The Twilight of Judicial Independence
Date of Event
Judicial independence has been a defining feature of the American Constitutional landscape for centuries. The architecture of judicial independence, however, has never been fully explained or understood. As long as the foundations of judicial independence have remained sound and the structure has been adequate to support the weight of episodic attacks, there has been no pressing need to fully understand why or how. But that is changing due to developments that are variously cyclical, sustained, and sudden.
These developments threaten the future of an independent judiciary in arguably unprecedented ways, and counsel the need for a deeper, and more systemic evaluation of judicial independence and its vulnerabilities.
This lecture will examine the three-tiered architecture of judicial independence, before turning to how that architecture emerged and evolved over the course of four periods in history. The lecture will also show how judicial independence norms began to erode in the mid-twentieth century, and how, in the last three years, specific constitutional conventions that have protected judicial independence for generations, have begun to collapse. The speaker will conclude with thoughts on why independence remains essential to the role of the judiciary in American government, and how it can be rescued and defended.
Charles G. Geyh is the John F. Kimberling Professor of Law at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law. His work on judicial independence, accountability, selection, administration and ethics has appeared in over eighty books, articles, book chapters, reports, and other publications.
Geyh has served as an expert witness in the Senate impeachment trial of Federal District Judge G. Thomas Porteous; Director of and consultant to the ABA Judicial Disqualification Project, and as Reporter to four ABA Commissions (the Joint Commission to Evaluate the Model Code of Judicial Conduct, the Commission on the 21st Century Judiciary, the Commission on the Public Financing of Judicial Campaigns, and the Commission on the Separation of Powers and Judicial Independence). He has likewise served as Director of the American Judicature Society's Center for Judicial Independence; Consultant to the Parliamentary Development Project on Judicial Independence and Administration for the Supreme Rada of Ukraine; Assistant special counsel to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives on the impeachment and removal of Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Rolf Larsen; Consultant to the National Commission on Judicial Discipline & Removal; and legislative liaison to the Federal Courts Study Committee.
He received his B.A. in political science from the University of Wisconsin in 1980 and graduated from the University of Wisconsin law school in 1983, after which he clerked for the Honorable Thomas A. Clark on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, worked as an associate at the Washington D.C. law firm of Covington & Burling, and served as counsel to the United States House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary, before beginning his teaching career in 1991. He joined the faculty at Indiana University in 1998, has served as the law school’s associate dean for research, and is the recipient of three faculty fellowships, three Trustees teaching awards, the Wallace teaching award, and a 2016-18 Carnegie Fellowship.
Frank J. Battisti Memorial Lecture
judicial independence, judicial norms, history of judicial independence, structure of judicial independence
CWRU School of Law
Geyh, Charles G., "The Twilight of Judicial Independence" (2020). Conferences and Symposia. 89.