The Importance of and Commitment to Judicial Independence

When the founding fathers separated the branches of government they expected and built-in safeguards so that there would be checks and balances for the power exercised by each branch. These days there is much said about the different branches and their use or abuse of the powers conferred upon them by the Constitution, the Legislature and the Judiciary. Alexander Hamilton in Federalist Paper #78 wrote: “there is no liberty if the power of judging be not separated from the legislative and executive powers…

Hamilton’s sentiment contemplated lifetime appointments on the Federal bench, however, it also has relevance when discussing a State Court’s judicial role. Hamilton wrote that he trusted the Court’s to exercise restraint in their judicial review for the following reasons:

The Courts must declare the sense of the law; and because of the judicial ethic of self-restraint, reflecting each judge’s training and study of the law they would be bound by judicial precedent and strict rules of construction upon which their oath of office is bound.

Rules and precedent serve to define and point out Judge’s duties in cases that come before them. Following the rule of law and precedent should be done whether elected or appointed. Judges in Oklahoma must take the following Oath of Office and Loyalty Oath.

Oath of Office

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Loyalty Oath

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Embedded in both oaths is the acknowledgment and promise to be independent from consideration of popular views, adverse public opinion or the weight of political pressure. To do otherwise, even if the decision is unpopular, undermines the fabric of this country and betrays our highest ideals. This obligation is sometimes misunderstood and sometimes difficult, but must always guide the judgment and decisions of the judiciary.