Judicial Independence

The principle of judicial independence is central to a functioning democracy. Essentially, this means that the courts are shielded from politics or any other force that could compromise its ability to make fair rulings. Judicial independence includes two elements: decisional independence and institutional independence.

Some further sources of information on judicial independence include:

Despite the general success of efforts to shield the courts, the American Judicature Society (www.ajs.org/cji/cji_whatisji.asp) lists dangers which may threaten judicial independence. Some of these include:

  • Underfunding and workload
  • Inappropriate threats of impeachment prompted by individual decisions
  • Misleading criticism of individual decisions, which is compounded by the prohibition on judicial response
  • Poor interbranch relationships between the judiciary and the legislature marked by the lack of communication
  • The lack of periodic and automatic judicial salary increases for cost-of-living adjustments; instead, legislatures control judicial salaries
  • Elections leading to concerns and potential conflicts of interest regarding campaign contributions
  • Retention elections posing the threat of judges being targeted by special interest groups based on legally correct but politically or socially unpopular decisions

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