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Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Judicial Independence Under Attack

An editorial in today's USA Today takes on a disturbing trend. Far-right conservatives in states and Congress are attempting to implement measures limiting the independence of the judiciary. The editorial points to examples such as a South Dakota initiative that would expose judges to liability for their decisions and a congressional proposal to prevent judges from ruling on important issues of religion and separation of powers. USA Today sees such efforts as part of "a broad assault on [judges'] independence that threatens to undermine the nation's tradition of judicial autonomy and every citizen's ability to get a fair shake."

In the same edition, Tom McClusky of the Family Research Counsel offered an opposing view. McClusky argues that proposals restricting judges do not constitute attacks on judicial independence, but merely serve to ensure that judges do not operate "above the law," by appropriately "restrain[ing] judicial power within the limits of Constitutional design." As the USA Today editorial points out, at least one expert in the area, retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, couldn't disagree more with McClusky's point. She recently called these initiatives "a challenge to the intentions of the Constitution's framers," and said that the framers "intended three branches of government, each with power to affect the others, but each independent, letting all three 'do their jobs.'" McClusky or O'Connor? We'll stick with O'Connor on this one.

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