Judicial Independence

Frank Cross

in The Oxford Handbook of Law and Politics

Published in print August 2008 | ISBN: 9780199208425
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Political Science

 Judicial Independence

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Few cows are more sacred than judicial independence, yet the concept of an independent judiciary is more commonly apotheosized than analyzed. This article explains how the concept of judicial independence is much more complicated and ambiguous than it is often regarded. After reviewing and explicating the literature on judicial independence, it analyzes the meaning of judicial independence and then considers the degree to which the judiciary is independent, focusing on the federal judiciary of the United States. Independence plays an important role in a system of governance, but it is reasonably compromised to some degree by concerns for judicial accountability. In the United States, federal judges are essentially, but imperfectly, independent. The article proceeds to consider the sources of judicial independence. Although constitutional protections may have some value, the root of independence may derive from the interests of other political institutions. Finally, it considers the implications of judicial selection and retention, with a focus on the U.S. states, which provide a convenient testing ground.

Keywords: United States; judicial independence; federal judiciary; judicial accountability; judicial selection; political institutions; independent judiciary

Article.  7939 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; Politics and Law

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