The Right Coast

January 02, 2005
Althouse on Judicial Independence
By Mike Rappaport

In response to Chief Justice Rehnquist's year end report, she writes:

I don't agree with the bright line rule Rehnquist seems to proclaim: a judge ought never to be removed for anything he does as a judge. And I don't see why judicial independence is "destroy[ed]" simply because a judge would be "concerned" about motivating people to call for his impeachment. Federal judges have extremely secure positions, founded on the Constitution's provision for lifetime appointments. But the Constitution also provides for impeachment, and some pushback against judicial power is a good thing. The demand for an absolute rule against impeachment for "judicial acts," lest the judge feel any pressure from the political sphere, is actually quite extreme.
Quite right. Where to draw the line is a difficult question, but insulating anything a judge does as a judge, especially given the protections of the impeachment process such as a two thirds supermajority rule necessary for conviction, is, as Althouse says, "quite extreme."