Judicial independence protects freedom
It has become increasingly popular for elected officials at the national, state and local level to personally ridicule and insult judges for the decisions they render while performing their solemn duties as arbiters of the law. This is a dangerous development that has the potential to irreparably damage one of the bedrock principles of both our legal system and our democracy.
One of the most important aspects of our legal system is judicial independence. Judicial independence distinguishes our system of government from others around the world. Our founding fathers well understood that judges must be able to apply the law freely and fairly in order to preserve and protect the rule of law, and thereby our democracy. The Constitution guarantees our rights on paper, but this would be meaningless without independent courts to protect them. A court whose decisions are dictated by the government or the powerful is a frightening prospect.
At its core, judicial independence is the ability of the courts and judges to perform their duties free from the control of others, whether in government or the private sector. Judges have the ultimate responsibility for decisions that address the freedoms, rights and legal obligations of our citizens. Judges often render decisions that are unpopular, and disappoint one or all of the parties involved. That is their job, and this takes courage and integrity.
The ability of judges to render a fair and just decision without outside control is what creates an ordered legal system and protects us from “justice” dispensed at the hands of a mob. In performing their extraordinary role, judges must have the ability to decide each individual case based upon objective evaluation and the application of the law, regardless of popularity or public opinion. These decisions must be free from outside influences, especially from elected officials, who have also sworn to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States and the state of South Carolina.
In the final analysis, judicial independence protects the weak from the powerful, the minority from the majority, the poor from the rich, the powerless from the powerful and, most importantly, all of us from the excesses of our governments.
Editor’s note: This letter also contained the signatures of 24 other attorneys from law firms in York County.