It is remarkable how someone like Gray Davis can be elected governor of California without knowing the basic elements of Civics 101.
Yes, Governor, our state and federal governments are divided into three branches the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. They were designed both to balance one another's excesses and to perform functions unique to them.
Now comes Gray Davis's Civics 101. Last year, in a typical fit of public temper, he told the San Francisco Chronicle's editorial board that the state legislature's job is "to implement my vision." Davis declared he was elected on a platform and the legislative should take his marching orders, because only he was elected on a statewide basis.
Davis was roundly criticized for this imperiousness. No matter. A few days ago, at a meeting of state governors, Davis turned his attention to the judges. He said that the judges he appoints "should reflect my views. They are not there to be independent agents they are there to reflect the sentiments that I expressed during the campaign."
And what if they arrive at an opposite position, he was asked? Davis quickly replied, "They shouldn't be a judge. They should resign." The "sentiments" that Governor Davis mentioned were his position in favor of abortion rights and capital punishment (although he's not in favor of a death penalty for criminal corporations) and his opposition to same-sex civil partnerships.
Reporters, listening to Davis demand that all three branches of government come under the governor's domain, rushed to their phones for scholarly comments.
University of Southern California law professor Erwin Chemerinsky declared, "That's outrageous. A judge is not a cabinet member who is there to carry out a governor's or a president's policies."
The Associated Press also called Berkeley law professor Stephen Barrett, who described Davis's comments as "bizarre," adding that judges frequently must rule against majorities and on the facts of specific cases.
California Senate president John Burton (D-San Francisco) told AP that the governor "doesn't support an independent legislature, so why should he support an independent Judiciary? It's consistent with his view that the other two branches are irrelevant."
Davis is no novice. He was chief of staff for Gov. Jerry Brown in the '70s. Later he was elected to the state legislature, and then was elected lieutenant governor under Republican Governor Pete Wilson.
As governor, he immediately started shaking the business money tree.
In a frenzy of political fundraising right after he was elected, the money poured in at the rate of $1 million a month. Recently, he stepped up his conference calls urging powerful corporate interest groups in the insurance, utility, and banking circles to contribute big dollars to oppose Proposition 25 which would set some limits on the "sky's the limit" cash register politics that now prevail. It did not seem to bother the governor that some of these same corporate interests were funding a campaign against Propositions 30 and 31 to overturn auto insurance reforms he signed last year.
During his telephone calls, the governor warned the business lobbyists that if Prop. 25 passed, it would make it easier for consumer and other citizen groups to win ballot initiatives against them. Yuk! For this, Democrats waited 16 years to elect one of their own as governor.
There was once a report of a poll of high school students which found that more of them knew the names of the Three Stooges then of the three branches of government. It is an open question whether Governor Davis of California knows more about stooges than about the historic separation of powers within our state governments.
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