Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Challenges to Judicial Independence and the Rule of Law

Last night at Marquette Law School Judge Carolyn Dineen King of the Fifth Circuit delivered the annual Hallows Lecture. Her talk, entitled Challenges to Judicial Independence and the Rule of Law: A Perspective from the Circuit Courts, was interesting, provocative, and everything else that such a lecture should be. She decried both the increasing politicization of the judicial appointment process, and its ramifications for the operation of the federal courts, including the ways in which "the structure of lower court decision making combines with strong partisan or ideological views on the part of some of its judges to imperil the fidelity of those judges' decisions to the rule of law." The money quote, from my perspective, came in her acknowledgement that what we've all suspected happens actually happens: "one or two of what Professor [Stephen] Burbank calls hard-wired judges, whether liberal or conservative, on a panel can produce a result that is not true to the rule of law, either because it is not faithful to the record in the case or because it does not fairly apply the existing law, without that fact being apparent to anyone other than the litigants." There's much more.

Whether your interest is in judicial independence or the judicial process more generally, there are many good insights here, which are all the more valuable in coming from a sitting judge. The text of her remarks is available here.


Blogger Robert Justin Lipkin said...

I haven't yet read the materials referred to in this post, but I'm currently working on the question of judicial independence. I think it is a mistake to conceptually connect the concept of "judicial independence" with the concept of "the rule of law" as many judges and commentators do. Indeed, there are some conceptions of the former which preclude the latter.

2/22/2007 4:26 PM  

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