The dysfunction – and frankly, absurdity – in politics today has forced the courts to be the arbiter of last resort on issues that rightly should never come before them.
Unscrupulous candidates and Republican obstructionism are backed up by a schoolyard bully’s taunt: “Why don’t you make me?”
Maine people have been forced to take up that challenge and head to court to ensure that the law is enforced and that the standards of democracy are upheld.
Where the executive and legislative branches have failed and where candidates have pushed the bounds of appropriateness and legality, the courts have remained steadfast.
The rule of law – so far – has held. Thank God.
The was a time pre-2016 when candidates for the US Senate who turned in the signatures of dead people on their nomination petitions, and got caught, would slink quietly away into political never-never land.
Max Linn lost his place on the Republican primary ballot for US Senate after the campaign of his opponent, state Sen. Eric Brakey challenged a number of his signatures. An investigation by the Secretary of State and the courts eventually concluded that he did not submit enough valid signatures to qualify.
Linn, who admitted fraud occurred on his nominating petitions, has now appealed the decision to remove him from the election to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.
Now it’s up to the Law Court to confirm what common sense has already told everyone else: Linn has no place on the ballot.
Auburn lawyer Seth Carey is running for district attorney for Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties. Carey, 42, was to put people in jail for breaking the law. That’s a lot of what prosecutors do.
But on Monday, a Superior Court judge suspended Carey’s license to practice law. As the Sun Journal reported, the judge “found credible evidence he committed unlawful sexual conduct and assault.”
“The assault allegation arose out of charges that Carey grabbed the woman’s head and pulled it toward his crotch while demanding oral sex, the order said, and was also supported by credible evidence,” the Sun Journal reported.
Needless to say, you’re not eligible to be district attorney if you don’t have a license to practice to law. And perhaps something that should be said again and again, you have no business being a lawyer or serving in any public office if there are credible accusations that you attacked someone.
But it’s not just the misdeeds of individuals that are requiring the courts to intervene.
After multiple efforts to derail ranked-choice voting by the governor and Republicans in the state Legislature, the issue was finally resolved by the Maine Supreme Court.
Lawmakers refused to legislate and tried to punt that responsibility to the courts. The court caught the ball and returned its verdict: The June 12 party primaries will use ranked-choice voting.
Question asked; question answered.
And now, this week, a group of health care advocates and individuals have filed suit to force the LePage administration to follow the law and begin to implement Medicaid expansion.
Last November, voters overwhelmingly voted to expand Medicaid to more than 70,000 people in the state. The governor has refused to budge and in April his administration failed to file a State Plan Amendment with the federal government as required by the citizen initiative law.
The lawsuit is asking the court to force the administration to meet its obligation and to follow the law.
Voters should not be forced to sue the state in order to compel the governor to follow the law. That’s part of the oath of office.
Whether through the actions of two disgraced candidates, some members of the Legislature, the governor or his administration, all of these folks have taken a look at the law and at propriety and instead of doing the right thing, they have dared voters to “make me.”
Citizens have risen to the occasion.
Our democracy is fraying. Norms of conduct are falling to the wayside. And frustrated voters are being forced to go to the last of the three branches of government that still appears to function.
Our democracy today is in a dangerous place. The things that are happening in Maine are being repeated across the country as Holocaust deniers and criminals are running for office, and the rule of law is under terrible pressure.
So far the system is holding. But it’s only holding because citizens are answering the schoolyard taunt with a slogan of their own: “See you in court.”