On Nov. 6, Hoosiers have the opportunity to vote on the retention of two Supreme Court justices and four Court of Appeals judges. A recent poll conducted by the Indiana State Bar Association showed that each received more than 80 percent support for retention by Indiana lawyers. These justices and judges each play a vital role in our judiciary. Each should be retained.
Our government, with its system of checks and balances among the three branches, is the envy of the world. You may recall from history class that our Founding Fathers created an independent federal judiciary to check the power of the executive and legislative branches. The writers of the Declaration of Independence and the framers of the Constitution had many grievances against King George III, and an independent judiciary was a remedy for many of those grievan- ces.
Judicial independence is in our blood. It is part of our foundation as a nation, part of the birth of our republic. It is part of the astounding gift of freedom that men and women – such Justice Steven David, a retired Army colonel with 28 years of service, including two tours in Iraq – have fought for as members of our military. Since our Founding Fathers came up with the innovative concept of judicial independence, it has been a cornerstone of our entire constitutional system of government. And judicial independence can only be achieved when judges have the freedom to make decisions according to the law, without regard to political or public pressure.
And that pressure is what I write about today.
Inappropriate attacks on our judiciary threaten our constitutional separation of powers, our very system of governing. Just as Chief Justice William Rehnquist said, The Constitution protects judicial independence not to benefit judges, but to promote the rule of law: Judges are expected to administer the law fairly, without regard to public reaction.
Some members of the public have, unfortunately, reacted negatively to a single case in which one justice wrote the majority opinion and three of the other four justices joined. Of course, criticism and debate of judicial decisions are a vital part of Americas political and governmental discourse and are protected by the First Amendment. However, if our judiciary is to remain able to perform its constitutional functions without improper influences, it must be immune to attacks that seek to influence judicial decision-making. Punishing a judge over a single decision, a snapshot in time, if you will – as opposed to looking at the whole picture of that judges service – lowers the status of the judicial process and can send a chilling message to other justices and judges. Hoosiers deserve better.
An example of a snapshot evaluation involves David, who wrote a single opinion, approved by 80 percent of the court, which has received some public criticism. Looking at the whole picture of Davids service compels retention. He has been a veritable workhorse on the court, a fierce defender of the rule of law, a champion of children and an unparalleled ambassador of the Supreme Court in promoting accessibility and transparency to the public.
The justices and appellate judges up for retention are respected jurists, consummate professionals and devoted public servants. They are true Hoosiers with Hoosier values. They have devoted their lives to upholding and defending our Constitution.
Our Supreme Court justices and Court of Appeals judges must not be swayed by public pressure. They must maintain sole loyalty to the laws that govern us – only then can they preserve their impartiality.
These justices and judges must uphold the independence of the judiciary, even under extraordinarily difficult circumstances. For that they should be respected, not punished.
And for their service to Indiana, to the judiciary, to the public and to the rule of law, the justices and judges should be retained.