The Norman Transcript


May 1, 2013

Does judicial independence matter to us?



For example, Franklin D. Roosevelt attempted to revamp the United States Supreme Court so he would obtain more favorable decisions on his New Deal legislation. In 1954, the “Impeach Earl Warren” signs were everywhere after the Brown v. Board of Education decision.

Individual judges also have been criticized as part of a political, social or financial agenda. I’m sure we all remember the Terry Schiavo case in Florida. These assaults have, at their core, a desire to undermine judges’ independence and thus to undermine the very foundation established by our Constitution.

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said, “Judicial independence does not just happen all by itself. It is tremendously hard to create and easier than most people imagine to destroy.”

Can you imagine a judicial system that is beholden only to big financial interests or to political variances? What if the justice in your case is decided by the political party in the majority, rather than based upon the individual facts in your case?

Not possible? Oh, but this scenario has been attempted many times throughout our history. A favorite quote of mine on this issue comes from former Rep. Tom Delay who, when calling for the impeachment of judges who issue decisions Congress doesn’t like, said, “an impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the House of Representative considers it to be at a given moment in history.”

Can you imagine the instability of a plan like that? Fortunately these scenarios, like that of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s court packing plan, have all come to nothing.

Despite the media coverage of alleged public outcry at judicial decisions or the politically motivated breast-beating we are often exposed to, it is evident that most of us know that while it is not perfect, it is the best and most fair system in the world.

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