The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Judicial independence

Judicial independence is the doctrine that decisions of the judiciary should be impartial and not subject to influence from the other branches of government or from private or political interests. In most cases, judicial independence is secured by giving judges long, and sometimes lifetime, tenure and making them not easily removable.

The federal government of the United States of America, for example, gives all members of the Supreme Court, and all members of district courts and appeals courts, lifetime tenure. Other federal judges get substantial terms, such as fifteen years for judges of bankruptcy courts.

Another prong of judicial independence is proper judicial selection. The American Bar Association, which advocates executive appointments of judges who have been cleared by screening committees (so-called "merit selection"), is at odds with many state legislatures which prefer election by the general public. The American Bar Association, and state bar associations generally, view judicial elections as rewarding political skills rather than legal skills.

The 2000 case of Bush v. Gore, in which the appointees of the first President Bush cast decisive votes that helped ensure the election of the second President Bush, is seen by many as reinforcing the need for judicial independence. This case has focused increased attention on judicial outcomes as opposed to the traditional focus on judicial qualifications.

Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04