Independent judges are crucial

Published 1:24 pm Saturday, April 16, 2011

I am proud to be an attorney who appears in federal and state courts in most states in the Midwest. Because of my experience trying cases, I will discuss why it is necessary to have independent judges.

Sometimes individual judges make decisions, and sometimes a group of judges, acting together as an appellate court, makes decisions. These judges must make decisions according to the law as they understand the law — even if they personally disagree with the decision.

The majority of citizens often agree with the courts; however, sometimes the majority disagrees with a legal ruling and tries to punish judges because of those rulings. Judges are designed to be independent so that they can make the decisions that might be opposed by the majority because the majority is not always right.

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In the 1950s, for example, the majority of citizens in some parts of the country believed that educating black people and white people in “separate but equal” schools was appropriate. (The schools did not really provide equal education for black people). The U. S. Supreme Court, knowing that their decision would be opposed by the majority, reversed this policy of segregation. Without independent judges — judges who are able to make unpopular decisions — we would still have segregated schools.

Judges are people just like you and me, and sometimes they make mistakes; but, the fact that the majority does not like a decision does not automatically mean that the decision is wrong. The U. S. Constitution and state constitutions created independent judges so that they could rule against the majority, when necessary, and be a limit on the majority’s power. We cannot take this independence from judges, we cannot punish them when we do not agree with them, because history may show that they were correct and we were wrong.

J.D. Haas

attorney at law