Conservatives Push to Rein in Courts on Abortion, Illegal Immigration

Experts believe Congress can use Article III to limit federal jurisdiction


A Washington think tank is raising awareness of ways that Congress could use the Constitution to rein in the authority of federal courts, which many have accused of usurping the authority of the legislative branch.

The Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research recently launched the Empower the States project, of which Thomas is director. The project is meant to draw attention to the powers available to Congress under Article III of the Constitution, which declares that "The judicial power of the United States shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish."

Andrew Thomas, a fellow at the foundation, says that the nation’s federal court system has been "functionally taken over by the left," the only solution to which is for Congress to remove power from courts and place it back in the hands of states and the American people.

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The Supreme Court has "appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact, with such exceptions, and under such regulations as the Congress shall make." As such, Congress has the authority to limit the jurisdiction of federal courts, a power that Thomas identified as crucial to stop what he considers the decades-long "abuse" that some judges have exercised such areas as immigration, the death penalty, abortion, and marriage.

The challenge with Article III reforms, however, is that there exist limits on what they can accomplish because the courts will ultimately be able to decide whether to uphold limitations on their own jurisdiction.

Thomas said judicial reform should be a key concern for conservative voters ahead of the 2016 election. Data from the Pew Research Center indicates that negative views of the Supreme Court are at an all-time high, largely driven by Republican dissatisfaction with the court.

A majority of American voters are "uncomfortable" with the direction of the U.S. on social issues in the wake of landmark Supreme Court rulings in favor of Obamacare and gay marriage, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll released last month.

According to Thomas, the best Republican candidate for president will be one who is not only strong on issues like immigration and religious liberty but also a "champion of judicial reform."

It is not enough for candidates to promise to "build a wall around the Mexican border" or "protect religious liberty," Thomas said. The next president will face judges who will ultimately strike down the laws he or she promises to enact unless proper judicial reform is achieved.

Thomas says that using the Article III method, Congress could pass legislation barring federal courts from taking up lawsuits regarding, for example, the federal government’s implementation of deportation. All the bill would need is a signature from the president to become law.

Several Republican contenders have talked forcefully about reining in courts, including Huckabee, the retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, the former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.

The Empower the States project, of which Thomas is director, has garnered support from multiple Tea Parties in Arizona, the Las Vegas Tea Party, and several grassroots allies.

"The time has come," Thomas said.