11192017Headline:

Richmond, Virginia

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The Independence of Judges

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Violence against Judges is on the rise. So much so that some Judges now carry a concealed weapon for fear that they will face retaliation for prior judicial decisions. At many courtrooms, Judges now feel the need to park in secure areas and be protected by airport like security.

Recently, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) stated that there might be a connection between the violence against Judges and the decisions that they make. He stated “I wonder whether there may be some connection between the perceptions, on some occasions, where Judges are making political decisions yet are unaccountable to the public, that it builds up to the point where some people engage in violence.” This senator was effectively giving some reason why violence had some acceptable motivation.

Previously, there was a belief by elected officials in some quarters, that they should not make attacks on the judicial system. Now, it is not uncommon for a politician to make the judicial system part of their political rhetoric. If it stirs up the electorate base support, apparently attacking judicial independence is now fair game.

Senator George Allen (R-VA) recently announced he was formally opening his Republican campaign for re-election. He indicated that he would be making eleven stops across Virginia on his three day announcement tour and would be touting that he wanted to preserve conservative values against “unelected federal Judges, activist Judges, who do not respect representative democracy”. This brought rousing applause.

Coincidentally, recently retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor answered such political rhetoric that has been put forth by stating that “statutes and constitutions do not protect judicial independence-people do“. She noted that death threats against Judges are on the rise and that the situation was not helped by such comments that were made by Senator Cornyn. Senator Allen’s rhetoric is also consistent with the remarks that Tom Delay made when he was calling for the impeachment of Judges that were involved in the Schiavo case out of Florida. Justice O’Connor said in a recent speech that if the Courts do not occasionally make politicians mad then Judges would not be doing their jobs. She went on to say that the effectiveness of Judges is “premised on the notion that we won’t be subject to retaliation for our judicial acts“.

In this instance a strong judicial system is important for the continued well-being of our check and balance system. Politicians should not be allowed to attack Judges for political reason or for the basis of using the same to try to gain votes in their next election. Attacking Judges who are unable to personally respond, erodes our check and balance system, places the judicial branch in a light subject to pressure, and is adverse to the well being of our government.