it's unconstitutional because the Supreme Court gets the last word on the constitutionality of laws," said University of Southern California law professor Erwin Chemerinsky.

Chemerinsky said Lewis' idea is not entirely new.

He said Robert Bork, a former Ronald Reagan Supreme Court nominee, said Congress should pass a constitutional amendment giving it the power to override Supreme Court decisions.

Bork realized lawmakers would have to amend the constitution to take power away from the high court, Chemerinsky said.

Lewis said he would try to pass his bill as a simple act of Congress but would pursue a constitutional amendment if his plan failed.

About a dozen Republicans are sponsoring the bill. No Senate companion bill has been introduced.

Lewis was first elected to Congress a decade ago. He is a former Baptist minister and owner of a Christian bookstore.

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