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Chief Judge Janet DiFiore Janet DiFiore, Chief Judge, State of New York

This year’s Law Day theme, the “Separation of Powers: Framework for Freedom,” invites us to reflect on the vital role of the courts in our democratic system of government. The founders of our nation established three separate branches of government in a unique power-sharing arrangement that requires each branch to serve as a check on the power of the others. Their careful calibration of balanced powers, intended to avoid tyranny and ensure liberty and freedom, has served our nation well from its inception. However, this proven formula for democracy will surely fail if any one of the branches of government is weakened at the expense of the others. And so there is cause for concern when we read about executive officials and legislators who engage in vitriolic personal attacks on judges in order to publicly malign and punish them for unpopular decisions. Michael Wines, “Judges Say Throw Out the Map. Lawmakers Say Throw Out the Judges,” New York Times, Feb. 14, 2018. Of equal concern are legislative proposals pending in 16 states to diminish judicial independence by giving governors and legislators more power over judicial selection, authorizing legislatures to override court decisions on the constitutionality of statutes, and enacting retaliatory budget cuts. Brennan Center for Justice, Legislative Assaults on State Courts—2018.

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