If our role in the global community is changing, we need to decide in what ways we choose to adapt to the change. Any vote taken in our family would support the belief that we follow the adage to “lead by example.” Of course, leading by example requires that we project, for ourselves and to the world, the best of our core values. Not surprisingly for us, our conversation turned to the importance of our judicial system and the fact we are a nation governed by the rule of law.
Pursuant to the Constitution our government is divided into three separate but equal branches. The Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch are responsible for enacting our laws. Their roles are generally well understood. Less well understood is the role of the judiciary as the third equal branch of government.
Courts are responsible to enforce our laws. They are accountable to the Constitution. Unlike members of the Legislative Branch, judges are not, and should not, be accountable to any individual segment of the community. In our courts, every citizen is considered equal under the law: rich or poor; individual or corporation; of whatever color, ethnicity or gender.
The challenge is to constantly protect the integrity of the judiciary and to preserve the requirement that judges are not answerable to a political agenda or viewpoint but instead enforce laws fairly and consistently. So long as the courts are committed to this role, they create an environment of trust and confidence here and throughout the world community. They support an environment in which individuals and businesses trust that they will receive fairness and confidence that laws will be enforced consistently.
Keeping politics and special interests out of the courtroom helps us to protect what Chief Justice William Rehnquist called one of the “crown jewels” of our democracy. Courts that demand respect for the rights and interests of all parties are consistent with a just society and enhance our image as a global citizen. Is this what we should desire from our courts? Yes. Is this what we need as a nation? Yes.
A fair and impartial judiciary is essential to a fair and just society. This is the judicial system we want for ourselves and as the model we want to present to the world.