At Thanksgiving, Gratitude for an Independent Judiciary

The current occupant of the White House lost the 2016 Presidential election by nearly 3,000,000 votes.  He occupies the White House because the law (Article 2, Section 1 of, and the Twelfth Amendment to, the United States Constitution) makes the tally of Electoral College votes, not the popular vote, decisive.

The law, specifically Article III, Section 1, of the United States Constitution, also establishes a judicial  branch, consisting  of “one Supreme Court, and … such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.”  That same provision protects the independence of the judiciary, in two ways.

First, it provides that judicial officers “shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour,” and thus cannot be removed willy-nilly.  Second, the compensation of judicial officers “shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.”  Judicial officers thus cannot be punished financially for their rulings.

The current occupant of the White House has repeatedly attempted to undermine the independence and legitimacy of the judiciary by attacking judges who rule against him.  Among other examples, he has demeaned one such jurist as a “so-called judge,” and another, just yesterday, as an “Obama judge.”

Today, Chief Justice Roberts issued a statement that was prompted by yesterday’s remark.  The Chief Justice reminded everyone that “We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges.  What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them.  That independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for.”

To that, every American, should say “Amen.”  An independent judiciary is one of “the blessings of liberty,” language that appears in the Preamble to the Constitution.  Our judiciary, whether we always agree with its decisions or not, is one of the things that distinguishes the United States of America from dictatorships, with their “rubber stamp” or “kangaroo” courts, or no courts at all.

As Thanksgiving begins, we have much to be thankful for.  The Chief Justice rightly stated that an independent judiciary, a bulwark against tyrants, is one of them.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!