American Judges Association


Date of this Version



Court Review, Volume 53, Issue 2 (2017)


Copyright American Judges Association. Used by permission.


In recent times, there has been a marked increase in attacks on the independence of the judiciary in democratic societies—Pakistan, Venezuela, Turkey, Canada, and the United States. These attacks are significantly more damaging when they emanate from the other branches of government—the legislative and the executive. In response, judges must speak out to preserve and protect judicial independence, a vital pillar in the architecture of healthy and vibrant democracy.

The concept of judicial independence can be traced back to 18th century England. At its simplest, it means that the judiciary needs to be separated from the other branches of government. Courts should not be subject to improper influence from the other branches of government or from private and partisan interests. Though not a huge fan of the judiciary, President Andrew Jackson did say that “all rights secured to the citizens under the Constitution are worth nothing, and a mere bubble, except guaranteed to them by an independent and virtuous judiciary.” I particularly enjoy the colorful phrasing of a 19th century British Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury: “The judicial salad requires both legal and political vinegar, but disastrous effects will follow if due preparation is not observed.”