Judicial independence is a key component that has kept the democratic principles of the United States intact. In order to preserve democracy in the United States the judicial system needs to enforce justice fairly, impartially, and with strict adherence to the law and the U.S. Constitution. This is precisely how our forefathers meant for the judicial system to effectively work in a democratic society. In other words, judicial independence separates the law-making function of the legislative branch and the law-enforcing function of the executive branch from the law-interpreting function of the judicial branch.
Alexander Hamilton emphasized in “The Federalist (No. 78)” that “there is no liberty, if the power of judging be not separated from the legislative and executive powers . . . liberty can have nothing to fear from the judiciary alone, but would have everything to fear from its union with either of the other departments.”
This quote emphasizes that only through independence of the judicial branch will the rule of law be guaranteed to the people. Of course, in order to preserve judicial independence the judges must not be influenced by bias and must adhere rigidly to the rule of law. Law is the power held above all. No case will be decided on ethnicity, skin color, political views, etc.; it will be decided based only upon the facts. Judicial independence is able to uphold this principle.
The U.S. government is based upon laws, not upon the minds of men. The rule of law enables all United States citizens to enjoy the liberties and freedoms promised by state and federal constitutions. In 1997, Richard Arnold concluded that “the U.S. Constitution would be just a piece of paper today if there were not independent judges to enforce it.” Independence is a principle that the United States of America embodies. Bias does not constitute liberty; in fact it constitutes tyranny.
Imagine, if you will, a society run by a majority opinion. Notice the word “opinion.” This does not mean law. This means that even something as insignificant as wearing a certain color could become a majority issue. Freedom has no place for bias. Judicial independence is an enforcer of the freedoms of the American people. It constitutes a healthy country where life is dictated by laws and not opinion.
Judicial independence acts as a system of checks and balances as well. It ensures that the legislative and executive branches of government do not exceed constitutional limits. If all branches of government were to be combined, the American people would lose the liberties guaranteed to them and again, the U.S. Constitution would be just a sheet of paper. The founding fathers supplied the system of judicial independence in order to preserve the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Judicial independence upholds all of the United States’ principles. It acts as a system of checks and balances, as an enforcer of freedom, and an enforcer of the law.
A clear example of where judicial independence was used is in the case of Brown v. Board of Education. The verdict was one that was unbiased and impartial. Due to the time period, the verdict was one that was very controversial. Many opposed the verdict but the rule of law upheld the decision.
Judicial independence serves several goals. The separation of the judicial branch from the other branches of government prevents a concentration of power, which is seen as a root of tyranny, and provides weaponry to fight off encroachment by the other branches. James Madison once argued in the “The Federalist (No. 51)”: “Ambition must be made to counteract ambition.” In today’s society, the system of judicial independence is able to maximize efficiency while still maintaining the freedoms of the American people.
Alex Pangourelias is a junior at Bayside High School, Queens.