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The Politics of Judicial Independence

Courts, Politics, and the Public

Edited by Bruce Peabody
Foreword by Thomas H. Wells, Jr.

2011 Winner of the Selection for Professional Reading List of the U.S. Marine Corps

The judiciary in the United States has been subject in recent years to increasingly vocal, aggressive criticism by media members, activists, and public officials at the federal, state, and local level. This collection probes whether these attacks as well as proposals for reform represent threats to judicial independence or the normal, even healthy, operation of our political system.

In addressing this central question, the volume integrates new scholarship, current events, and the perennial concerns of political science and law. The contributors—policy experts, established and emerging scholars, and attorneys—provide varied scholarly viewpoints and assess the issue of judicial independence from the diverging perspectives of Congress, the presidency, and public opinion. Through a diverse range of methodologies, the chapters explore the interactions and tensions among these three interests and the courts and discuss how these conflicts are expressed—and competing interests accommodated. In doing so, they ponder whether the U.S. courts are indeed experiencing anything new and whether anti-judicial rhetoric affords fresh insights. Case studies from Israel, the United Kingdom, and Australia provide a comparative view of judicial controversy in other democratic nations.

A unique assessment of the rise of criticism aimed at the judiciary in the United States, The Politics of Judicial Independence is a well-organized and engagingly written text designed especially for students. Instructors of judicial process and judicial policymaking will find the book, along with the materials and resources on its accompanying website, readily adaptable for classroom use.

About the Authors

Bruce Peabody is a constitutional law scholar at Fairleigh Dickinson University. He writes frequently about politics and the judiciary in scholarly journals and the popular press.



- Choice


"A sophisticated approach to judicial independence that takes constitutional politics seriously. Peabody and his fellow authors provide vital information on the political foundations of contemporary judicial criticism and the threat (or non-threat) those criticisms raise to constitutional government in the United States."

- Mark A. Graber, University of Maryland

"'Judicial independence' is an oft-proclaimed, but all too rarely analyzed, mantra within our public dialogue. It is unclear exactly what it means or how much of it is actually desirable. These essays provide valuable guidance toward a more informed debate, given that we will scarcely stop proclaiming (and debating) both its actuality and desirability."

- Sanford Levinson, University of Texas Law School

"A timely and important book, featuring insightful explorations into the scope and limits of judicial independence. Deserves attention from anybody who cares about courts."

- Keith E. Whittington, Princeton University

"This collection of essays is a fascinating examination of the many aspects of judicial independence and interdependence, placing the age-old debate over the courts and their role in a nuanced light that enhances our understanding and helps us separate genuine threats from politics as usual."

- Linda Greenhouse, Yale Law School

"This edited volume of essays on the relations between courts (primarily the U.S. Supreme Court) and other branches of government documents and analyzes a remarkable political jousting that has ebbed and flowed throughout the nation's history. It is a demonstration of the power of political science to reveal rarely acknowledged realities of the judicial process in a democratic society."

- Richard A. Posner, Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, and Senior Lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School
Johns Hopkins University Press
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352 Pages
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