Opinion: Judicial independence is necessary for truth, justice
A kindly reminder to the public, in America we dispense justice through impartial judges and juries, in light of proven facts and the application of the governing law. We render justice by judge and jury, not mob. Protests, marches, threats, and even assassinations should not tip the blind scales of justice.
Newspapers, magazines, radio, television, Twitter, Facebook, and TikTok all have their proper place in society, but one place they should have zero effect is on the bench. Likewise, elected officials are certainly entitled to exercise their free speech rights to comment on judicial proceedings, but misinformed condemnations pandering to score political points does nothing to further justice, just subvert it.
There are many reasons why the independence of the judiciary and legal proceedings are indispensable and should be supported. Here are three:
Rule of Law. For most of human history, the law was a meaningless empty cover for allowing the powerful to obtain whatever they desired. However, we began with a different understanding. John Adams wrote that the very definition of a republic “is an empire of laws.” Likewise, Samuel Adams wrote that the “first principles of natural law and justice” include that government “has no right to absolute arbitrary power over the lives and fortunes of the people…but it is bound to see that Justice is dispensed, and that the rights of the subjects be decided, by promulgated, standing and known laws.”
We were the first nation to actually write down our fundamental charters — our Declaration of Independence and Constitution. Judges are the guardians of the Constitution and the rule of law. Judges take an oath to affirm the law, not erase it by following the passions of the day.
Justice & Fairness. Court proceedings are an adversarial process that adhere to due process. There is notice, evidence, and an impartial decision-maker. There are procedural and evidentiary rules to ensure the integrity of the final result, including the ability to confront witnesses. This takes time and profound deliberation. Tweets and two word slogans are instinctual, emotional, and devoid of reasoning. Rancor rules. Imagine being accused of murder — would you rather face an impartial judge and a jury of your peers, or leave it to Twitter? The principle is the same regardless of the case.
Truth. With the notable exception of this great newspaper, the media is hardly known for its accuracy. Cherry picking a single fact or conclusion from a complicated legal proceeding is always incomplete, and usually paints a biased picture. Social media is almost by definition inaccurate and often toxic.The last refuge for finding the truth? The courtroom. In fact, that is the whole purpose of the court system — to find the truth.
Judging is often difficult, and at times involves matters of discretion sorting out competing claims and considerations. Sometimes there is no right answer. And like any human institution, judges are certainly not infallible. Hence the need for appellate courts and the Judicial Tenure Commission.
In Michigan, we elect our judges. If mistakes are made, they should be addressed by higher courts, the commission, or the ballot box, but not be a cause célèbre for subverting the indispensable role of the judiciary. Only by affirming judicial independence can we hope to maintain the rule of law, ensure justice and fairness, and find the truth.
Hon. Michael Warren has served on the Oakland County Circuit Court for over 17 years, is host of the Patriot Lessons: American History & Civics podcast, and authored America’s Survival Guide.