Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Politicization of the Judiciary

I worry about the trend of judges being increasingly subjected to political pressure. This could establish a path toward eventually undermining the independence of our judiciary, as established by our constitution. Have you heard of SCOTUS 01-521, Republican Party of Minnesota v.Verna Kelly? The case challenged rules that were established to help guard against politicization by disallowing judicial candidates from publicizing their political views. The SCOTUS ruled 5-4 that this violated freedom of speech. Since then special interest groups have been trying to shape the judiciary by using questionnaires to gauge how much a particular judge's viewpoint coincides with their own. There was an interesting article about this today on All Things Considered.

Chief Justice Joseph E. Lambert of the Kentucky Supreme Court wrote another good article about this in which he said: "The right of citizens to a judicial decision-maker who is independent of improper influence is of fundamental importance." And it is. Courts should be protected from politicization. Attorney George Patton, in the All Things Considered article, sums it up pretty well when he speaks of a blurring of "...the lines between the role of a lawmaker, who should act on his principle, and a judge, who should evaluate each case objectively."

We all have an obligation to be aware of and speak out against any and all attempts to consolidate power and undermine the independence of the three branches of our government, as established by our constitution and which has worked relatively well for us for some two hundred plus years.


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