York legislators join effort to impeach Democratic state Supreme Court justices

David Weissman
York Dispatch
Rep. Dawn Keefer, R-Dillsburg, during the swearing-in ceremony at the Capitol in Harrisburg, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Following a pair of court rulings that helped ensure new congressional districts will be enacted for the 2018 election, some Republican legislators are taking steps to remove the judges who initially approved the new map.

Three Republican state House members representing parts of York County have signed on to legislation seeking to impeach four Democratic state Supreme Court justices.

The resolutions, sponsored by Rep. Cris Dush, R-Jefferson and Indiana counties, seek to impeach Justices David Wecht, Debra Todd, Christine Donahue and Kevin Dougherty for "misbehavior in office."

Reps. Seth Grove, R-Dover Township; Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York Township; and Dawn Keefer, R-Dillsburg, are among a handful of co-sponsors, all Republicans.

Rep. Seth Grove, 196th District, left, and Rep. Kristin Phillips-Hill, 93rd District, share a laugh with Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera during a visit to Dover Area High School, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016. John A. Pavoncello photo

Keefer said her decision to co-sponsor wasn't about being a Republican but about maintaining separation of powers between the legislative, executive and judicial branches.

When the state Supreme Court ruled in late January that the congressional districts drawn in 2011 were unconstitutionally gerrymandered, it gave the General Assembly until Feb. 9 to submit a plan to the governor and until Feb. 15 for the governor to accept.

More:Supreme Court keeps revised Pa. congressional map in place

More:York-area congressional candidates scrambling amid uncertainty of new map

When the governor vetoed a plan submitted by Republican leaders, the state Supreme Court enacted its own map.

"It's one thing to say the lines must be redrawn, which is questionable, but they went one step further," Keefer said, describing the court's decision to draw its own map.

Keefer and Phillips-Hill both said the court's decision is clear violation of the state Constitution, which gives authority to the legislative and executive branches to draw these lines.

"If we don't stand up now ... the lines (of power) become completely blurred," Keefer said. "For Democrats, it may benefit them now, but down the road, this is a disservice to everybody."

Phillips-Hill said her involvement in the legislation is response to people in her district coming to her expressing their outrage and confusion with the new map.

York County was split into two districts, with parts of Phillips-Hill's district falling in each.

The split was so confusing in York Township, where individual wards were divided between the two districts, that its commissioners approved a resolution that they sent to Phillips-Hill opposing the new map.

"I have heard from so many people very, very upset not only about the outcome but also the process," she said. "Whether you like the map or you don't, people aren't comfortable with four judges ... creating maps that should come from their representatives."

Grove did not respond to messages seeking comment.

New congressional map chosen by the state Supreme Court and unveiled Feb. 19, 2018.

Dush's original memorandum seeking co-sponsors suggested legislation also would be written to impeach Democratic Justice Max Baer, but no such resolution has been submitted.

Keefer said she would not co-sponsor legislation to impeach Baer because, though he agreed with his fellow Democratic judges that the 2011 maps were unconstitutional, he dissented on the proposed timeline and implementation of the new map for the 2018 election.

Election deadline: The deadline for congressional hopefuls to submit their petitions to run ahead of the May 15 primary was Tuesday, March 20.

The new maps split York County into the 10th District — northern York County with all of Dauphin County and part of Cumberland County — and  the 11th District — southern York County with all of Lancaster County.

U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-Dillsburg, talks about having a "meaningful Memorial Day" during the annual York County Memorial Day at Veterans Memorial Park, Sunday, May 29, 2017.  John A. Pavoncello photo

Five Democrats — Shavonnia Corbin-Johnson, of York Township; George Scott, of Franklin Township; Alan Howe, of Carlisle; Christina Hartman, of Harrisburg; and Eric Feigl-Ding, of Carlisle — join incumbent U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-Carroll Township, in the race for the 10th District seat.

The state's elections database shows three candidates running in the 11th District: Democrat Jess King, of Lancaster; Republican Chester Beiler, of Lancaster; and incumbent U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker, R-Lancaster.

— Reach David Weissman at dweissman@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @DispatchDavid.