Minorities in America: We Know the Importance of Independent Judges

As a gay man and one of America’s many minorities, I have seen what popular opinion has done to our nation, as far as allowing racism and bigotry in our laws and in our hearts. I also know that if it were not for the judicial system in this country, many civil rights would not exist for many minorities.

Three justices from the Iowa Supreme Court were ousted in the Election of 2010 because they interpreted a violation to the state’s constitution, restricting marriage to just one man and one woman. It did not matter that it was a 7-0 ruling; just that it angered some conservative groups who went on a crusade to bring them down.

Those justices should have been immune from that kind of political pressure. It sent a message to future justices that they had better not rule anything that would anger the extreme right-wing in this country or they will be without a job. That court has being manipulated by partisan forces from the political right in that state, if now the justices who serve on it are pressured to follow a certain political point of view, less they face a backlash.

There is a concerted effort in this country by mostly conservative organizations and their followers, to turn our judges into no more than political partisans who must follow a political agenda, not an earnest interpretation of the law. Judges who deliver unpopular opinions are attacked with efforts to have them removed.

I would like to add here that it seems common nowadays that when a judge delivers an unpopular opinion to conservatives, they are automatically labeled an “activist judge“. However, if their opinion is popular with conservatives, then, they are just doing their job by interpreting the law. It sounds like a double standard to me.

An independent judicial system is essential to a democracy, for it not only interprets the Constitution but also interprets it in a way that acknowledges certain principles, such as the premise that all men and women are created equal.  In addition, those who occupy the seats that make important decision in our judiciary should be able to acknowledge the modern world, which is vastly different from the world that our founding fathers lived in. Those who see our Constitution as frozen in the past are also frozen in the past, unenlightened, unwilling and unable to move forward.

Our judicial system must be protected as we would protect our own democracy, and our judges and justices should be free from all political pressure. Elections for judicial members should be outlawed in my opinion. It is a conflict of interest to our rights in the justice system and it corrupts the very core of our government, which is a system that is meant to not only find justice for the unlawful but to protect the rights of the innocent and of all citizens.

Without independence, the judicial system will just be another political arm of the powerful, and the weak will have no council or advocate.  Civil rights laws will be dismantled and discrimination will be overlooked as though it does not exist.

There are certainly times that I see activism coming from conservative judges who perhaps allow their own prejudice to guide their decisions. Take for instance, the ruling by the United Supreme Court in “Citizens United vs. FEC“; that ruling allowed unlimited campaign money to flow and giving wealthy donors a huge advantage over the average American voter. However, I also believe the conservative members of that court should have the unfettered judicial discretion to make unpopular decisions, even ones I do not like. I also realize that the makeup of that court will change and I hold out hope that a future and more liberal court will overturn that ruling.

If we are to protect our courts from the arrows of disenchantment, then we need to start with giving our judicial members the freedom and independence it takes. If a judge is found to be bias, let us fight it in the same place it began, within the judicial process and not with political partisan attacks, which undermine the very essence of our government’s balance.

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