Thursday, May 12, 2022

An independent judiciary

Quoted in The Dispatch, President, and future Chief Justice, William Howard Taft provided a civics lesson about the role of courts in our Constitutional system:
The executive and legislative branches are representative of the majority of the people which elected them in guiding the course of the Government within the limits of the Constitution. They must act for the whole people, of course; but they may properly follow, and usually ought to follow, the views of the majority which elected them in respect to the governmental policy best adapted to secure the welfare of the whole people. But the judicial branch of the government is not representative of a majority of the people in any such sense, even if the mode of selecting judges is by popular election ...[J]udges are servants of the people; that is, they are doing work which must be done for the Government and in the interest of all the people, but it is not work in the doing of which they are to follow the will of the majority except as that is embodied in statutes lawfully enacted according to constitutional limitations. They are not popular representatives. On the contrary, to fill their office properly, they must be independent. They must decide every question which comes before them according to law and justice. ....

[J]udges to fulfill their functions properly in our popular Government must be more independent than in any other form of government.... We cannot be blind to the fact that often an intelligent and respectable electorate may be so roused upon an issue that it will visit with condemnation the decision of a just judge, though exactly in accord with the law governing the case, merely because it affects unfavorably their [interests]. ....
Quoted in Jacob Becker, "History Shows Why We Need an Independent Judiciary," The Dispatch, May 12, 2022.

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