This issue of the Mercer Law Review was stimulated in part by a concern expressed by some federal judges that federal judicial independence is at risk. For example, the Committee on the Judicial Branch of the United States Judicial Conference expressed its hope that the symposium and other efforts will "address the concerns of judges about the protections afforded to them individually and to the Judiciary as an institution."' The Committee emphasized that those concerns "extend beyond the salary and tenure guarantees of the Constitution."' To many judges they also involve legislative and executive intervention into the operation of the judicial branch and the expansion of federal jurisdiction and workload. This paper addresses these concerns from a perspective gained by working within the federal judicial system.
Our purpose is to establish the validity or at least the plausibility of the following seven claims:
- "Judicial independence" is an umbrella term covering several partially overlapping categories of activity within the judicial role and judicial branch organization: decisional, personal, procedural, and administrative.
- Decisional independence is the sine qua non of the judicial function.
- Federal judges do not now generally believe that their decisional independence is directly threatened from within or from outside of the judicial branch.
- Some federal judges are concerned that their procedural and administrative independence are threatened by legislation and executive intervention.
- The argument that administrative independence is a necessary condition for the exercise of decisional independence is a forceful one, but support for it comes from sources other than the text of the Constitution or the history of federal judicial administration.
- Concern over loss of administrative and procedural independence flows from the widespread perception within the judicial branch that federal jurisdiction and workload have grown so large that the historical prestige and quality of the federal bench are at risk.
- Efforts by the judicial branch to sustain or increase its administrative and procedural independence is enhanced by internal organization that emphasizes and displays strong within-branch accountability.
Bermant, Gordon and Wheeler, Russell R.
"Federal Judges and the Judicial Branch: Their Independence and Accountability,"
Mercer Law Review: Vol. 46:
2, Article 10.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.mercer.edu/jour_mlr/vol46/iss2/10