Judicial Independence

Judicial Independence in the United States

Extent to which judges are free from political pressure or control. Judicial independence is desirable because it allows judges to render decisions without fear of reprisal, insulating them from outside influences. Judicial independence may be fostered in a number of ways. One of the most important is to avoid judicial selection systems that feature popular participation. Judicial independence was a priority in structuring the federal courts. Not only are federal judges appointed rather than elected, but they also enjoy life tenure once confirmed. With life tenure, federal judges are never subject to popular control. Judicial independence is also furthered in ways not related to selection methods. Judicial immunity, for example, protects judges from civil suits arising out of actions taken in their official capacity as judges. It was felt that threat of civil suit might intimidate judges, and that the public interest would be best served by having judges who could function without fear of consequences stemming from their judicial conduct. The provision in Article III that protects the salaries of federal judges is similarly aimed at furthering judicial independence.

See Also

Judicial Accountability (Judicial Personnel issue) Judicial Immunity (Judicial Personnel issue) Life Tenure (Judicial Personnel issue).

Analysis and Relevance

One of the central issues in choosingjudges is whether

a selection process furthers the end of judicial independence or judicial accountability. Most Western political systems have chosen selection methods that advance judicial independence. This was also the pattern in the United States for the first several decades of our history. With Andrew Jackson came a heightened interest in popular control of public officials, including judges. Many of the states that had previously used either executive or legislative appointment methods of judicial selection switched to partisan elections. In addition, limited terms of office were established for most judgeships, giving the electorate frequent opportunity to exercise control. While some states have subsequently moved to nonpartisan elections or some form of the Missouri Plan, the priority in virtually every state has remained on judicial accountability to the electorate. Federal judges, on the other hand, remain insulated from direct popular control. The federal Judiciary (U.S.) is, of course, subject to the political dynamics associated with the principles of separation of power and checks and balances, but the federal judicial selection process is designed, in a general sense, to feature judicial independence.

Notes and References

  1. Definition of Judicial Independence from the American Law Dictionary, 1991, California

Judicial Independence in the United States

Judicial Independence

United States Constitution

According to the Encyclopedia of the American Constitution, about its article titled JUDICIAL INDEPENDENCELong recognized as one of the hallmarks of American constitutionalism, judicial independence takes several different forms, each of which is essential to good judging, but none of which is absolute.One form-“party detachment”-concerns the relationship between the judge and the
(read more about Constitutional law entries here).

Some Constitutional Law Popular Entries

Judicial Independence: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Judicial Independence. This part provides references, in relation to Judicial Independence, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Judicial Independence by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Judicial Independence and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Judicial Independence or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Judicial Independence and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Judicial Independence. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Judicial Independence should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Judicial Independence when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

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