Academic journal article Defense Counsel Journal

Preserving Judicial Independence

Academic journal article Defense Counsel Journal

Preserving Judicial Independence

Article excerpt

At the IADC Midyear Meeting in February, the Honorable Sandra Day O'Connor was this year's Foundation Forum speaker. Central to her presentation, Justice O'Connor stressed the critical importance of preserving the independence of the judiciary. For those of us lucky enough to hear Justice O'Connor speak, we were reminded of the challenges that arise on the state court level of keeping and retaining qualified judges when judges are elected rather than selected.

Justice O'Connor has worked with the Judicial Selection Initiative encouraging states to transition to selection committees, rather than direct elections, for the appointment of state and local judges. Her work reminds all of us that the nation's founders recognized the importance that federal judges retain the freedom to make unpopular decisions without fear of political reprisal. This independence was intended to serve, and has served, as a powerful protection for the law from the politics of expediency. For this reason, federal judges are constitutionally protected by life tenure and non-diminution of salary. Although politicians and the electorate may not always agree with each particular decision, the critical need for the judiciary to interpret the law independently remains as important today as it was when our country was founded.

Unfortunately, in this age of the 24/7 news cycle and Internet "news" reporting, the judiciary is under attack like no other time in history. As an example, consider President Barack Obama's comments during his January 2010 State of the Union address to a Joint Session of Congress. During the speech, President Obama directly criticized the Court's decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that addressed campaign finance restrictions of the McCain-Feingold Act. The President chastised the Justices for the decision, and his comments were met with a standing ovation by the Democratic lawmakers. President Obama's unprecedented comments during a nationally televised political forum exemplify the extent to which the independence of the judiciary is threatened in today's world. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.