The Right Wing

Washington GOP-Sponsored Bill Would Force Supreme Court Judges to Draw Straws To Keep Their Jobs

Washington Republicans, who didn't like a Supreme Court decision on public education funding, seek revenge.

Angry over a recent Washington Supreme Court decision finding the state must put more funds into basic education, GOP state lawmakers are proposing the additional money come from downsizing the state Supreme Court to 5 justices from 9. Senate Bill 5867, sponsored by failed US Senate candidate state Sen. Michael Baumgartner (R-WA), would make the justices draw straws to decide who had to hang up their robes:

“On June 30, 2013, all existing judges of the state supreme court, shall meet in public to cast lots by drawing straws,” the bill says. “Effective July 1,2013, the positions of the four judges casting losing lots by drawing the shortest straws shall be terminated.”

The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Michael Baumgartner, said the job cuts could save about $1.5 million in salary and administrative costs.

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“Every dollar we save by eliminating these four positions would be automatically funneled to K-12 education to help meet the guidelines the Supreme Court laid out in the McCleary decision,” Baumgartner said in a news release.

In the education case, McCleary v. State of Washington, 7 justices decided the state was failing to uphold a constitutional obligation to fully fund basic education. The decision stated that education was the “paramount” obligation, and funding cannot be cut purely to mitigate the state’s budget shortfall. To this end, the court now requires annual reports of progress by the Legislature. Eliminating 4 seats, as Baumgartner proposed, would almost definitely take out at least some of the offending justices.

The bill was introduced just a week after the court dealt conservatives another blow; a 6-3 decision invalidated a requirement that two-thirds of the Legislature must agree to any tax increase.

Aviva Shen is Associate Editor of ThinkProgress. Before joining CAP, Aviva interned and wrote for Smithsonian Magazine, Salon, and New York Magazine. She also worked for the Slate Political Gabfest, a weekly politics podcast from Slate Magazine.