Judicial Independence

Statement of the FBA Board of Directors on Judicial Independence

Judicial independence, free of external pressure or political intimidation, lies at the foundation of our constitutional democracy. An independent judiciary needs to remain free of undue influence from the legislative and executive branches and to remain beholden only to the maintenance of the rule of law and the protection of individual rights and personal liberties. We affirm the right to challenge a judge’s ruling for reasons based in fact, law or policy. However, when robust criticism of the federal judiciary crosses into personal attacks or intimidation, it threatens to undermine public confidence in the fairness of our courts, the constitutional checks and balances underlying our government and the preservation of liberty.
 
A message from the FBA Board of Directors (February 2017)

The Importance of an Independent Judiciary

An independent judiciary is central to our democracy and the preservation of public trust in the rule of law. At the same time, litigants in our courts must have the right to challenge a judge’s ruling for reasons based in fact, law or policy. Indeed, we affirm and embrace the right of litigants to assert claims of judicial bias under applicable laws, as well as every person’s right of free speech. But we exhort all people to refrain from attacks on our judiciary based solely on ethnic, racial, religious, gender or sexual-orientation grounds. We urge all to accord the judiciary the respect and dignity necessary for judges to conduct their constitutional responsibilities.

A message from the FBA Board of Directors (July 2016)

A Letter from FBA National Past Presidents

Dear Mr. Vincent and Judge Warner:

From its birth in 1920, our Federal Bar Association has enjoyed a special symbiotic relation with the Federal Judiciary. On appointments, fair compensation, rule changes, and indeed all issues affecting the sound administration of justice: The FBA’s nonpartisan voice has been heard, timely and effectively. And Federal Judges have recognized our unique role in the only way they can, by supporting our programs, nationally and in our Chapters.

Now, as a National Association, we must proclaim our abhorrence of a singular but shocking current event—the public charge of bias against a sitting United States District Judge based solely upon that Judge’s ethnic heritage. No one may deny a litigant’s right, respectfully and civilly, to express even strenuous disagreement with a judicial ruling, for reasons soundly based in fact, law, or policy. But to challenge a Judge’s objectivity, solely on grounds of race, gender, or ethnicity, exceeds the foul lines. It is wrong. And, when it occurs publicly and prominently, committed by a candidate for national office, the conduct compels national, public condemnation.

As former National Presidents of our Association, we urge the FBA now to announce its rejection of this behavior. To speak now is not partisanship; it is a defense of the system served by many thousands of FBA Members for nearly 100 years. And it mirrors the FBA’s vision that our Association “be recognized as the premier bar association serving the federal practitioner and judiciary.”

Respectfully submitted,
Fern C. Bomchill, National President 2011–2012
Lawrence R. Baca, National President 2009–2010
Juanita Sales Lee, National President 2008–2009
James S. Richardson, Sr., National President 2007–2008
William N. LaForge , National President 2006–2007
Joyce E. Kitchens, National President 2003–2004
Russell A. Del Toro, National President 2001–2002
Robert A. McNew, National President 2000–2001
Jackie A. Goff, National President 1999–2000
Adrienne A. Berry, National President 1998–1999
Robert C. Mueller, National President 1997–1998
Marvin H. Morse, National President 1995–1996
Ellen M. Lazarus, National President 1993–1994
Alfred F. Belcuore, National President 1991–1992
Gerald E. Gilbert, National President 1985–1986
Thomas G. Lilly, National President 1979–1980
David H. Allard, National President 1974–1975


Federal Bar Association Chapter, Section, and Division Statements

Statement of the Northern District of California Chapter of the Federal Bar Association

Board of Directors, San Diego Chapter of the Federal Bar Association Statement

FBA Policy: Public Positions Taken by FBA Entities

As leaders of the Federal Bar Association, you may have been asked to comment or believe it is important to participate in public discourse regarding judicial independence. The FBA Board of Directors asks that you review the governing documents that provide requirements for issuing public statements or public positions on behalf of FBA entities. The specific sections are included below. If you have any questions, please let me know.

FBA Constitution: Article VIII – Divisions. Section 2. Public Positions Taken by Divisions. A Division—in the name of the Association—may issue reports, make public announcements, and publicly advocate positions on issues of concern to the Division only with the prior approval of the Board of Directors. Without such prior approval, the Division may take such a public position only if the position generally reflects the views of its members and the position statement includes a disclaimer that indicates that the Division is taking the position in the name only of the Division. In any event, if a Division takes such action in its own name and not in that of the Association, the Division shall report that action immediately to the Board of Directors.

FBA Constitution: Article IX – Sections. Section 2. Public Positions taken by Sections or Committees. A Section or duly constituted Committee of a Section—in the name of the Association—may issue reports, make public announcements, and publicly advocate positions on issues of concern to the Section or Committee only with the prior approval of the Board of Directors. Without such prior approval, the Section or Committee may take a public position only if the position generally reflects the views of members of the Section and the position statement includes a disclaimer that indicates that the Section or Committee is taking the position in the name only of the Section or Committee. In any event, if a Section or Committee takes such action in its own name and not in that of the Association, the Section or Committee shall report that action immediately to the Board of Directors.

FBA Constitution: Article X – Chapters. Section 4. Public Positions Taken by Chapters. A Chapter—in the name of the Association—may issue reports, make public announcements, and publicly advocate positions on issues of concern to the Chapter only with the prior approval of the Board of Directors. Without such prior approval, the Chapter may take such a public position only if the position generally reflects the views of its members and the position statement includes a disclaimer that indicates that the Chapter is taking the position in the name only of the Chapter. In any event, if the Chapter takes such action in its own name and not in that of the Association, the Chapter shall report that action immediately to the Board of Directors.