Aug 15, 2019 – BOSTON, MA– Responding to recent increases in both the severity and frequency of negative attacks on judicial independence and the judiciary, the Boston Bar Association (BBA) today released a new report promoting and supporting judicial independence, viewed as an essential element of a strong democracy governed by the rule of law. While criticism of judicial decisions is to be expected, personal attacks and language that politicizes or otherwise casts doubt on the judicial branch as a whole has the potential to cause significant damage to our democracy.
The report, “Judicial Independence: Promoting Justice and Maintaining Democracy,” lays out five principles to serve as a framework on which lawyers and the general public can rely when considering new developments that may affect judicial independence. Chief among them are:
- Judicial independence is fundamental to the rule of law and to our system of checks and balances
- The vitality of the rule of law ultimately depends on public understanding of its value and importance, coupled with public support for judicial independence
- The bar has an obligation to promote, support, and defend judicial independence and to enhance public understanding of the judiciary, while also responding to assaults on judicial independence
As the report notes, judicial independence stands as a bulwark against the uncertainties of public opinion and other potential threats from the executive and legislative branches. Anything that serves to undermine public faith in the judiciary puts at risk our civil rights and liberties, a stable economic order, and the public’s confidence that laws will be applied fairly to all. The report also underscores the importance of diversity and inclusion in maintaining confidence in the judiciary.
BBA President Jonathan Albano of Morgan Lewis, a member of the working group that produced the report, said, “Threats to judicial independence are not new, and the BBA has long held firm in its belief that it must speak up to protect the independence of the courts from political pressures. Not because judges are infallible or should be immune from criticism, but because all of our rights depend upon judges being free to act without fear or favor.”
“The BBA has long supported a well-functioning, adequately funded, and independent judiciary,” said Renée Landers, working group co-chair and Suffolk University School of Law professor. Echoing that sentiment, her co-chair, Lisa Goodheart of Sugarman Rogers stated, “The organized bar has an obligation to promote, support, and defend judicial independence while also serving as a resource for educating the public and the press on issues surrounding the judicial system.”
In January 2019, President Albano formed the volunteer committee of practitioners, retired judges, and academics, and the group spent the next six months drafting the report, which the BBA believes will offer guidance to lawyers, bar associations, judges, the courts, and the public, in understanding the history and importance of judicial independence, as well as existing mechanisms for promoting judicial accountability.
Member of the Boston Bar Association’s working group include:
- Renée Landers, Co-Chair; Professor of Law and Faculty Director, Suffolk University Law School; Member of the Committee on Judicial Ethics
- Lisa Goodheart, Co-Chair; Partner, Sugarman Rogers; Chair of the Court Management Advisory Board
- Jonathan Albano, BBA President, Partner, Morgan Lewis
- Robert Cordy (ret.), Supreme Judicial Court
- Lawrence Friedman, Professor, New England Law | Boston
- E. Susan Garsh (ret.), Massachusetts Superior Court
- Giselle Joffre, Partner, Foley Hoag
- Paul Lannon, Partner, Holland & Knight
- James McHugh (ret.), Massachusetts Appeals Court
- Patrick Moore, Partner, Hemenway & Barnes
- Ian Roffman, Partner, Nutter McClennen & Fish