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64 Ohio St. L.J. 3 (2003)
Keynote Address: Thorny Issues and Slippery Slopes: Perspectives on Judicial Independence

handle is hein.journals/ohslj64 and id is 19 raw text is: Keynote Address:
Thorny Issues and Slippery Slopes:
Perspectives on Judicial Independence
Judicial independence is a concept that forms the very foundation of our judicial
system. This article discusses judicial independence from the perspectives of the
judge, the litigant, and the spectator, describing why each values a judge's ability
to perform his or her duties in a fair and impartial manner. The article then
-discusses some of the many threats to judicial independence, as well as the
traditional and institutional safeguards that help to maintain an independent
President Kirwan, Ms. Patterson, Chief Justice Moyer, Chief Justice Phillips,
and distinguished faculty and participants in this conference entitled Perspectives
on Judicial Independence: I take the title of the conference as the theme of my
remarks. I will speak about a few of the many perspectives on judicial
independence. These are perspectives that intersect and interact, that must be
weighed and balanced, and that present different challenges that perhaps call for
different resolutions.
America has valued judicial independence since before the formation of the
country. The American Revolution, a fight for national independence, was also a
fight for judicial independence. Among the list of grievances justifying the
American Revolution, the Declaration of Independence charged King George I
with obstructing the administration of justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for
establishing judiciary powers' and with making judges dependent on his Will
alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their
But judicial independence is more than the creation of a judiciary or tenure
and salaries. Although the phrase is hard to define, the term judicial
independence embodies the concept that a judge decides cases fairly, impartially,
and according to the facts and law, not according to whim, prejudice, or fear, the
dictates of the legislature or executive, or the latest opinion poll. At times, judicial
* Chief Justice, Wisconsin Supreme Court.
This essay is an edited and annotated version of the keynote address delivered by Chief
Justice Abrahamson at The Ohio State University on March 21, 2002 at a conference sponsored
by the John Glenn Institute for Public Service and Public Policy, the Michael E. Moritz College
of Law, and the League of Women Voters of Ohio Education Fund, entitled Perspectives on
Judicial Independence.
The author wants to thank Robin Whyte, Ingrid Nelson, and Eric Peterson for their
assistance in editing the manuscript and preparing it for publication.
2Id. at para. 15.

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