The Time Has Come: We Must Speak Up on Behalf of Judges

STATEMENT OF THE AMERICAN JUDGES ASSOCIATION

           The late Chief Justice William Rehnquist once said that criticism of judges and their decisions “is as old as our Republic” and can be a healthy part of the balance of power between the branches of government. Today, however, recent attacks on judges have not only become unhealthy but threaten to undermine the public’s understanding of the role of judges in a democratic society.

           In a democratic society, judges will inevitably make rulings that challenge the authority of the other two branches or that protect the disadvantaged and those without political power.

           Intemperate personal attacks on judges by political leaders are simply wrong. The political leaders of our country have an obligation to foster public understanding of the role of courts, even when they disagree with a court’s ruling.

           Judges have historically been reluctant to respond to unfair attacks. But as far back as Chief Justice John Marshall, there have been times when judges have seen the need to speak up. This is one of those times.

           The leaders of the American Judges Association will speak out in defense of judges who are unfairly attacked, and we encourage others to do so too. Unfair or unseemly attacks on individual judges are not merely an attack on that individual judge—they are an attack on the institution of the judiciary, an institution indispensable to our democracy.

Approved by the Board of Governors at its April 29, 2017 meeting in Arlington, Virginia.

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